It took me some time, but at a certain point in life I acquired the ability to stop and reflect on how my behaviour affects others, and, more importantly how it affects myself. This is a constant work in progress and I catch myself often enough not paying attention. But it is an ability I enjoy honing – not to perfection, but to a degree I can happily live with.
In photography we choose a moment, a perspective, a place we want to hold on to. A view we want to freeze in time. We stop and we look. We make a conscious decision to appreciate something we see and want to continue cherishing it in the future. And perhaps we want to remind ourselves of that moment we valued the way the light fell through the leaves or a beloved smiled at us because we told them something only we know.
When making art we have to choose that certain point when to stop working on a piece. Taking a step back we constantly stop and look. And then we decide in which state the desired effect of a piece might be reached and stop. But it’s entirely in our hands and maybe that is the problem for some.
Someone worked on a song and then stopped in order to make it available to us to listen to – it’s our job to actually listen.
In Danish and German you say to »hear music« not »listen to«. I find this a very sad expression. But no one really seems to notice.
The on-demand availability of music that comes with streaming, makes us think less about the music we hear. It’s not the internet I blame: music constantly washes over us – at the supermarket, in the car, in the parking lot, at the mall…
In 1984 Queen’s Freddie Mercury sang about this in their song Radio Ga Ga:
I’d sit alone and watch your light
My only friend through teenage nights
And everything I had to know
I heard it on my radio
So don’t become some background noise
A backdrop for the girls and boys
Who just don’t know or just don’t care
And just complain when you’re not there
We watch the shows, we watch the stars
On videos for hours and hours
We hardly need to use our ears
How music changes through the years
We hear but don’t listen. So stop and listen.
You see, some of us have to stop and observe and this practice makes it easier to apply the same to everyday life. But for just one day – whether you’re an artist or not, whether you’ve ever thought about this or not – try to do things and actually know you’re doing them. Stop and realise. Notice the millions of sweet smelling flowers on the linden, the many gum stains on the floor you walk on, holes in the wall you’re passing, the feeling of the seat you’re sitting on… Take a step back and realise. Don’t just do – make!