Having avoided Corgliano because I knew the-sort-of-music he writes, I nonetheless slipped from the saddle on my high horse determined to listen at the same time I prepared to dislike him and his so-called music.
First of all, the composer himself is thoroughly delightful, self-effacing, filled with stories told in an entertaining manner. His intelligence and intellect were displayed with ease. For five days, I had the pleasure of hearing the composer and his remarkable music in all its sound accompanied by music. Or was it music accompanied by sound? Is there a difference? Does it matter?
I’m reminded of listening to children: They often have too much sound without enough music. We need to listen in order to hear. Did I always listen to my children? No. Despite such carelessness, they managed to become adults who are - by-and-large - good citizens.
Children have personhood, they are not merely extensions of their parents. The more one listens to children and actually hears what they say, the more those children grow comfortable with themselves, unafraid to form their own ideas knowing that Mommy or Daddy won’t scoff at “such nonsense” even if it’s silly from an adult perspective.
To listen and to hear are not synonymous in the present context. The Christmas carol asks: “Do you hear what I hear?” At the same time, the Christmas song asks, “Sleigh bells ring; are you listening?”
To hear means to get it. When we listen, it’s often in a casual way until the speaker’s voice becomes white noise. When we listen, we’re sometimes waiting for a pause to interject some brilliant riposte of our own. When we hear we absorb what is being said, perhaps to file some bit of information, even wisdom, for further musing, perhaps meditation.
I talk. Boy! do I talk. After years of beating up on myself, I discovered that what I do - all that talking with and speaking to - has a label: It’s called “integrity therapy.” Because I’m comfortable with my human-ness, others are free to let-it-all-hang-out believing they will be accepted and loved, even if it’s only for the short time we’re in one another’s presence - and presence is the thing here: To be present is to hear, to hear what is being said, revealed, accepted or not. When someone told me that opinions cannot be wrong, that they’re just opinions, because the speaker was an adult I had no trouble refuting her own opinion.
I said, “Then you believe that flat-earthers cannot be incorrect, that they are entitled to that opinion when the rest of us can prove that planet Earth is not flat? Nor is it round, but that’s another story - it’s round as opposed to flat.” She wore an expression that made her look mentally deficient. I added, “Are you listening?” She sure wasn’t hearing.
There are times when I refuse to listen, never mind hear. You remember the Three Wise Monkeys: See no Evil, Hear no Evil; Speak no Evil. I’m most certainly not going to pretend I live by those wise monkeys all the time. But I’m working on it. Are you listening? Do you hear me?
When was the last time I heard today’s music that gave me chills and thrills? Just last week, in fact. Chicago’s WFMT presented another week of Exploring Music with Bill McLaughlin. John Corgliano was present to account for himself and his adventures in music - very modern music. There was much sound and much music.