Introduction: Strategies For Listening

WHAT’S IN THIS VIDEO:Musicians learn to do what they do by actively listening. Active listening means learning to hear specific things, developing the ability to notice and compare. You can listen to music passively, just as you can listen to someone speak without really hearing what they’re saying. But to make the experience meaningful you have to translate it and understand its meaning.You don’t have to pay attention to everything – just the things that resonate with you.



  1. First off, thank you and all the presenters for putting this program together, and I hope you’ll build on it in the future. I’ve been searching for a good course in “active listening,” in particular, and it seems there’s very little out there. In response to your invitation for suggestions, here are a few:

    1) For the talks, it would be helpful to have audio mp3s so it might be possible to listen to the talks on, e.g. an iPod, rather than sitting trapped in front of a computer screen.

    2) I listened to all of week 1, but found I lost interest early on in week 2, so skipped week three. In coming back to week 4, I think a problem for me is that very little concrete information was imparted for the time spent. For example, while I really enjoyed Miller in week 1 (one of my favorites there), I was frustrated by his week 4–too much time spent on analogizing to coffee, and only a few general remarks about listening, about which I know he’d have fascinating things to say. The talks overall suffered from a lack of specificity. I’d love, for example, to listen to a panel of Miller, Midgette, and others, go through look and listen examples and discuss them.

    3) I recommend taking a look at the coursers course Modern and Contemporary American Poetry, under Al Filreis at UPenn, for ideas about how to effectively use online tools to present, discuss, and promote interactivity. Of course, S4MU is not intended to be an effort on that scale, but Filreis really knows how to take advantage of every possible online tool (including Facebook for discussions) to create a dynamic, interactive course. I think you’ll find it a superb resource for ideas for future S4MUs. To start off with, he eliminates talking heads altogether–he offers his introductory remarks to each segment by audio only. The videos are round table discussions of one, two, or three poems each week among him and several panelists (in that case, TAs). The TAs come from many backgrounds, so rather than the feel of a panel of experts, the round tables model discussions that could occur among any group of interested parties. He builds on that by offering live webcasts from time to time, so that participants can call or write in questions, too. An example of an excellent live webcast may be found here:

  2. Guillermo Hinojosa says:

    I really enjoyed this fourth video, Douglas. You helped me a lot to explain others how to listen music. Thank you for this course. I look forward for the second, next spring. Please keep in this effort.

  3. I really enjoyed this class. It gave me an opportunity to hear a lot of different music, some of which I hadn’t ever heard before. I liked the chance to hear a lot of different perspectives about various topics from people all over the country.

    I agree that there are other ways of presenting this material with different technologies. I thought that this course was done well though.

    The only real request I would have is that the final musical presentation in Carnegie Hall was available to those of us that can’t actually attend the performances in New York City. It would be great if it was available in theatres (similar to the Metropolitan Opera). Those performances are live and can be seen nationwide. I’m not sure about how this type of thing would be implemented, but it would be a fantastic opportunity for those of us that aren’t able to travel to NYC.

  4. I’ve loved every minute of this course – thank you – I only wish I could get to Carnegie Hall (a live broadcast to London next year would be wonderful). I think that it’s sometimes tricky to get a discussion going in a comments thread. Perhaps listeners – even those in different time zones – would find it easier to have a conversation using the #S4MU hashtag, especially if one of the tutors could be online at the time to act as a facilitator. Thanks again.

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