To hear the birds sing in one’s own way

What I mean by music tasting is not so easy to explain. It is a complex, composite idea. But suddenly I come across a sentence that brilliantly captures it!

Awareness means the capacity to see a coffeepot and hear the birds sing in one’s own way, and not the way one was taught. (Eric Berne)

To hear the birds sing in one’s own way, in this case to hear the music in our own way, yes, that’s it.

Not the way we were taught to listen to music, especially classical music. Not with the constant self-doubt and the constant excuses:

  • I like music but don’t understand it
  • I am not musical, but that was a lovely piece…
  • I am certified tone-deaf!

Sorry, I don´t believe you until I see that certificate. Of course you don’t have one, and it is likely that you are NOT tone-deaf; this is just a very accepted rash conclusion that we draw about ourselves in life.

Strangely enough those who know better (in large part we musicians) don’t protest when laymen belittle themselves in this way. We don’t try to convince them that they should be more fair to themselves, that a person who really enjoys music cannot be unmusical or tone-deaf, that Yin is also to be counted with, also important.

So many people, it seems, have at an early age created a self-image of themselves as “not musical” — while listening to a lot of music, enjoying music a lot. How can that not count in musicality?

I know how. That’s because we are too Yang-oriented. There is an unbalance in our view of music. Yang stands for activities like singing, playing, composing, etc, while Yin stands for reception, perception, listening.

Of course we listen to music, that is how we enjoy it, but we are blind to the fact that listening, and listening well, is also a talent and skill. There are virtuoso listeners, but it doesn’t show.

I am a virtuoso singer, and it shows.

Here is the longer quote from Berne, touching on the question of awareness, which is in a way à la ode (via mindfulness).

“Awareness requires living in the here and now, and not in the elsewhere, the past or the future. A good illustration of possibilities is driving to work in the morning in a hurry. The decisive question is: “Where is the mind when the body is here?”

The man whose chief preoccupation is being on time is the one who is furthest out. With his body at the wheel of his car, his mind is at the door of his office.

The aware person is alive because he knows how he feels, where he is and when it is. He knows that after he dies the trees will still be there, but he will not be there to look at them again, so he wants to see them now with as much poignancy as possible.”

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