Our ears can perceive vibrations and then convert them into sonic feelings. Our eyes can recognize the many shapes of light and convert them into signals that become visual images in our brain. It has been discovered that inside our brain, our hearing system is very close to other areas of the brain that regulate our life: pain, pleasure and other basic emotions.
The main difference between our hearing and all the other senses is that for instance, we are able to close our eyes if we want to, but we can’t control the penetration of a sound inside our body. We can’t close our ears. We are bounded to receive many audio signals every day with no direct control over their source or intensity.
In our society, hearing is not considered a very precious asset after all: we put a lot of attention and emphasis mostly on our eyesight. We teach our children to pay attention to both sides of the street before they cross, to make sure that no cars are coming, but we rarely teach them to listen to the sound of a car. We rely almost exclusively on our eyesight as a tool for survival.
We have poor habits when it comes to hearing and we often take it for granted, until we realize the importance of this vital sense, until we end up mistaking hearing with listening.
One of the most important gifts of our ‘listening’ is linked to memory.
A memory, something we remember, is directly linked to our thoughts. Our ears are intelligent when it comes down to ‘remember’ things, more than we think.
To our ears, even a slight form of repetition in music will become an essential element: music moves within a timeline, it moves forward, but our ears are able to memorize and store what they already heard the first time. We could say that our ears have a conscience of the present and the past. We can’t have a memory of a sound on its first note, but when we hear the second note, we can already connect it to the first one, automatically.
Our ears create a connection between the past and the present and they send signals to our brain, expecting ‘something’ to be happening in the near future.
Listening to music is very different from reading a book: when we are listening to a concert we can’t repeat something that wasn’t fully understood while it happened. The listener has to flex his/her own conscience and concentration to receive the information that just received.
To listen means to use our ears together with our thoughts.
Alfred Hitchcock never intended to have music during the shower scene in Psycho until he understood the incredible power of the music that the composer, Bernard Hermann, wrote for that specific sequence of images. That scene became Hitchcock’s trademark.
Only when our ears and eyes work together, we get to understand the incredible importance of listening.