Lent is a solemn religious observance of the forty days leading up to Easter, marked by (among other things) self-denial. I gave up listening to music. My hypothesis was that less listening would lead to more making. That has not been the case. The opposite may even be true. I attempted to go about my days in silence when I could; no music at work, at home, or in the car. How dreadfully monotonous that was!
Here I’ve broken up music listening into three categories based on levels of engagement: 1) Background listening does not demand much engagement because it only fills the silence while other things are happening. 2) Intentional listening is the complete engagement in the music. 3) Participatory listening is the engagement in participating in the music, usually dancing or singing along.
Background listening can be a distraction. If I’m focused on a task and shift to listening for a moment, I may not get back to what I was working on right away. Music may just add to the noise in already noisy environment as well.
Intentional listening can be a waste of time. There are other things I could be getting done instead, namely writing music. Relaxing with a pair of headphone on the couch is a reward for getting work done. I’ll let myself listen when I’m finished with my never-ending to-do list. Also, why would I listen to music if I could play it? That should be motivating.
Participatory listening didn’t really factor into my self-denial. I still sang, danced, and enjoyed concerts. This is only a small fraction of my time, though, and has more positive benefits than negative consequences.
Giving up listening to music has been challenging! Sometimes I need a musical distraction. Please, shift my focus from this negative thought or stressful day. Just boost my mood and get my blood flowing a bit. Also, it’s probably good for a musician to really immerse himself into listening — noticing new things about a favorite song and further inspiring creation. Participatory listening could be encouraged — remember why music is fun.
I’ve allowed myself an exception: I can listen to new music to write about it here. This limited background music is back in my home. I’ve even discovered a good album for some intentional listening and a review. And giving up music hasn’t all been bad. I read a lot more of the articles I’ve saved and got back into the podcasts I’ve neglected. After Easter, I’ll just have to pay attention to when I’m getting distracted and try not to procrastinate by listening to music. I’ll seek out more participatory listening opportunities, too, like playing music with others.
Finally, what would Jesus listen to? Even though that’s the title of this post, it has not been the subject. It’s catchy and I like the picture, okay? It is an interesting question, though. My impression is that Jesus was a participatory listener. I’ve written plenty already, so you can ponder that and let me know what you think. Let me know what you gave up for Lent as well, if anything.