Resonant Thoughts: “Tympanum of the Other Frog” In John Corbett’s “Microgroove”

978-0-8223-5870-1_pr

In the preface to his excellent book Microgrooves (2015), critic and musician John Corbett recounts listening to the sounds of frogs by a pond with his father when he was eight years old. Corbett’s dad told him to focus on the sound of one particular frog among the full chorus. “Now, he said, keeping that one in mind, try to hear another one at the same time.” Once Corbett could do this, another task: “Listen to the new voice in relation to the first one…OK, now see if you can switch them.” Corbett expands on the lessons he was learning:

“My dad was teaching me about polyrhythms. Setting me up for Steve Reich and jazz. That’s already pretty mind-blowing for an eight-year-old, but there was more. I couldn’t put a name on it, but I also understood that he was showing me something deeper, a principle. If I was able, by shifting my focus, to change the rhythm I was hearing, then listening must be a relative activity. A listener has to make decisions about how to listen. It’s not just a passive thing. And in order to do that, to put yourself into the right space to be able to make informed listening decisions, you have to pay attention.”

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