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The Listening Book: Discovering Your Own Music

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The Listening Book is about rediscovering the power of listening as an instrument of self-discovery and personal transformation. By exploring our capacity for listening to sounds and for making music, we can awaken and release our full creative powers. Mathieu offers suggestions and encouragement on many aspects of music-making, and provides playful exercises to help reade The Listening Book is about rediscovering the power of listening as an instrument of self-discovery and personal transformation. By exploring our capacity for listening to sounds and for making music, we can awaken and release our full creative powers. Mathieu offers suggestions and encouragement on many aspects of music-making, and provides playful exercises to help readers appreciate the connection between sound, music, and everyday life.


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The Listening Book is about rediscovering the power of listening as an instrument of self-discovery and personal transformation. By exploring our capacity for listening to sounds and for making music, we can awaken and release our full creative powers. Mathieu offers suggestions and encouragement on many aspects of music-making, and provides playful exercises to help reade The Listening Book is about rediscovering the power of listening as an instrument of self-discovery and personal transformation. By exploring our capacity for listening to sounds and for making music, we can awaken and release our full creative powers. Mathieu offers suggestions and encouragement on many aspects of music-making, and provides playful exercises to help readers appreciate the connection between sound, music, and everyday life.

30 review for The Listening Book: Discovering Your Own Music

  1. 5 out of 5

    Carla Krueger

    Thoroughly enjoyed this book. I bought it as a present for my boyfriend, who composes music as a hobby (and helps me with music for book trailers!) but decided to try it myself on his recommendation. Really glad I did. I am not a musician, but still found "The Listening Book" incredibly useful – as a writer and human being! It's not just about listening or music. It's about opening up to the world around us. It's about art and how we respond to it, create it and live with being creative souls. Wi Thoroughly enjoyed this book. I bought it as a present for my boyfriend, who composes music as a hobby (and helps me with music for book trailers!) but decided to try it myself on his recommendation. Really glad I did. I am not a musician, but still found "The Listening Book" incredibly useful – as a writer and human being! It's not just about listening or music. It's about opening up to the world around us. It's about art and how we respond to it, create it and live with being creative souls. Without ever sounding preachy, WA Mathieu shows us how to channel our creativity in the best ways to get the most effective results FOR US – no one else. And I found that such an essential component of his teaching process. So many artists and writers get lost in trying to please the audience that their art becomes part passion part torture! Mathieu uses beautifully-written, short bursts of prose like mini-stories to capture the essence of his journey as a musician and music teacher and to inspire his readers to have the courage to explore their own internal 'music', in whatever form it might take. At times, it verges on the best self-help experience I think you can have, but it is FUN and ENTERTAINING, full of life and energy, so don't let the 'self-help' component put you off. Mathieu's voice really comes through, loud and clear but without shouting – loved it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Timothy Ball

    "We ordinarily use mistakes to fuel self-denial, as a proof of our incompetence. But since mistakes are inevitable, try turning them instead to your best advantage. Embrace your mistakes; accept the self who makes them. This is the creative response, one that allows music to find its true shape inside you. Mistakes are your best friends. They bring a message. They tell you what to do next and light the way. They come about because you have not understood something, or have learned something inco "We ordinarily use mistakes to fuel self-denial, as a proof of our incompetence. But since mistakes are inevitable, try turning them instead to your best advantage. Embrace your mistakes; accept the self who makes them. This is the creative response, one that allows music to find its true shape inside you. Mistakes are your best friends. They bring a message. They tell you what to do next and light the way. They come about because you have not understood something, or have learned something incompletely. They tell you that you are moving too fast, or looking in the wrong direction."

  3. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    I was labeled as “non-musical” way back in elementary school. Mr. Mathieu insists we are all musical. He even has a chapter on how to create and manage a “tone deaf choir”. This book has already made me listen more closely to my surroundings. I hope to extract more meaning from it when I try the simple note exercises he describes.

