Mark Egan is an American jazz bass guitarist, known for his membership in the original Pat Metheny Group in the late 1970s. He has recorded and/or performed with artists such as the Gil Evans Orchestra, Stan Getz, Bill Evans, Pat Martino, Larry Coryell, John McLaughlin, Alex De Grassi, John Abercrombie, Sting, Joan Osborne, Sophie B. Hawkins, Roger Daltrey and the Duran Duran off-shoot group Arcadia. In his younger years, Mark studied privately with Jaco Pastorius.
Listening is being acutely aware of the information that we receive from not only our auditory sense, but from our internal awareness of being.
In my world of music, listening is paying attention to the music that I am playing and responding to at the moment. My passion is to play improvised music with others who share the same sensibilities–listening and reacting to each other. Music is a language. Communicating in a musical situation is the same as having a conversation with someone.
Music is all about communication, sharing and creating as a group. In order to do this you have to be listening and responding to the music of the moment. If you’re not listening, you’re not in the moment as far as playing as a group.
One of the roadblocks when trying to listen is getting caught up in your own pre-recorded “tape loop.” It’s difficult to pay attention to the moment. As musicians we spend hours learning our instrument by practicing various scales, melodies, and styles of music. The key is to have all of this ability, information, and vocabulary and use it in a creative way by listening and reacting to the music at hand.
The second roadblock is when others aren’t listening and only focusing on themselves. This is a universal problem, not only in the music world, but in society in general. Like when you’re at a party and are supposedly having a conversation with someone. Soon enough, you realize that they are only talking about themselves and haven’t the slightest awareness or interest in you. I usually find a quick exit point and excuse myself. In a music situation I stop playing to make the non-listening player aware. They just might pay more attention to the moment. Remembering to listen and be in the moment is my universal motto.
Stop and listen. Then respond and keep that awareness going. Try to slow down the mind and pay attention to the external world. It would be very boring and narrow minded to only listen to ourselves. We grow by listening to others and learning new ideas and concepts.
Read more about Listening in our previous blog post: Are Listening Skills A Lost Art?