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Look at it this way.

as encouraged by Timothy Shepard

On Listening

Did you know that in the average American home the television is on for six hours per day? How many of us turn on the radio first thing when we get in the car? As a society, we seem determined to learn how to NOT listen; we are training ourselves how to block out incessant sound. In the elevator, in the dentist's office, when the telephone receptionist puts us on hold, and in the grocery store we are bombarded with noise/muzak. Have you noticed? As Christians, we might be a little more intentional as to how we listen and to what we listen.

I imagine that Jesus was the consummate listener. When Jesus conversed with the woman at the well, he not only heard what she said, he heard much more about what was really going on in that woman's life. Jesus exhorted us to hearken: "Let anyone with ears listen!" said the Master when he taught. How many of us are guilty of hearing only the black and white when the gray matter underneath contains truth? We should all strive for the listening power of Christ.

Listening to good music is an excellent way to develop that capacity of hearing. Great music like that composed by Bach, Beethoven, and Saint-Saens contains a power of human expression that enriches our lives. "Music takes us out of the actual and whispers to us dim secrets that startle our wonder as to who we are, and for what, whence, and whereto", said Emerson. Music is a gift from God; in it we can sense His inspiration.

It is not difficult to learn to hear music if you don't know how; it only takes time. You begin simply with a calm mind. Let go of all mundane thoughts like "things to do", shopping lists, asking your boss for a raise. In listening to music, memory is an important principle. A composer never presents a musical idea once; he or she will repeat the idea many times -- turning it upside down, cleverly manipulating it slightly, or hiding it in the trombone section. After several times listening to a musical composition, it becomes as familiar as an old friend. Memory is key. When you can remember what came before, the present makes much more sense. When you know the present intimately, an epiphany will happen.

As you listen, you will hear four different elements going on: melody, rhythm, harmony, and tone color. They are all going on at the same time. I would suggest a beginner try to examine only one or two elements at a time. Melody is that which we sing; the tune. Melody comes in all shapes and sizes. Not all beautiful melodies are intended to be sung by human voice, it might have been written for the bagpipes. Rhythm is "when" the notes happen; it is the "time" element. Some notes are long, some are short. Rhythm can result in the irresistible urge to tap your foot -- you are allowed. Harmony are the notes underneath the melody; the chords that the guitar plays. Harmony comes in many styles and flavors. Sometimes harmony is dissonant, sometimes consonant. Both are OK. Tone color, the last element, has mostly to do with what instrument is playing. A clarinet sounds different than a handbell, a piano sounds different than a synthesizer. Trying to hear what instruments are playing a concerto is the same sort of fun as figuring out what spices are in the casserole. There you have it; that's all there is to listening in a nut shell. Go out and buy a CD of Beethoven's "Missa Solemnes" and enjoy!!

There is another of song to listen to; the song of our souls. One of my favorite Christmas songs is Regney and Shayne's "Do you hear what I hear?" "Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy, do you hear what I hear? Ringing through the sky, a song, high above the tree, with a voice as big as the sea". "There's a song in the air" another Christmas hymn states. As we prepare for a most precious nativity, the Advent song can be heard -- a song of hope, anticipation, expectation. It's a song that precedes that a Savior will soon be born in our hearts. Can you hear it, are you listening?


"Can you hear it? Are you listening? "