Thursday, 11 December 2008

Learning to listen

Ah, the joys of self-employment! When there's no work I should be resting, basking in the warm glow of past success and spending my well-earned fees. Instead I'm mooching around, fretting that I'll never get any work again and seriously considering applying for unsuitable employment, positions I mean here, that would drive me insane. So when the offers finally come in I want to say yes to everything in case nothing else ever comes. I overload and get stressed by impossible and incompatible commitments and deadlines. But this is the kind of stress I love.

Just at the moment there is very little happening besides my regular woodwind teaching and occasional gigs. But suddenly I have had a variety of offers of work after Christmas, all of it exciting. Would I play clarinet and tenor sax in a production of The Threepenny Opera? Well of course. Am I interested in helping primary school children explore their concerns around death, pollution and the environment through sound? Yes, absolutely. Would I like to work with a performance poet on a project aiming to improve listening and communication skills in eight year olds, taking food as a theme? Count me in. And the icing on the cake: write some music for a video about heroes and villains. What fun!

Of course another thing about being a self-employed artist is that things rarely happen on the timescale that's been given at the outset and sometimes they never happen at all. Apart from 'Threepenny' these are all to be confirmed, but it's very exciting all the same and what fate can't take away is that I've been asked. And that's enormously flattering.

The projects involving schoolchildren will both require them to develop their listening skills and become sensitive and discerning with regard to sound. My years spent teaching woodwind have shown me that it is only when students learn to hear themselves that they become musicians whose playing might please others. This faculty arrives at different ages in different people. Like self-awareness generally it can be encouraged and facilitated but can't really be taught. This month's featured game, Copycat, is ideal for developing listening skills, especially in children, and has applications far beyond the teaching of music. Try it; it's free and without obligation. You will find that many other games in Adventures in Sound add value in a far wider context. We could all be better at listening - to ourselves and to others.

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