Listening In 2021

Amanda Petrusich at The New Yorker:

I thought often about something the saxophonist Pharoah Sanders said, after my colleague Nathaniel Friedman asked him what he’d been listening to: “I haven’t been listening to anything.” He eventually elaborated: “I listen to things that maybe some guys don’t. I listen to the waves of the water. Train coming down. Or I listen to an airplane taking off.”

I like that way of thinking—gently separating the idea of listening from the purposeful consumption of so-called music. There has always been a lot of beautiful sound in the world, things so plainly lovely that it feels humiliating even to type them out: songbirds at sunrise, a creek after a storm, boots on a gravel driveway, a blooming bush beset by bumblebees. When I wasn’t using my stereo, I sang made-up tunes to my daughter—badly—and watched her discover her wild, throaty cackle. In the predawn darkness, I listened happily as she cooed to herself in her bassinet. I found that my partner has a secret voice—higher-pitched, goofier, almost quaking with joy—that he uses when talking to a baby. Those experiences colored the way I heard and metabolized new records. I found myself pulled toward albums that were elemental, tender, free—music that felt genuinely of the world and not like a mediated reflection of it.

more here.