The late 20th century was eloquently characterized as an era of “white noise” by Don DeLillo in his acclaimed novel. This sentiment continues in the early 21st century as well. Advancements in technology and the proliferation of mass media have created a seemingly endless stream of images, catchphrases, celebrity coronations, and “news” posing as useful information. Rising above this cacophony requires vigorous effort among thoughtful people to distinguish the most vital aspects of our culture from trivial ephemera. In essence we have to move from merely seeing and hearing to genuinely listening.
Several years ago I began crafting a series of essays on the impact of recordings from a select group of vocalist that helped open me up emotionally, creatively, and intellectually. These essays have culminated in Learning to Listen: Reflections on 58 great singers a collection of unpublished essays. As I seek a publisher for the book I am excited to share excerpts from the book regularly on the Riffs, Beats, & Codas site to convey my intimate experiences with this eclectic group of post-WWII vocalists.
In addition to posting from my book I will feature interviews with various individuals, on the site's Learning to Listen interview blog, who will discuss their experiences with music that helped them to learn to listen. This is an ongoing project; in the future I will invite readers to share their stories about pivotal musical moments in their lives as well!