Listening. Listening?

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Ah summer, time to ponder the meaning full (in spandex!)

Summer is a good time for thinking. For me it is the pause between the old and new year, and I often find myself pondering what I have done and how it might be done better or even differently.

The thought of 2016 was concerts. The idea of the formal performance, in a space with good acoustics, comfy chairs and a stage with lights, is one that may not be completely outmoded, but it is certainly being challenged in our time.

I mean who really wants to go to a place jut to sit and passively listen to music? We want movement and visuals and explosions and car chases! Right?

Well, many of us do. Which caused me to wonder: what would a modern concert look like? Would we even call it a concert? Do we sit, stand, lie down or can I move around? Can I move or dance? Is there always video? Is it interactive, or passive? Can I drink wine?

So many questions that I have yet to answer, but I’m working on it. Don’t be surprised if I stop you on the street and ask what you think!

BUT, and the reason I’m writing this is and haven’t dedicated my life to inventing the 21st century concert, is that last week, I had an experience.

John DS Adams

Last week I took my son, the musician and music fan, to Mahone Bay to Stonehouse Sound, the recording studio of my brother John D.S. Adams. I wanted my boy to hear music in perfect sonic circumstances. Which John’s studio is: The room has analyzed and tuned by a company from Montreal, the speakers are worth a zillion dollars and the placement of all of the components allows for a pristine listening environment. Heck, Johnny’s made some pretty great performances sound even greater as recordings there.

We listened to CD’s, something my 17 year old was not used to. We put on some Radiohead and listened. We sat and listened. It was SO entertaining! We could hear everything in the sound! Every bit of texture, every overtone, every mixing technique; and we could hear each musician placed precisely in the space, until the recording engineer panned them from one place another! There was so much to listen to, and our attention was completely captured by all that was going on.

It was really, really entertaining! My boy’s head exploded! So did mine.

After we our time ran out John said “it’s so great to just listen to music!”

I agreed: it felt like a privilege.

And I thought, “why do we need to change this? It’s a rare privilege! Wouldn’t people want that experience?” And they get it (more or less) at every concert they attend! A chance to sit and just listen. Just listen.

Music is sound or a collection of sounds that make humans feel things. How do we most effectively transmit and receive sound that make us feel things? Maybe passively listening isn’t the best way? I kind of like it, but maybe it doesn’t work for everyone? As a father of boys, I learned someplace that boys are best spoken to, (they listen best to me lecturing them) when we are walking side by side, or working at something, they need an element of distraction to take in what’s needed. I’ve witnessed this countless times. I’ve noticed this in playing music for contemporary dance performances: The people love the music most when they are distracted by fit and attractive men and women! And there’s some crappy music played during contemporary dance: Believe me! Whew!

Please understand, I’m not finished with this. It’s an ongoing question with an evolving answer. Is there evan an answer? How do we find it? What new things can we try out?

I’ll see you on the street, or at the next concert. Have your answer ready if you haven’t already drank or danced your way out the door!

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