Deep Listening is a composer’s sound practice devised by a legendary composer and thought leader, Pauline Oliveros (1932-2016). In Pauline’s words:
“What is Deep Listening?
The question is answered in the process of practicing listening with the understanding that the complex waveforms continuously transmitted to the auditory cortex from the outside world by the ear require active engagement with attention. Prompted by experience and learning, listening takes place voluntarily. Listening is not the same as hearing and hearing is not the same as listening. The ear is constantly gathering and sending information – however attention to the auditory cortex can be tuned out. Very little of the information transmitted to the brain by the sense organs is perceived at a conscious level. Reactions can take place without consciousness.
What is consciousness?
Consciousness was considered an epiphenomenon by the scientific community and not seriously studied until more recently. Consciousness had no location. Furthermore, evoked potentials in the brain appear up to a half-second before the individual is aware of a stimulus. The brain then remembers the stimulus as happening in the present moment of the immediate instant in one’s sense of time. So the perception of time is an illusion.
So what is consciousness?
Consciousness is awareness of stimuli and reactions in the moment. Consciousness is acting with awareness, presence and memory. What is learned is retained and retrievable. Information, knowledge of events. feelings and experiences can be brought forward from the past to the present In this way one has self-recognition.
Deep has to do with the complexity and boundaries, or edges beyond ordinary or habitual understandings – i.e. “the subject is too deep for me” or “she is a deep one”. A subject that is “too deep” surpasses one’s present understanding or has too many unknown parts to grasp easily. A “deep one” defies stereotypical knowing and may take either a long time or never to understand or get to know.
(from Deep Listening: A Composer’s Sound Practice, Pauline Oliveros ©2016, Deep Listening Publications)
Pauline Oliveros on Deep Listening
“What Is Deep Listening?
For me Deep Listening is a life long practice. The more I listen the more I learn to listen. Deep Listening involves going below the surface of what is heard, expanding to the whole field of sound while finding focus. This is the way to connect with the acoustic environment, all that inhabits it, and all that there is.
Deep Listening is a practice consisting of listening and sounding exercises and pieces I and others have composed since 1970. The results are processed by group discussions in workshops and retreats. Deep Listening is for musicians as well as participants from other disciplines and interests. Previous musical training is not required.
The key to multi-level existence is Deep Listening – listening in as many ways as possible to everything that can possibly be heard all of the time. Deep Listening is exploring the relationships among any and all sounds whether natural or technological, intended or unintended, real, remembered or imaginary. Thought is included. Deep Listening includes all sounds expanding the boundaries of perception.
We open in order to listen to the world as a field of possibilities and we listen with narrowed attention for specific things of vital interest to us in the world. Through accessing many forms of listening we grow and change whether we listen to the sounds of our daily lives, the environment or music. Deep Listening takes us below the surface of our consciousness and helps to change or dissolve limiting boundaries.
Deep Listening is a birthright for all humans.”
Taken from the Center for Deep Listening.
This video demonstrates the beauty, depth and mystery held by the combination of simple instructions and Deep Listeners called “Listening Out Loud”. The instructions are”Inhale Deeply. Exhale singing a note of your choice. Listen to the sounds around you and match your next note to one of them. On your next breath, make a note no-one else is making. Repeat.
In this Indianapolis TEDx video, Pauline simply reads from her book Deep Listening: A Composer’s Sound Practice
Click here to see “A Year of Deep Listening” pieces from the DL community around the world as one work will be posted for each day celebrating Pauline Oliveros’ birth 90 years ago.