The Disruptive Nature of Listening, by Hildegard Westerkamp


Hildegard Westerkamp has published in her site at SFU a transcription of the keynote address at the International Symposium on Electronic Art, held in Vancouver, Canada in August 18 this year. Below is the abstract:

A true state of listening cannot be acquired by force. The order to listen – LISTEN! we all have heard and experienced it – guarantees a closing off, a turning away, a non-listening, possibly even a permanent disturbance in our once open and trusting listening channels. It is perceived like any sound that annoys, disrupts, hurts, or injures: we cringe, we try to block it out, might fight it, may want to get rid of it, but we will not listen.

By its very nature listening is a continual and gentle process of opening. We usually know when we are in that place of perceptual receptivity and we know when we have lost it. Listening is never static, cannot be held on to, and in fact needs to be found again and again.

As such, it is disruptive in its nature. Paradoxically, while a grounded and calm state of mind, a sense of safety, peace and relaxation are essential for inspiring perceptual wakefulness and a willingness and desire to open our ears, normal routines, habits and patterns will be disrupted and laid bare in such a process of listening; noises and discomforts inevitably will be noticed, and all kinds of experiences will be stirred and uncovered. Listening in fact implies a preparedness to meet the unpredictable and unplanned, to welcome the unwelcome. How do we reach such a state of listening, why would we want to?

Read the full article at SFU