Active Listening – An Approach to Creating Music

A few months ago, I purchased Dennis DeSantis’s book Making Music 74 Creative Strategies for Electronic Music Producers. It is an incredible resource and has really helped me in my musical endeavors. There is a section on “Active Listening”, which suggests that you listen to the songs you admire and love and make notes about the things you love about them. Using these notes you can then bring the techniques and ideas that you take away from the listening session. There are SO many songs that I hold near and dear to my heart. So, with the suggestion of my very smart husband, I decided to start writing about the songs that I love and why.

If you don’t know of Jon Hopkins, get to know him. He is an amazing composer/producer. I did a listening session of his song Abandon Window from his album Immunity. Man this song, it is so simple yet powerful in the way that it brings up strong emotions for me. Longing, sadness, triumph, and resolve. To get a real feel for this song, I suggest wearing headphones and just sit and listen. I mean, REALLY listen. The do it again, a few times.

It starts with a simple chord progression on the piano. You can hear the creak of the piano as the chords are played and it feels like you are sitting in a small room. The progression seeps into you and there’s longing there with a short resolve and it starts again. As it continues, what sounds like a “storm” begins to build. It comes in like an ocean wave, an airy synth moving in. It slowly rises and brings with it soft voices as it moves closer. The piano gets lost and the “storm” becomes clearer with what sounds like thunder and fireworks. As it moves through it begins to move behind you. The ending has a space-like quality to it, like the earthly place where it began moves into space. Then it fades away.

The song is intimate and it feels like it was made just for me to listen to by myself. Hopkins just knows how to create a subtle but strong atmosphere that makes you feel something. Yea, a favorite for sure.

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