I have been engaged in musical practice for nearly 50 years; I started studying the violin when I was nine years old at Martin School in South San Francisco . Ever since that moment a constant part of how I experience the world has been through music and sound. As such I have to rely on my ability to “listen” as a means to “get it.” Today I perceive the multiple levels of meaning and understanding in a moment by “what it sounds like”. And my means to respond or exercise my agency is by making sound… by “speaking” - often through music but more broadly through my actions.
I have chosen to the expression Sound Listen Speak or “SLS” as my learning and teaching philosophy also because it works for me forwards and backwards. In many ways we can listen to what we are speaking before it leaves us to become sound. This allows us to hear ourselves before we act. And then our sound is then perceived by others as well as others as another moment. In this way we can create cycles of expression and understanding.
This pillar is a perception of the environment around us. Of course, sound may be perceived in a sensory way through our ears but it could also represented more like a metaphor, as in the saying, “it sounds like” which could be similar to “it looks like” or “it feels like”. In the classroom, it means having a sensitivity and awareness of what is happening in the surroundings including what students are expressing individually and collectively as well as the influences of the space itself both inside and outside the classroom. It is having a awareness of problems or needs of the students and the learning situation. In a sense it is a first part of a critical process.
This pillar represents the further application of our critical abilities. Meaning how we take in and interpret what we are “hearing”. It also means how we identify solutions to issues as well as more broadly the opportunity for action. How we apply our critical capacities here is also key. Our students need to know that we are listening without judgement. We are listening with a sense of justice, or fairness, of compassion. In this sense the listening is active and engaged. And this is critical as listening is a moment to build the relationship between teacher and student, and among students, as well. And beyond.
This pillar is inspired by the title of Deborah Wong’s book Speak It Louder: Asian Americans Making Music, I feel close to this work by Wong, as both my music and my thoughts about music are explored in the book. . In this text, Wong, argues that “music is performative and that it ‘speaks’ with considerable power and subtlety as a discourse of difference (3.1)”.Building on this I see our expressions, our “speech” as it were, as representing our agency, our means to change the world. By “discourse of difference”, I understand that “speaking” is the way that we can be aware of and address where each participant is coming from and their needs as part of a process to inform change/action.
Renewing the cycle
It begins again as we perceive what is “spoken” as “sound”. We “ listen” and evaluate what transpires. We see the opportunities to speak. And so on. Of course, what I have presented is a simplified version of what happens in very quick moments or in longer trajectories, and definitely on multiple levels.