I had the opportunity and the pleasure to attend the first International Deep Listening Art/Science conference in Troy, NY, at the Experimental Media and Performance Arts Centre – EMPAC, organised by the Deep Listening Institute and the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
It was an unusual conference, where people gathered to talk, but with the premise of listening deeply. I perceived this at all times, during the talks, performances, workshops and even during the lunch time. Previously I’ve heard and experienced in similar events that listening is demanding and therefore a tiring experience. After three days of continuous Deep Listening to lectures, workshops, performances, listening walks, poster sessions and round tables, I just wanted to listen more and more; I wanted an ever-lasting conference! I was fully energised, not exhausted (even in very high temperatures); this is because Deep Listening invites you to open not only your ears and intellect, but also your full body, to listen. As Pauline Oliveros stated in a round table discussion, listening is not about training the ears but about training the brain. When all sound flows through the body, because of our attentional dynamics, inner and outer perception combine in a delicious feeling which Pauline refers to as homeostasis, an equilibrium which is reached in the space/time continuum of sound, and creates the sensation of being inside of a musical piece that we customise as we listen, compose and perform; we are the music and the instrument for the music.
What was my music made of? It was made of every single paper and performance I heard, the workshops in which I participated, and the ‘sparks’ that these created in my stream of consciousness and knowledge. These ‘sparks’ were present in the anticipations and the surprises, in the non-thinking that occurs when I am performing guided by intuition, by listening, by flow. My own sounding materialised in my ‘Networked Migrations’ paper, and my participatory performance ‘Spider whispers’. The first one flew gently and used the right pace, as I felt listeners tuned into those in-between spaces (migratory and telematic), and into other unnamed spaces of sound. ‘Spider whispers’ was incredibly playful and sonically rewarding. I felt fear when I was standing in front of my audience/performers (I had never done this before, and never with so many people), but I said it, and we laughed and I felt we opened to the idea of becoming spiders, and connecting and bringing our own fears, love and laughter, our extreme fears, strange love and timid laughter that spiders provoke; we were connected.
There is a permanent feeling of gratitude when entering into a Deep Listening space; the flexibility and brilliance of space allows us to escape traditional boundaries of academic settings and protocols that could make us tense and tight. I was attracted to Ben Richter’s talk about Time Distortion, and his suggestion of Deep Listening as ‘a state’. I would say the Deep Listening state depends on each person’s ability to let go and simply listen. Removing all mental obstacles that constrain us to do so, and waiting for things to happen. In the conference, this ‘state’ was approached not only through artistic experiences but also through science. Seth Horowitz, in his keynote speech went deeply into the explanations of how our brain works for us to physically perceive sound, and he also acknowledged the mysteries that still remain in order for science to explain listening. While in the round table discussion, when the participants were discussing Hearing vs Listening, it was suggested that when hearing cannot be explained fully through our physical senses, such as in memories or listening in dreams, the temporality of sound disappears. This is when, I believe, we enter into a state of consciousness, as Richter also suggested, which can be accessed through Deep Listening. As we come into an amazing era of conscious awareness and world connectedness, dissolving all boundaries, including the ones between disciplines, Deep Listening is stimulating the expansion of listening in all kinds of educational, scientific and artistic practices all over the world. The conference gave me a wider breadth of my understanding of this philosophy and practice, and I am grateful to all organisers, presenters, performers and audiences for making possible this unusual event. Here is a link to the programme. I am looking forward to attending the second Deep Listening conference next year. Here an excerpt of ‘Wired for Sound’ by Jay Kreimer: