Listening vs Hearing

Listening is the act of mindful hearing.

Are You Listening or Hearing?

Is there a difference between listening and hearing? Would you rather someone hear you …or listen to you? What if you were a composer?  Would you prefer your audience to hear your music or listen to your music?

At its root, hearing is sensation. It’s the perceived sound which lands upon your ear. The idea of “hearing” may suggest that it’s limited to only what you perceive through your ears. But it can embody something larger. You can experience music with your other senses. You can feel a bass drum thumping, you can see the connection between a beautiful motion and the beautiful sound it emits (or an ugly one for that matter).  If you’re close enough, you might even smell the fragrance of the musician or that of an antique rosewood fingerboard!  Your senses enlarge what you “hear”.  As one moves forward on the perception continuum of hearing and listening, you can conceive the point that listening is larger than hearing itself.

Hearing comes before listening.  Hearing is the seed of listening. But listening won’t self-germinate without attention. Hearing is passive. However, listening is an active and dynamic garden. To listen, one must lean in to (literally or figuratively) what’s being heard.  It’s a willing act that nourishes and brings forth the fulfillment of listening.

With enough willfulness, hearing becomes listening which is the complete embodiment of active and mindful hearing. It’s the summation of your unique experience and sensation of what’s mindfully being heard. Listening is large. It transcends the senses.  It requires all of you. Are you listening or hearing?

Reflection by Carl Baldassarre


There are 2 comments on Listening vs Hearing

  • Could not agree more… I’ve spent my entire like listening to the quality of life’s sounds around me… For example.. You lay on a sofa late at night… Cars are passing by on an overcast wet street.. It makes a particular tone that reverberates through the air.. It’s hollow.. Yet has body at the same… Life’s incidental gifts… I love that!

  • I was thinking of “Stomp” (Stag production from the 90’s) which incorporated incidental sounds from say, the Bronx: boots on the ground, garbage can lids, basketball bounce, etc. Moreover, the sounds of nature and the world about. Myself, as possibly most post-modern Westerners, find it an ongoing challenge to quiet thoughts and mindfully enter into this combination of “Cosmos and Chaos”. Then again, it’s easy for me to be swept up in great music; carried off to an indescribable land of e-motion, and possibly this as an antidote to my said dilemma…

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