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Just Listening

John Morrison's shared listening workshop
creates a sound haven which awakens compassion
for ourselves and others


John Morrison's shared listening workshop, Just Listening, offers a potentially transformative experience in music, as described in the slogan 'Shared listening creates a sound haven that awakens compassion for ourselves and others'. Just Listening reveals the joy of encountering any music as a path to spiritual awareness. Paying special attention to energy and 'not knowing', the workshop focuses on drawing out understanding of unfamiliar or difficult music by allowing participants simply to pay attention to what is heard. The workshop's process builds a little community on the spot, as people hear their comments resonate with those of other people. If the music explored happens to come from a group one has dismissed or resented, a meaningful move is made toward releasing destructive judgments about that group.

In March 2019 John Morrison did a session of Just Listening in Paul Turano's filmmaking class at Emerson College, Boston, MA, USA. Paul's students generously video-recorded the event, and two videos from that day are available on John Morrison's website.

In October 2019, Morrison will be heading to the American midwest for a tour of Just Listening, scheduled for appearances at the University of Michigan, University of Iowa and Illinois College, with at least two sessions at each venue. He will also present the ideas behind the workshop, which arise from his own holistic theory of music - Sound-Energy Aggregate. He is also planning to set up sessions at assisted living facilities in each community.

Just Listening will be a part of the annual conference of ACMHE, the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education. This year's conference, Radical Well-Being in Higher Education: Approaches for Renewal, Justice and Sustainability, contains Morrison's workshop, repackaged as Radical Renewal: Not Knowing, which offers the opinion that not knowing is one of the best ways to renew higher education, which normally focuses so much on what is known, who knows it, etc.

On the second weekend in May 2020, Morrison's organisation, the Greater Boston Center for Contemplative Mind in Music, will host a conference with Follen Church in Lexington, MA, USA, called Music and Spirit. Many people work with music in a way they consider to address the spirit, yet so many know so little about what others do. The conference is an attempt to bring some of these people together to show, learn, talk and hear, to be inspired and affirmed by the efforts of others. Participants will include Claire Garabedian, Rebecca Strauss and Linda J Chase.

John Howell Morrison (born 1956) is a native of North Carolina. He studied at Davidson College, the University of Tennessee and the University of Michigan. His teachers at Michigan included William Bolcom, William Albright, Nicholas Thorne, George Wilson and Leslie Bassett. He has served on the board of directors of the Iowa Composers Forum, and was elected president of the Cleveland Composers Guild. He is currently on the composition and theory faculty of the Longy School of Music, Bard College, Cambridge, MA, USA, where he teaches courses such as Contemplating Music which incorporate an analytical process founded on insight.

John Morrison in 2009
John Morrison in 2009

Morrison has developed his use of contemplative methods in composing and teaching music for over thirty years. A longtime practitioner of Zen, awareness that the tools he uses are rooted in his meditation practice has grown steadily as both practice and teaching experience have deepened.

Further information:

Posted 15 September 2019 by Keith Bramich



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