Sunday, September 12, 2010


Homage to Ellen's beautiful sunset photos.

One thing I'm loving about this very first part of learning to play the bass is that I have to listen. I'm a good listener, but it's also true that much of the time, as I listen I am already forming my response. Through the long summer of big ole thunderstorms I listened so hard to the thunder, all the time asking, "What is my brother trying to say? What is he telling me?" I was so fixated on the translation, rather than just letting the sound roll over me. It was not at all a pure experience of listening.

I listen to the crickets, but I already know what they're saying: Sex sex sex sex sex sex sex. Listen to them sometimes - it's very clear, very matter of fact.

Just yesterday a hummingbird came out of the nowhere as I sat on the porch at work, waiting for my client to arrive. He checked me out carefully, flew close to my left ear. I believe he whispered something to me, then just as suddenly as he arrived, he flew off, heading due west. What he whispered sounded like Bbbzzzzzzzzz to me, but I have a feeling there was more there than that. Because I have a friend who has an affinity for hummingbirds, I thought of my friend while listening to the bzzzzing, so I wasn't really fully there for the sound.

But when I "play" the bass (definitely premature to say I'm playing it), I don't have preconceived ideas about what I should be hearing, I don't really even know what to listen for. Hence listening becomes a very pure experience without expectation and even without judgments. I just started learning - I'm supposed to suck! And I do, I really SUCK at "playing" the bass.

What the bass is showing me first and foremost is to listen openly, to listen as if empty (like the bowl with the box of cereal poised over it, not like a bowl put away in the cupboard). This is a really good thing!

I look so serious. I am really LISTENING.


Elizabeth said...

Listening seems to be a lost art!
I LOVE the idea of you playing the bass. You go girl.
So many people merely wait for a gap in the conversation to add whatever they were going to say.
We should all practice LISTENING.
This is a note to SELF
in particular....
Thank heavens we have navigated yesterday without major disasters.
Happy New Year
Happy Eid

Reya Mellicker said...

Yes Elizabeth, I was thinking about all of you New Yorkers yesterday. Felt like a big anniversary this year.

Barbara said...

I think at least half of music is just about listening. You even have to listen to what's between the notes. Playing any instrument is humbling. It's the small successes that make it so worthwhile.

ellen abbott said...

Oh Reya! Thank you for the little homage.

I'll have to practice being an active listener. One day at yoga Phyllis had us sit quietly and listen and try to identify how many sounds we could hear.

Pauline said...

Sounds like the title of a poem: The Listener.

One of these days I will read here the words, "I can play the BASS!"

Reya Mellicker said...

Pauline, that would be great.

Barbara I am humbled by all musicians everywhere. Wow. Still building the neural pathways I will need in order to play. I'm still learning to learn. Do you know what I mean?

Amanda said...

wow, reya, love that foto of you -- cover of vogue, anyone??

well then, if you can't play the bass, maybe let the bass play you?

feeling sort of philosophical today...

Gary said...

Sexy pic!

Yesterday I said out loud that I was disappointed that I did not see even one hummingbird this year and within 10 minutes one appeared on the trumpet vine in my backyard. And then 5 minutes later another one (the same one) did the same thing. I was thrilled.

Keep listening sexy girl. Do you hear me purring at you?

steven said...

yeah reya - hearing is the surface of listening and then there's active listening which is so hard because it assumes that you can shut out all but what is most pertinent to the moment. musicians need to do that as the sound moves. a lot has to do with getting out of the way of the music - which i believe comes eventually with practice and intention. i'm in awe of anyone who chooses to learn a new language, to establish a new relationship with themselves through whatever means are necessary. music or art would be my own first choices! steven

Pam said...

Great photo of you Reya! I've linked to you in my post - love that you are having a great time. Husband was a bass player. Should say IS. Don't think once mastered, it ever goes away!

Lynne said...

Reya, that pic of you is soooo sexy. You look like a young pop star! Not to say that you normally look old, uhm, I think you know what I am trying to say. :)

And kudos to you for learning a new instrument!

John Hayes said...

What Barbara said is so true! Also, learning to listen, as you said, & eventually when you reach the point of playing with others, listening to what they're playing & how what you're playing fits in. & you know what: any musician I know who's worth her/his salt is still learning to learn! I also agree with Gary, Pam, Lynne et al--good pic!

The Pollinatrix said...

Ah. Now I get it. You're just now LEARNING the bass. Disregard my previous (er, later) comment.