In a world ringing with noise and suffused with the more or less artful idolizing of passions divorced from objective goods, where are we to find melodies capable of penetrating our hardened hearts with spiritual truths?
The ear is a biological phenomenon; but the human ear is also a cultural product. Some people listen to music; others merely hear it. Animals too listen: they prick up their ears and stand still, attending to the ambient sounds. But they are doing something different from what humans do, when we listen to music. They are seeking information. It is not the sounds that interest them, but the things that cause the sounds. Like us, they use their ears to gain knowledge of the world, and the sounds that they make are signals of other things, their emotions, desires and responses. Even bird-song is to be understood in that way. Birds neither sing nor listen for the sake of the music: they are expressing their territorial instinct, and taking note of others doing the same.
We have inherited a listening culture. Listening is not an easy thing itself to define. There is such a thing as hearing. We hear music all the time around us, but most of us do not pay attention to it—partly because most of it is not worth paying attention to. But there is also overhearing and that is a very common experience. Wherever we are in restaurants or in the Park, Bus or wherever we are overhearing music coming at us from all angles, and we are learning how to ignore it. Music was not originally designed to be ignored. But we live in a society where, if we do not learn to ignore it, we cannot also learn to listen to it. This puts an enormous strain on us and it is one reason, of course, for the existence of these special places like TESSYTOP ARENA where one can insulate oneself from the surrounding world.