"...I began using the term Reflexive Listening when trying to explain the type of listening we need to embody in order to experience Reflexive Music. By activating our ability to listen we develop a flexibility to shift between different perspectives, and we enrich our expressive range. We become able to sense the big picture and remain free to wildly perform the present moment.
Diagnosed with synesthesia, a rare neurological condition often described as the involuntary joining of two or more senses - in my case, a strong mix of taste, hearing and texture - I began to compose scores that attempted to support my performers in what seemed natural to me, but was demanding for them and for a very specific listening audience. Over the years, my scores grew more adept at conjuring the conditions necessary for my specific staging of compositions and became known as an Active Listening Playground. This playground invokes the type of space/time conditions that I deem necessary to perform Reflexive Music.
In 2005, my extended earphone technique was presented in the book Notations21 by Theresa Sauer and I began referring to my notation as a Reflex Invisible Score. The process of making sense of how I intended Reflexive Music to be performed and listened to led me to investigate Reflexiveness versus Reflectiveness. I began discussing these concepts, asking about them, creating workshops around reflexivity and experimenting incessantly with friends, family, musicians, artists, educators, mathematicians, philosophers, anthropologists, ethnomusicologists, psychologists, linguistics experts, psychoanalysts, social workers, therapists, and neuroscientists. In what seemed like endless discussions, we could all agree on a difference between reflexiveness and reflectiveness, but my ongoing inquiry to define reflexiveness is far from being resolved.
Reflectiveness refers to the effort put into carefully listening and initiating a reaction, versus Reflexiveness, defined as a relationship in which elements of a set self-relate. This means that our action of listening is directly affected by our reaction to this act of listening, or by what we listen to. In my opinion, any situation we engage in is always reflexive, However, the ability to perceive a situation as reflexive requires levels of awareness that we don’t ordinarily employ. Once we become aware of the inter-relationship of action and reaction, we more easily engage in unexpected and playful ways that allow us to expand mindfulness and explore reality through multiple perspectives, even as new lenses arrive in the next responsive moment. I called this my Reflexive Reality.
I believe that Reflectiveness (from reflect) means to consider carefully and then to initiate reaction. Reflexiveness (from reflex) refers to a reflexive relationship, a relation between elements of a set. These elements self-relate and make possible the idea that an action can direct back on itself creating endless reactions. I propose that in classical music there is a fascinating encounter between a score (a set of accepted shapes arranged in an order that enable musicians to produce music, a written form of a musical composition) and the actual reality of never achieving the same result twice (as when different players perform a score, or how the score changes even for the same player, in repeated performance).
Reflexivity refers to circular relationships between cause and effect, each one affecting the other in a symbiotic relationship in which they both defy a static labeling, and the musical realization of this relationship I call Reflexive Music. In my realm, reflexivity also applies to the capacity of any person to recognize the forces of socialization they might labor under. When we are placed in a social structure with an awareness and attention to these forces, creating Reflexive Music Compositions challenges our traditional definition of interpretation (in music the performer is recognized as the interpreter) and how the interpreter’s contribution might decompose or re-compose the music in live performance. I call a score an “Invitation for Planning”.
A score is not a solid set-in-stone plan, but an incredibly crafted invitation for endless planning. Here, we come in contact with the art of interpretation. The social sciences give us the idea that “a high level of social reflexivity enables an individual to shape their own norms, tastes, politics, and desires”, and so on. This is similar to the notion of autonomy, which leads me to another relevant musical association.
An Orchestra consists of a group of musicians playing together, led by a conductor. Each musician is an individual playing a musical instrument, and all together they are conducted in playing their specific part in a musical composition. Each individual player employs an ability to shift focus between his or her own personal interpretation of the music, and the conductor’s interpretation of the entire composition (which draws all the individual parts into a cohesive whole). Often when an orchestra fails, it's either because the musicians are not shifting well between these different perspectives, or it’s because the conductor lacks clarity about how all the parts should be combined together. When a perfect balance is struck between the conductor and this group of soloists, we experience the magic of divine music. I call this, the “Democracy of Dictators” - with the conductor as leader in the “Democracy of Dictators”.
I began to deeply explore the real difference between “hearing” and “listening” in 1995. I was lucky to find people to constantly grow with as I identified the "Dictators in my Democracy". Among them are Alona Peretz, founder of Merkaz Ha'Rega (The Center for the Moment) in Israel, Cassie Tunick, improviser, author & educator in Action Theater, Danny Felsteiner of Musicians Without Borders, Isabel Eddouks of ALP Morocco, Nina Colosi of The Streaming Museum, Theresa Sauer of Notations 21, Giorgia Ghizzoni of The Creative Way Around, Kiki Ylimutka of Super Sisters, and many others who form the extended Reflex Community.
As I develop the ALP Method with people in both Reflexive Music and Reflexive Listening, I hope to pave a way for effective communication in an artful world. I hope to make the process widely available, so that anyone who wishes may become a Reflexive Performer and/or Reflexive Individual. I am inspired by traditional classical opera in the moments when several characters sing an entirely different text all at the same time and we understand every last word. I believe that our world can beautifully exist as an opera-game in which each individual’s voice is heard, while everyone sings at the same time. For this to take place we need to introduce new ideas of counterpoint and harmony. We need a new kind of music to create greater levels of trust and possibility."
OPEN YOUR EYES
CRUMPLE A PAPER
OPEN IT FLAT
What did you just do?
CLOSE YOUR EYES
CRUMPLE THE PAPER
OPEN IT FLAT
Did it sound different?
CLOSE YOUR EYES
CRUMPLE YOUR PAPER
OPEN IT FLAT
Did you hear your special crumple?
CLOSE YOUR EYES
...Sometime, you can hear
your special crumple,
listening to you!
CRUMPLE IT (1988)
Reflex Invisible Score / Keren Rosenbaum