A music listening manifesto

The prototype for the following document was graphic designer Bruce Mau's “An Incomplete Manifesto for Growth” from his book Life Style. While our music listening manifesto is a new document designed to challenge and excite music listeners everywhere, points 1, 7, 18, 21, 24, and 27 were paraphrased with appreciation from Mau’s source. Other sources of inspiration: music, our personal experiences, and the incredible beauty that surrounds us.

Music Listening: An Incomplete Manifesto

by Greg Anderson & Elizabeth Joy Roe

  1. Allow music to transform you. The prerequisites for transformation: the openness to experience events and the willingness to be changed by them.

  2. Embrace the new. It takes courage to depart from familiarity and escape your comfort zone: only with change is there life.

  3. Make every encounter new. Every listening adventure – no matter how seemingly familiar or repetitive – is new. All musical occasions are an opportunity for transformation, growth, and discovery.

  4. The musical experience is yours. You live it. You create it. Your engagement is a vital ingredient.

  5. If you are bored, see points 1, 2, 3, and 4.

  6. Woah. The music doesn’t always happen where we think it ought to. Instead, it happens somewhere else – in the silence, in the reverb on the walls, in the performer’s gasp for air. Music comes charged with a palpable energy created by its surroundings at that very moment. Under any other circumstance, it would be different.

  7. Go deep. Really deep. Some treasures are freebies, but many more are buried in the sand, perceived only under the microscope, or clouded in the murky depths of the mind. The deeper you go, the more likely you will find something of value.

  8. Listen as if it were the last time your ears could hear. Savor it.

  9. Nature is beautiful because it is untouched by humans, but music is beautiful because it is a human creation. Music is direct interaction with the human spirit.

  10. Be open to other life, whether it be the composer’s life, the performer's life, or the lives of those around you (…yes, even the noisemaker to your left). Other people’s lives are more weird and wonderful than we could ever imagine. By absorbing the musical complexity of the human condition, you will walk away transformed.

  11. Join the party. Music is an interactive event that serves our primordial need to share in something greater than ourselves.

  12. As E.M. Forster said, “Only connect.” Music is a pliant collaboration actively involving all participating factors: performers, composers, listeners, and musical elements. Relish the conflict, euphoria, frustration, and innumerable creative possibilities that arise with collaboration.

  13. Liberate yourself from technological trappings and to-do lists. Just be present with and within the music.

  14. Close your eyes. Focus on the sonic essence of the music.

  15. Feel the music course through your body. One of the most amazing sensations when listening to music is the “shiver.” Experiences with music can be thrillingly visceral.

  16. Lack judgment and postpone criticism. Free yourself from labels.

  17. If something strikes you as strange or incomprehensible, don’t panic. Welcome the confusion and enjoy the music without preconceived ideas or predetermined goals.

  18. Drift. Allow the music to guide your listening. Explore aimlessly.

  19. Think for yourself. Take chances and mess up. The well-intentioned guidance of others doesn’t always lead you in the direction you need to go because music is intensely personal and thus impacts each listener differently.

  20. Music is not universal. It is a myth to believe that there is one “correct” way to respond to a musical experience. Human beings are too sophisticated and music is too subtle to be whittled down in this manner.

  21. Work the metaphor. Beyond the obvious exists a myriad of alternate meanings and interpretations.

  22. Listen for polarities. Music is at once mundane and surreal, cerebral and sensual, trivial and significant, ephemeral and everlasting, raw and refined, profane and sacred, etc., etc.

  23. Laugh. We, Greg and Liz, laugh our way through rehearsals. Joy is a natural reaction to the realization of overwhelming, authentic communication.

  24. ______________________. (Allow space for the unknown.)

  25. Abandon any notion of “clock time” – you may find your sense of time shifting. Some pieces or experiences may even strike you as utterly timeless.

  26. If you are bored, use it to your listening advantage. Strange and marvelous things happen in unusual states of being.

  27. Rely on gut instinct. Go where it feels good.