Listening Is Misunderstanding

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When we listen to music
we hear what’s happening in the sounds—
the tempo, the beat,
the timbres, the chord sequence,
the singing, the words sung.

But we also hear what we want to hear:
how the music relates
to musics we’ve already heard,
and to the gaps in our attention—
meaning that there are qualities in the music we don’t hear
because we aren’t attuned to them.

In this way, listening to music
reveals our pre- and mis-conceptions.

You can’t fully trust yourself as a listener
because your listening is always so partial,
so stacked against you,
so imbalanced.

You could be a more ideal listener
by being better informed about musical things
but that’s a destination never quite reached.

If you were an ideal listener
you wouldn’t need music in the first place.

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