Over the past several years, I have been reading and thinking about and trying to enact forms of listening in my artistic practice and in my daily life. Sometimes this involves long walks, when I can pay closer attention to the world around me. Other times it is an embodied listening, when I learn new forms of stitching or paper-folding or string figures from another’s hands. Many times it involves handwritten letters, which I believe are inherently a form of active listening – a mode of generous giving and receiving, sharing intimate thoughts and offering to listen to another’s words.
As part of this ongoing interest, I have researched the work of Pauline Oliveros, a composer, sound artist, and educator who developed a practice and pedagogy of Deep Listening. In Pauline’s words, 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.
Over a year ago, I decided to pursue a practitioner certification in Deep Listening through Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. A range of intensive classes were led by teachers from many backgrounds and, thanks to the online format, my peers joined from countries around the world. The final stage of certification was to assemble a Deep Listening Study Circle with whom I could share ideas and practice teaching strategies (and also document my proficiency for my teachers). I am so grateful to these four friends, whom I learned to know in profound new ways. Our discussions about listening – to our past selves, in our present situations, in our dreams, through our movements, and in possible futures – gave me so many rich, new insights into the power of human and more-than-human connection. And while listening sometimes brought up difficult topics and painful memories, these beautiful humans managed to share kindness and laughter through it all. I could not have asked for a better group with whom to complete my certification, which I received this month.