Atlanta Jewish Music Festival & Rosh Hashanah
OpinionsRosh Hashanah 5779

Atlanta Jewish Music Festival & Rosh Hashanah

Joe Alterman is director of Atlanta Jewish Music Festival.

Joe Alterman
Joe Alterman

As I reflect on the past year and anticipate the coming one, I, a believer that nearly everything good in my life has come from my love of music, want to offer a simple tip about listening to music that I hope will enrich your life as much as it has mine.

I had the same routine nearly every Saturday afternoon during my high school years. Saturday was piano lesson day down at Emory. The drives from Sandy Springs to those lessons became almost as educational as the piano lessons themselves. Learning music is learning a language and, in addition to practicing speaking that language, one must hear it being spoken. My weekly stop and CD purchase at Tower Records on the way to my lesson is what helped me hear that language and thus fall more deeply in love with the music.

I’d usually get to hear the CD twice all the way through that day, really getting to know the music on that album. However, I’ll never forget how free I felt when I got my first iPod. Finally, I could have all of my music in one place! No longer was I held back by only being able to have one CD in my car.

While the iPod has made music listening easier and more accessible, it’s taken many of us away from patient, mindful listening.

Whereas back in my high school days, I was trained to listen patiently and mindfully because that Tower Records CD purchase was my only accompaniment for the ride that day, we now don’t even have to give a song a chance; if we don’t like the first two seconds of it, we can simply hit “next.”

I love putting my phone down, putting a record on, and simply listening to it with my full attention. However, often when inviting friends over to do the same, I’m asked, “What will we do while the record’s on?”

It almost seems that, in this very visual-centric age, if there’s no visual component to an activity, it can’t be “the activity.”

I’ve spent much time asking many people around my age (29) about their listening habits. What I’ve found is that many people I ask most often listen to music by themselves on their way somewhere. While they admit to having a sincere love of music, they confess to not listening to music in the same way that they would watch TV. They don’t devote their full attention to it. For many, music isn’t the activity; it’s simply a distraction, and when I stopped to think about it, I realized that music, in many people’s lives, plays a similar role to Facebook and their phones; it’s often nothing more than a distraction from being alone with oneself and one’s thoughts.

However, in the coming year, I want to encourage you to show music some more love! To not only listen to it, but to pay attention to it while you do. Music is so much more than a distraction from being alone. When you’re paying attention to the music that you’re listening to, you’re meditating, you’re calming and massaging your mind, you’re inviting your imagination to go to work, you’re allowing whatever it is that’s inside of you to bubble up; not to mention, you’re also surrounding yourself with beauty, joy and good feelings.

Emerson once said, “You become what you think about all day long.” So, in the coming year, I hope you’ll invite beauty, peace, love, patience and mindfulness into your thoughts by listening attentively to music!

read more: