Why is listening so important? (Tool #52)

As one can see, I have started to diversify the blog’s posts to include things I’m listening to, as well as analysis and reviews.  One may wonder why this change has shifted, and so here is my rationale:

My horizons have been way too slim.  I have been operating in a relative vacuum compared to where I want to be and interact.  So, I have been making a concerted effort to view more of what is out there, listen to more freshly-released music, and read more content about new music of many genres.

This is a good jumping-off point: why is listening to a wide variety of musics so important?  Why is listening in general so useful to music composition?

Everything we create as artists not only has context within society, musical progress (or lack thereof), and the artist community; it is also directly related to everything we have experienced as artists.  To sharpen this point: everything we created as artists is mostly stolen, and then very secondarily inspired, and on an overarching scale, this stealing and inspiration is refined through the creative process.  Creativity is not a gift.  It is a process, a skill, a muscle.  If you exercise your creative muscles, if you steal ideas, if you refine ideas, then when the slim glimpse of inspiration appears you will know how to capitalize on it.

While we’re on the topic of inspiration, let me posit something: what if inspiration isn’t divine–what if it isn’t in its own vacuum–what if inspiration is rather the accumulation of knowledge and skill that enables us to bring what we perceive in our lives into our minds, process it, and spit out something new that is informed by our acquired knowledge and skill?

As an aspiring Buddhist, this makes sense–there is no thought without the thing to be thought about.  There is no thing to be thought about without the thought.  The thing does the thought.

But, you may be asking, what does this mean in layman’s terms?

It means that, contrary to my point above, there is no separation between stealing and inspiration.  Rather, the creative process is all stealing from the world around us, shaped by hard work and hard studying–skill and knowledge, in distilled terms.

Now, back to my original point.  If the creative process is all stealing, and if we have to acquire knowledge and skill in order to turn stealing into creativity, then taking in as much information, processing it as much as we can, and doing our best to keep this up, are the integral steps to creating art.  So, listen to as much as you can.  Listen actively.  Even if you do not like it, listen to it.  Strive to–and work until you actually, truly–understand the music at hand.  Study scores.  Attend performances.  Watch videos.  Attend lectures.  Discuss music with your colleagues and friends.

I am trying to not live as much in a vacuum.  In doing so, I need to listen to music, read other sources, study music, and be active in the music community.  If you wish to succeed in achieving your artistic goals, you will have to do this as well.  Learn from me, and steal the lessons I have learned so you don’t have to learn them as hard as I have.  I’m not in a bad place; I just need to constantly improve.  You can too, no matter how far down your path you have traveled.  There is always another hill to climb.

One thought on “Why is listening so important? (Tool #52)

  1. Pingback: Recording, mixing, mastering, and more – Composer's Toolbox

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