engaging music as a community
For most people, listening to music offers a way to retreat from life's difficulties into our own personal space of feeling and being. But what might happen if we tried to listen for more than just our own impressions?
For several years, students, faculty, staff, and members of the community have gathered at Calvin College for group listening sessions we call “Do You Hear What I Hear?”
Someone plays a piece of music. We all listen. We then break into small groups and talk about what we notice, feel, and think. After about 7-10 minutes, the person who brought the music leads a larger discussion, drawing on ideas from all the groups, and then ends by contributing a little background information about the music.
Then we listen to the music again.
The second hearing is practically magical – different, deeper – because we find ourselves hearing, thinking, and feeling from our neighbor’s point of view. This not only opens up our encounter with the music, but with each other, as well. It transforms a typically self-centered activity into a tangible way to love our neighbor. And the effects are often long-lasting. Most participants report back that this group listening exercise changes the way they experience music in everyday life.
... even further into the community
Students have run DYH listening sessions at nursing homes and homeless shelters—an invaluable avenue for cross-cultural and cross-generational engagement. Churches have held DYH sessions as a way to facilitate more meaningful discussion about music among members. Music educators have found DYH methods very effective in the classroom.