Collateral Listening

“Perhaps the greatest of all pedagogical fallacies is the notion that a person learns only what he is studying at the time. Collateral learning in the way of formation of enduring attitudes…may be and often is more important than the spelling lesson or lesson in geography or history…For these attitudes are fundamentally what count in the future”

– John Dewey, Education and Experience

For Dewey, it wasn’t so much the content that was crucial but how the content was learned. Put in another way, we learn what we do.

With music, what if it’s the same way we listen. It’s not so much what we listen to but how we listen to it which forms enduring attitudes.

An example could be the concept of the shuffle. It’s not so much what bands and artists are on said mixes but the enduring attitude behind the shuffle: stimulation through startling juxtapositions and nonlinearity; a “Now…this” sort of mindset. This shuffle attitude could explain short attention spans in attending a show or listening to an album all the way through. Perhaps in either case its not so much the music’s fault but the attitude brought to them.

What’s hopeful about looking through the lens of collateral listening is that prevalent and negative attitudes can be changed through learning and reinforcing healthier ones.

And finding what are positive and negative attitudes of listening…that’s a different story.


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