  4. 5 out of 5

    D

    Never has music had such a written resonance. This book is on the money. The More You Listen We can no more hear all the vibrations in a sonata than we can see all the radiation from the stars. There is an effulgence [ a brilliant radiance; a shining forth], a surfeit in the world. The history of music is the history of our response to tone, our waking up to it, our remembering and forgetting it, our becoming human it in human form. Each time you hear a tone more clearly than the last time, you par Never has music had such a written resonance. This book is on the money. The More You Listen We can no more hear all the vibrations in a sonata than we can see all the radiation from the stars. There is an effulgence [ a brilliant radiance; a shining forth], a surfeit in the world. The history of music is the history of our response to tone, our waking up to it, our remembering and forgetting it, our becoming human it in human form. Each time you hear a tone more clearly than the last time, you participate in the Great Remembering. It is collective, but it is simultaneously private and intimate. Your experience of tone is unique and secret. So try it again: get quiet; then the pluck or the stroke; then the long decay of sound into space. Lentus Celer Est bogus Latin for “Slow Is Fast” the only way to get fast is to be deep, wide awake, and slow. When you habitually zip through your music, your ears are crystallizing in sloppiness. It is OK to check your progress with an occasional sprint. But it is better to let speed simply come on as a result of methodical nurturing, as with a lovingly built race car. Pray to Saint Lentus for release from zealous celerity. Pray for the patience of a stonecutter. Pray to understand that speed is one of those things you have to give up -- like love -- before it comes flying to you through the back window. When you have found your true teacher, don’t hide. Wherever he or she lives, go there, even if you have to take an airplane or hike into the wilderness; even if you go only occasionally.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Victor

    This is a very subjective book, with many instructions on how to practice your listening skills. Like for example, how to listen to the subtle sound of your day to day life that you really doesn't pay much attention. It encourages you to dive deep in a kind of contemplative state of listening. It changes the way you listen for the better. But when I was thinking of buying it, I thought that it would have more ways to approach musical instruments in a new way, or even creating your own music, as This is a very subjective book, with many instructions on how to practice your listening skills. Like for example, how to listen to the subtle sound of your day to day life that you really doesn't pay much attention. It encourages you to dive deep in a kind of contemplative state of listening. It changes the way you listen for the better. But when I was thinking of buying it, I thought that it would have more ways to approach musical instruments in a new way, or even creating your own music, as the title says "discovering your own music". It did, but in a different way. Some people will like it, some won't. For me, this new approach to music was interesting. One of many things that I loved about it, was a chapter that Mathieu talked about the difference between playing/listening with your left brain and with you right, which is the intuition. It makes perfectly sense to me, and it was something that I hadn't realized before. So, if you ask me if it's worth reading, yes it is, even more so if you practice his exercise of listening, which takes some time to "master". That's the kind of book that rests in your shelf for many years and from time to time you only read a page or two. I recommend to all musicians who wants to improve their music and listening skills in general. Or simply people who wants to discover new ways of listening.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Hank Horse

    An invitation to the pleasures of sound. W A Mathieu has a generous spirit, and I found these short essays about listening and making sound very stimulating. A riddle: say these words out loud- pin tin key cod chutzpah What's the connection? Well, Mathieu introduces the International Phonetic Alphabet on p.63 by showing how the consonants range from front-formed to back-formed, from lips to glottis. This book has lots of odd wonderful investigations, as well as poetic insight and humor. An invitation to the pleasures of sound. W A Mathieu has a generous spirit, and I found these short essays about listening and making sound very stimulating. A riddle: say these words out loud- pin tin key cod chutzpah What's the connection? Well, Mathieu introduces the International Phonetic Alphabet on p.63 by showing how the consonants range from front-formed to back-formed, from lips to glottis. This book has lots of odd wonderful investigations, as well as poetic insight and humor.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mike Barretta

    This isn't really the type of book you "finish", but having technically read each of the pages, it counts for this purpose. I described the book thusly to a friend, "It's great: philosophical, transcendent, zen in its mindfulness. All this without being new age-y". And it is. It's written from such a high place that it's applicable far beyond just music and musicians, it's for anyone who sees beauty and complexity and wants to create some of their own. This isn't really the type of book you "finish", but having technically read each of the pages, it counts for this purpose. I described the book thusly to a friend, "It's great: philosophical, transcendent, zen in its mindfulness. All this without being new age-y". And it is. It's written from such a high place that it's applicable far beyond just music and musicians, it's for anyone who sees beauty and complexity and wants to create some of their own.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tavis

