9. Listening vs. Hearing
FRANK J. OTERI: We talked about the process of composing and the process of performing. What about the process of listening, an area that’s really important to your work, which is a third equally crucial part of the equation? How would you describe Deep Listening in a nutshell as a process for the listener?
PAULINE OLIVEROS: It’s listening to everything all the time, and reminding yourself when you’re not. But going below the surface too, it’s an active process. It’s not passive. I mean hearing is passive in that soundwaves hinge upon the eardrum.
FRANK J. OTERI: And we’re taught to sort of channel out stuff. Like, I’m hearing vibes right now in another room here and I’m actually enjoying them but I shouldn’t be listening to them.
PAULINE OLIVEROS: Why not?
FRANK J. OTERI: Well, because society says I should stay focused on the one thing.
PAULINE OLIVEROS: You can do both. You can focus and be receptive to your surroundings. If you’re tuned out, then you’re not in contact with your surroundings.
FRANK J. OTERI: And I think you can’t really listen to music if all you’re doing is hearing sound.
PAULINE OLIVEROS: Yeah. You have to process what you hear. Hearing and listening are not the same thing.
FRANK J. OTERI: There’s this wonderful statement in an essay you wrote about the zoo and about how we’re such a visually based society. Zoos are open for optimal viewing times, but not for optimal listening times.
PAULINE OLIVEROS: This is true.
FRANK J. OTERI: And I thought that in a nutshell crystallizes our plight. Here in the West we’ve even made music visual by having notated scores, a lot of musical analysis is all for the eyes, whereas the ears are just as powerful a tool.
PAULINE OLIVEROS: Well, the ear is the primary sense organ. It’s the first organ to develop in the womb. The ear is fully completed by 4 1/2 months. So the fetus can hear in the womb. And it’s the last sense to shut down after death.
FRANK J. OTERI: Really?
PAULINE OLIVEROS: Yes. So you can still hear. There’s still hearing going on, listening going on.
FRANK J. OTERI: And in our society today there’s so much hearing loss, more than at any other time.
PAULINE OLIVEROS: This is very tragic.
FRANK J. OTERI: What can we as a society do to listen better? And more healthily as well.
PAULINE OLIVEROS: Well, don’t tune out. Every sound is a piece of intelligence no matter what.