South Pomfret, Vermont
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The Art of Listening

Join musicians Sonny Saul and Bill Cole for rich discussion and explore how to listen to music.

Join musicians Sonny Saul and Bill Cole for rich discussion and explore how to listen to music. Consider this quote from Bill:

The public listens to music in numerous ways. In fact there are so many ways that it’s
almost impossible to list them all. However, what are they hearing? How are they taught
to hear, at home, in schools, from friends? I think they’re not taught at all. For some reason
the public gravitates towards music that pleases them, but why is this, and where does this
begin? This class will try to answer these questions. It will look into parts of different music
to find out how it works.

Like all of the arts, music functions as a hierarchy. Some of it is very simple, like children’s songs.
Some is very complex, like composer masters or the ongoing improviser interveners in jazz.
In America much of music is created to sell. That is the primary goal. So the most inventive
music is hard to find and is listened to by a fewer number of people. Why is this? Why is music just
another commodity? Then there is the question of music not made in the West, like Asian, African,
and other parts of the world. How do we listen or understand that music, especially the
traditional music, music that comes from the folks?

We are a very diverse country. I once saw a fact that in the borough of Queens in NYC there are more different ethnic groups then any other place in the world. How do we listen to and appreciate
all those musics? This is a huge subject.

This class will try to answer these questions, looking into music as a commodity, music as a form of pleasure, music as ritual, and more. The seminar-style discussion will be informed by live music and possibly by multimedia recordings depending on the interest of the class. Participants should bring a notebook and pen or laptop for writing in. Drop-ins welcome!

Bill Cole is an American jazz musician, composer, educator and author. An admired innovator, Bill successfully combines the sounds of untempered instruments with an American art form – jazz. He specializes in non-Western wind instruments, especially double reed horns: including Chinese sonas, Korean hojok and piri; Indian nagaswarm and shenai and Tibetan trumpet; as well as the Australian digeridoo and Ghanaian flute. Bill is the leader of the Untempered Ensemble, a group he founded in 1992. He has performed with Sam Rivers, Billy Bang, Jayne Cortez, Julius Hemphill, Ornette Coleman, James Blood Ulmer, William Parker, Fred Ho, Gerald Veasley and others at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Town Hall, Symphony Space and venues around the U.S. and in Europe. Bill received a PhD in Ethnomusicology from Wesleyan University. He served as Professor of music at Amherst College and at Dartmouth College where he was Chair of the Music Department. He went on to Chair the Department of African American Studies at Syracuse University. Bill has authored two books and has published numerous reviews and critical essays. He has recorded 15 albums that have received acclaim for his musical vision. Bill serves as Artistic Director of the non-profit organization Shadrack, Inc., which is developing a long range philanthropic plans; as well as composing, recording and performing with the Untempered Ensemble and other groups. For more information about Bill, please visit his website. []

Sonny Saul says, “Born and raised in Atlantic City, NJ, I grew up around a lot of great music. After graduating from Haverford College and then getting a masters in library science from Drexel, I became a music student of the legendary Maestro, Dennis Sandole, and stayed on in the Philadelphia area for about 15 years playing with and writing for small groups, and beginning a career in teaching piano which continues today. I think I may have taught over a thousand students. Moving to Vermont in 1986, now the father of four, I started the Pleasant Street Bookstore in Woodstock, which has been in operation for 32 years. Recently I have combined these interests, offering regular concerts at the bookstore which have featured a lot of original music. A lifetime of steady interest and dedication has resulted in a thick book of original compositions. I still “play out” some - I have a regular Wednesday evening solo piano gig at the On the River Inn in Woodstock, and play “all the time” in small ensembles with friends. Inspired to become an “integrated artist,” I've done a lot of drawing and painting, made a feature-length silent film, and also have produced a few books which span a variety of topics.”