    Adam Neely mentioned this book in a video called The Worst Jazz Solo of All Time. It is a collection of short essays about different listening and playing practices. In the introduction, Mathieu mentions his hope that you will keep returning back to the book and taking new things from it every time. Here are 12 practices that stuck with me on this read through. 1) Symphony of Place: Combination of mindfulness practice with prose writing. Open your listening to your environment, and then narrativ Adam Neely mentioned this book in a video called The Worst Jazz Solo of All Time. It is a collection of short essays about different listening and playing practices. In the introduction, Mathieu mentions his hope that you will keep returning back to the book and taking new things from it every time. Here are 12 practices that stuck with me on this read through. 1) Symphony of Place: Combination of mindfulness practice with prose writing. Open your listening to your environment, and then narratively, non-judgmentally, write the things that you hear. 2) Chanting: Mindfully repeat a syllable (e.g. Om, Sa). Try to settle on a single sustained pitch. "You will hear your own overtones at the fringes" 3) One Note After Another: Play a note, hold it and listen intently. Get lost in the landscape of the sound, and scrutinize every detail. When you have heard all you can hear, play another note. Repeat until the experience is reliable. "There will be a moment when your sense of fullness gives you permission to go on to the next note). A connection between the notes eventually emerges. "If you find yourself trying to make a melody, stop. [...] Let the melody make itself, let the sounds choose the sounds. " (Don't be seduced by the melody is the instruction, but really it is OK to go ahead and be seduced, it's only love.) 4) What should I practice: The secret is to keep track of what you do practice, like an anthropologist would. Generally guideline is to spend 1/4 of your time on each: Playing other's music, Theory & Technique, Improvising & Composing, and Listening. 5) Lentus Celer Est: Slow is Fast. 6) Finding a Teacher: Reflect on the person you want to become - "Try to capture the character of your future music in your ear, even if the notes are a blur. [...] When the picture comes into focus, describe it in writing. Tell everything." What has to happen for you to become the person you saw? The person who can guide you there is the teacher you need to find. 7) Singing in Unison With a String: Like the chanting exercise, but first play an open note (doesn't need to be on a string) listening until it fades, and then try and sing that note in unison with the string, make your voice like the string. 8) AMAPFALAP: As Much As Possible From As Little As Possible. Improvisation with one note. So many variations possible: Dynamics, Duration, Timbre, Texture, Feeling & Intention. Eventually, do it with two notes, and then three, four, across octaves. But don't forget about the things you learned when you were only using one note! Another note is another tool in the toolbox, don't forget about the other variations. 9) Touch What You Sing: Strike one note on your instrument, then a second. Compose a brief melody with only these two notes. Then, continue improvising, but now sing what you are playing. Sing at the same time as you play the note, blend your voice with the sound of the instrument. Then, expand to three pitches and believe you are simultaneously singing and playing short passages of real music. Now, instead of pressing the key all the way down, merely touch it - the only sound is your singing but keep going through the motions of playing the instrument. Touch the keys and sing the notes that would sound if you were playing the instrument. If you're unsure of your accuracy, play a note to check it. Sing what you touch, then Touch what you sing, following your voice. This "gives priority to the inner world and asks the outer world to mirror it faithfully. You can then add more notes gradually (this is a life of work, don't rush!) You can play the root note to keep it in the air and stabilize your singing. 10) Play by the Clock: Improvisation and composition practice. Set a timer for exactly one minute and watch it while you play, realize you are half way done at 30 seconds, and that you need to start wrapping up at 45 seconds, at 55 second you need to be concluding. Try to finish the piece at exactly 60 seconds. 11 )Just the News: Improvisation practice - remember a scene or event you saw within the last 48 hours, take some time to mindfully remember what happened and then improvise a short piece that is like a journal entry for the event. 12)The Magic Scale: You don't need to be constrained by the modes, you can make your own mode using: C Db/D Eb/E F/F# G Ab/A Bb/B C - Root and Fifth are given, but for the other degrees let how you feel like playing decide which to choose.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Lulu

