Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Closed eye listening (again)

Jeffrey Agrell over at Horn Insights saw my post on closed eye listening and used it as a jumping off point for a very interesting post of his own, (which drew some good comments from folks, including John Ericson of Horn Notes). 

He begins by talking about the benefits of playing from memory, and I agree with everything said. Given my interest in the gestural nature of music and music making, I would add that when I close my eyes when making music there's a deeper immersion in the shapes and textures of the sounds than when I'm reading a score and my overly visual mind constrains my listening into two dimensions. 

Also, closing my eyes helps me slip into a memory state that allows for going through verse after verse of Dylan songs like The Gates of Eden and Desolation Row. Always made sense to me that Homer was blind.

(Jeffrey's suggestion of using an iPod to listen to the works you're going to be performing during that weird time just before a performance seems to be one to try.)

Something else the article on closed eye listening reminded me of is the power of "guided imagery", a kind of music therapy pioneered by Helen Bonney. It involves having people listening to recorded music in ways to help them more fully experience feeling states. I've never studied it beyond reading about it back in the 80's, but have on a couple of occasions been at retreats where it was used. 

Everyone would get relaxed, close their eyes, and then music would be put on (once it was Scheherazade). Then a leader would do an open ended narration, "You're on a path . . . , you meet someone . . . ." These sessions never worked for me, but there were always some for whom it did and it wasn't unusual for several people to be in tears by the end. Part of it was that folks at a retreat are primed for that sort of thing, but this closing of the eyes heightening emotions was probably a contributor as well.

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