DESKTOP
TABLET (max. 1024px)
MOBILE (max. 640px)
Return to Top
Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

TRUTH AND MATTER | Meditations On The Nature Of Hearing

By William Beauvais on October 12, 2016

Human Ear by Granger
Human Ear by Granger

“…at dusk when the past begins.” Linda Hogan

A few years ago, my friend Ariel Balevi was telling a Persian story at the Musideum to mark the winter solstice. He was accompanied by a group of Persian classical musicians who played the plucked string tar; the bowed string kemanche; the frame drum daf and the side blown nay flute. Having taken several ethnomusicology courses at university, I was eager to hear this music in a live setting. As the performance went on, I was impressed by the quiet nature of the music, and the audience who just listened harder when the volume diminished. The Musideum was located at the intersection of two busy downtown streets, so there was some traffic noise bleeding through. As we listened to the story and the music, we were transported to another place and time.

I once had the chance to play in the restored Victoria Playhouse in Petrolia, which was originally conceived as an opera house. It was marvelous to play in a hall with great sight lines and acoustics that allowed every nuance from my classical guitar to be heard clearly. While discussing various events with the manager, I was told that a big band from Toronto had shown up with many microphones and a very large sound system. As if the message was,  “You are going to hear us no matter what, it is a noisy world, and with the help of the sound system, our music will get to your ears.”

Is the music in the sound or is it a result of the effort put out by the listeners? Once as a student in Paris, I went to see Ravi Shankar, the late sitar virtuoso. My seat was far up in the 2nd balcony at the old Salle Pleyel, a large hall with 2,500 seats. The sound system was top notch, so everything was clear and audible but unmoving. After intermission, I went to the lower level, taking a seat close to the stage. It was a very different experience, deeply moving, as if the artist had a bubble of influence, which extended only fifteen rows out.

This made me think that the musical experience could be a tangible spiritual reality in the right context. For the last 120 years or so, our musical background has been accrued through the mediation of machines. Radios, turntables and now digital devices bring an infinite choice of repertoire to our ears.  With headphones on we can feel like dancing on the subway, or be moved by the most sacred of hymns. Alone, we can be held in thrall to the reproductions of fabulous music. Through this recent history, there has been very little research as to how this electronically mediated sound changes us and how it alters our relationship with the social elements of music.

I have been lucky enough to attend numerous house concerts, which tend to be intimate affairs. Being close to musicians feels right. Chamber music was intended for these types of settings, and when restored to small venues, it takes on greater power. The aforementioned bubble of influence embraces both space and time. Think of Dvorak being in that bubble as well, and it becomes wondrous. The doors of time dissolve to carry us away for a while.

Thinking of the Persian music audience, I wonder about the nature of our hearing and understanding. I’d like to think that deep and careful listening makes us more vulnerable and communicative. No matter if the world is noisy, we must listen to each other to let the music blossom.

#LUDWIGVAN

Want more updates on Toronto-centric classical music news and review before anyone else finds out? Get our exclusive newsletter here and follow us on Facebook for all the latest.

William Beauvais

William Beauvais has been teaching, performing composing, recording and improvising music for over 40 years. He has written music for harpist Sharlene Wallace, baritone Doug MacNaughton and the Oberin Guitar Trio. As a performer William has worked with New Music Concerts, the Canadian Chamber Ensemble and Tapestry New Opera, giving first performances of music by George Crumb, Elliott Carter, Chris Paul Harman and Rodney Sharman. He has collaborated with poets Steve McCabe and storyteller Ariel Balevi. His CD’s are available through the Canadian music centre.
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_high_590x300
comments powered by Disqus

Ludwig Van Toronto

FEATURE | The Toronto Symphony Orchestra Brings Remembrance Day Home

By Jennifer Liu on October 30, 2017

To commemorate Remembrance Day, the TSO mount Afghanistan: Requiem for a Generation, an emotionally powerful work by Canadian composer Jeffrey Ryan and Suzanne Steele, Canada’s war poet in Afghanistan.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_high_590x300

LISZTS | 9 Career Tips From The Dover Quartet

By Michael Vincent on October 26, 2017

The Dover Quartet offers pro tips for a career in a string quartet.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article

FEATURE | Think You Can't Sing? Science Doesn't Believe You

By Anya Wassenberg on October 24, 2017

If you think you can't sing you're wrong: A singing story
Read the full story Comments
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_low_590x300
lv_toronto_ssb_atf_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_high_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_mid_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_low_300x300
lv_toronto_tsb_high_300x700
lv_toronto_tsb_low_300x700
lv_toronto_ssb_atf_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_high_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_mid_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_low_300x300
lv_toronto_tsb_high_300x700
lv_toronto_tsb_low_300x700

We have detected that you are using an adblocking plugin in your browser.

The revenue we earn by the advertisements is used to manage this website. Please whitelist our website in your adblocking plugin.