    The best chapter in this book is "practices" which is at the end of the book. It offers GREAT ideas for self practice and for teaching music to others--including, but not limited to teaching both music practice and theory to young children, and to people with a lot of musical experience or none at all. These exercises are somewhat helpful for making the fundamentals of music theory useful without the learner needing to understand them in depth. The exercises also help create strategies for impro The best chapter in this book is "practices" which is at the end of the book. It offers GREAT ideas for self practice and for teaching music to others--including, but not limited to teaching both music practice and theory to young children, and to people with a lot of musical experience or none at all. These exercises are somewhat helpful for making the fundamentals of music theory useful without the learner needing to understand them in depth. The exercises also help create strategies for improvisation and music composition. I like that the basic premise here is that making music is as fundamental of a part of learning music as reading music, or as learning to play someone else's songs. I think this is what's missing in most music instruction in the U.S. The rest of the book is similar in spirit to Rollo May's The Courage to Create or Steven Nachmanovitch's Free Play. The idea being to free the performer from the constraints of perfectionism and conventional definitions of good music, in order to develop a playfulness and intuitiveness that makes music accessible, also to reorient oneself to all sound with mindfulness and playfulness --not to dumb down the quality of musical performance, but to bring people into it with confidence, or to help a person to overcome creative blockages. Having said that, there are useful qualities to the book but most of it was fluff as far as my needs are concerned. I appreciate the author's thoughtful reflections and they have value, but they are mostly a variation of the same idea and there is just a lot of the same to get to before getting to the meat of anything really practically applicable--which is the chapter "Practices." I would have marked it 2-stars if not for that chapter. Some will appreciate it more than I did. The part I think is good I liked a lot. It's a quick read regardless.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Harris

    I'm not sure what I was expecting to get out of this book when I picked it up, but I'm pretty sure staring at a wall in a dark room would've been quicker & just as revealing. The book is a series of disjointed, rhythm-less stories relating in some way to sound. Some do provide some fairly straightforward advice (for example on how to practice an instrument), and there are a few unusual tidbits I found interesting to try (like writing a 'sound symphony') but these are far to few in what otherwise I'm not sure what I was expecting to get out of this book when I picked it up, but I'm pretty sure staring at a wall in a dark room would've been quicker & just as revealing. The book is a series of disjointed, rhythm-less stories relating in some way to sound. Some do provide some fairly straightforward advice (for example on how to practice an instrument), and there are a few unusual tidbits I found interesting to try (like writing a 'sound symphony') but these are far to few in what otherwise feels like a very long book pretentiously waffling on the 'magic' of sound. Not for me, something more practical with a smidge less 'just feel the waves' style meditational-driven waffling I'd look for instead, in hindsight.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Zhou

    W.A. Mathieu has some really cool insights into music and listening, but I'm not really a fan of his super flowery poetic writing. I'm sure others would be able to appreciate his style much more than I do. W.A. Mathieu has some really cool insights into music and listening, but I'm not really a fan of his super flowery poetic writing. I'm sure others would be able to appreciate his style much more than I do.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rudolf Ray

    I loved this book!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jon Ciliberto

