This is a question that has been on my mind recently. How do you listen to music?
We always tell new students of flamenco dance that the most beneficial thing they can do when they are starting out is to just listen to flamenco music. Learning the movement technique required to dance flamenco is one thing, but as flamenco dancers we are not just 'dancers' we are also required to be musicians and contribute to the music that is being created with the rhythmic sound of our feet.
So how do you listen to music?
Or if I rephrase the question, How do you experience music in order to learn to hear and interpret it?
How do you engage with it so you can start to embody the sounds that you hear and start to understand it in a meaningful way?
One answer is obvious - you listen with your ears - as I understand it, sound waves reach the inner ear where they are transformed into electrical signals and the component parts of the sound are processed in different parts of the brain.
If you are interestedin learning more about the research being carried out about how the brain deals with music, the book 'This Is Your Brain On Music' by Daniel Levitin is a great place to start.
Listen through movement
Emile Jacques-Dalcroze was a swiss musician who in the early 20th century developed a method of rhythmic education known as Eurythmics. His method focused on his students understanding musical concepts through movement.
He developed exercises that allowed students to experience a concept physically before transferring it to the instrument being studied and was convinced that the sensations felt by the body would act as a connection between sound and thought.
As flamenco dancers we are already part of the way down this road but we often get caught up in trying to perform a certain step and forget about the musical or rhythmic quality.
Perhaps as part of our listening practice we can use our bodies as a tool to try and understand what we hear?
Do you sing?
For me, singing adds a huge amount to my understanding of whatever I am listening to.
I think it also helps with my memory of music and rhythm. When I internalize a new step by singing it I feel a stronger connection to to music and when I am trying to reproduce it I have a physical memory of the song to draw on.
This is my experience but maybe there is something else going on as well?
Ok, I think I need to go and surround my ears with the sound of Bobby McFerrin now.
We would like to know your thoughts. How do you listen?