    from http://buddhistartnews.wordpress.com/... Book Review by Jonathan Ciliberto, 26 December 2011 The Listening Book Discovering Your Own Music By W. A. Mathieu published by Shambhala Paperback List Price: $17.95 978-1-59030-831-8 Aspects of oneself innate or ever-present are often overlooked when considering self-improvement. For instance, while people regularly train themselves to speak better French or acquire a better golf game, it is less obvious that one would seek to improve one’s mind or being. An from http://buddhistartnews.wordpress.com/... Book Review by Jonathan Ciliberto, 26 December 2011 The Listening Book Discovering Your Own Music By W. A. Mathieu published by Shambhala Paperback List Price: $17.95 978-1-59030-831-8 Aspects of oneself innate or ever-present are often overlooked when considering self-improvement. For instance, while people regularly train themselves to speak better French or acquire a better golf game, it is less obvious that one would seek to improve one’s mind or being. And what about listening? Like seeing or smelling, one imagines listening to be fixed, not needing (or capable of) improvement, at least without physical or mechanical means. Buddhist meditation, of course, similarly begins with the premise that something seemingly fixed can take improvement. The Listening Book is a collection of anecdotes and exercises intended to improve listening, and thereby to find one’s own music. Originally published in 1991, it was re-issued this year, its text completely re-set, with new cover art. Although not explicitly about Buddhism, it partakes of many Buddhist approaches, including mindfulness, compassion, and ego-reduction. On the one hand, the author’s premise is simple: everyone has ears, and so everyone can hear music. On the other, it is subtle, investigating psychological aspects of listening, the metaphysics of music-making, and the primacy of attention to full experience as a listener and musician. The book consists of many short, practical instructions, some presented anecdotally, others more directly pedagogical. None, however, are superior or overly technical. The author is speaking to those who have faced frustration as listeners or musicians, who, it turns out, is everyone. Many of the exercises germinate out of Mathieu’s experiences as a musician, composer, and teacher, beginning with his own recognition of difficulty and the desire for improvement. This modest approach is extremely effective at eliminating a reader’s negative reaction to sometimes very basic, somewhat vaguely phrased direction. Many of the exercises are extremely practical and simple. I read this book not as someone who is tone-deaf, or has been repeatedly frustrated at failing to “get” music (and some of the chapters are devoted to just such individuals), but as a musician of nearly four decades, with a consistently deep and ever-expanding love of listening. Even so, I never felt as if I have nothing to learn from the author, and when I recognized common episodes (“I’ve had that experience…”), it wasn’t to then skip over or think less of the book (as being obvious), but rather to see the commonality in listening that makes a self-help book on the subject possible and successful. Any musician who claims never to have encountered obstacles, felt stopped, or cannot see far greater vistas of music beyond his reach: this is a delusional musician. A large part of this book’s project is showing that everyone, even very talented musicians, has trouble. This is a helpful point to people who have never gotten past the first stumbling block, and have remained stuck at “music isn’t for me.” Mathieu’s gentle, open-hearted, and joyous heart is written on every page, and one feels urged to cultivate this kind of experience of music, of sound, and of one’s self.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Derek Martin

    I read this book when I was in high school. I remember that it gave me some ideas on music that I had not thought about before. It is a good book for any one who lacks confidence in their musicianship or wants to come to know music on their own terms, but experienced musicians could find some ideas that would shake up their accepted views if they flipped through it. It's an easy read, a simple book and the basic theme of it is freedom. I read this book when I was in high school. I remember that it gave me some ideas on music that I had not thought about before. It is a good book for any one who lacks confidence in their musicianship or wants to come to know music on their own terms, but experienced musicians could find some ideas that would shake up their accepted views if they flipped through it. It's an easy read, a simple book and the basic theme of it is freedom.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Linny

    Short, 1-2 page essays on aspects of music applicable to arts in general, discipline (as in approaching practicing), imagination (anyone can improvise - start on 1 note), the simplicity of music, and verifies some of the way I teach piano. Plus new ideas, breaks down barriers and preconceptions.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Annie

    I would say that this book is essential for anyone who wants to teach music to the layperson. It is also a great refresher for those who have already dedicated their lives to music. It is about hearing the beauty in the sounds of our world. An easy read.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Gloria

    Brief vignettes about the benefits of becoming a good listener, many of which are related to music. Sounds a bit like a preppie New Englander who embraces the hippie life in San Francisco. Not terrible, but no real meat to it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    brig

    Recommended to me by a fellow musician, an easy read and a bit thought provoking. Nothing revolutionary but it was a nice summer read to take a mental break and indulge in. Some good ideas, I liked the symphonies of sound especially.

  19. 5 out of 5

    rae

    good ideas for opening up your ears.

  20. 5 out of 5

    ava

    poetic & mind-altering intellectually & spiritually nurturing thanks mr mathieu

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sam Mukherjee

  22. 5 out of 5

    Stan Whaley

  23. 5 out of 5

    Melania

  24. 4 out of 5

    Erica Jones

  25. 4 out of 5

    Howard Krosnick

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tatiana

  27. 4 out of 5

    John Doak

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  29. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

  30. 5 out of 5

    Dean

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