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The Ear & Listening The Ear & Listening

What is sometimes called 'the listening posture' is truly not a posture at all but a condition of openness, a unitary sense of space.

It is the embodiment of:

  • success in Alexander work

  • reflex inhibition

  • the enlightenment of sitting Buddha

In May 2009, Mike together with veteran Alexander teacher and eminent violinist Ron Colyer gave a presentation at the 7th International Conference for Alexander Teachers at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. The  presentation's title was  Noise in the System: reflections on the Alexander Technique and the Primitive Reflexes, and the gist was that Alexander's four directions, for neck and for head, for left and right sides, and for top and bottom halves of the body, can help to free a person from the noise in the system that stems from disharmonious integration of the four vestibular reflexes.

We usually think of the ear as the sense-organ of hearing, or outer listening, but the ear is primarily the sense-organ of balance, that is, the vestibular sense -- the sense of inner listening with 'the ear of the body.' Hence listening is a function not only of the ear iself, but of the whole body. Listening is a function of what Alfred Tomatis called one's 'listening posture' -- or what FM Alexander called one's 'manner of using the self.'

Dr. Alfred Tomatis, known in Listening circles as 'The Einstein of the Ear,' independently discovered something very close to what FM Alexander had discovered before him, centred on the importance of the ear. Tomatis observed a profound connection between ear and voice (the 'ear-voice connection'), just as Alexander had observed a profound connection between his manner of using himself and his voice.

It may be useful to think of the "ear-use-voice" connection as a kind of virtuous circle which Alexander and Tomatis, from independent starting points, both somehow managed to get inside; and which we also, with practice, can learn to get inside.

So Alexander work, especially applied to use of the voice, is one way in.

Another way in is to train the ear by actively listening to music that has been filtered to emphasize certain frequencies.

 Johansen Sound Therapy (JST) and  The Listening Program (TLP) are two relatively cheap-to-administer approaches that exploit the benefits of using such specially filtered music in order to re-train the ear and brain.

As well as training as a Johansen Sound Therapist and a provider of  The Listening Program, Mike has attended 'Ear-Voice Connection' workshops led by Paul Madaule, Director of The Listening Centre in Toronto (co-founded with Dr. Alfred Tomatis in 1978) and author of the excellent book "When Listening Comes Alive."  

Paul describes below in his own words the complementary nature of listening training and work on the primitive reflexes:

The ear is the first sensory modality to develop well before birth starting with the vestibular system at about ten weeks of pre-natal life, soon followed by the auditory system. The listening function, the ability to use the ear and body to pick-up the information we need and filter out other information, has pre-natal roots as well. This developmental precedence gives a head start in the acquisition of language.

Being the first listeners of what we say, listening is key to the monitoring of our own voice. This ear-voice loop provides the control system necessary to speak, read and write. It also influences self-regulatory functions such as attention span, focus, being ‘in sync’ and ‘well-balanced’. It also plays a role in social-emotional maturation, self-image and self-awareness.

 Listening and the ear-voice connection can be developed and improved through sound stimulation training and voice exercises. Listening training and work on the primitive reflexes complement each other in many ways because they both access deeply rooted issues through different sensory-motor pathways.

(Abstract from Paul Madaule' session description for the INPP Conference 2010, Miami. April 10th and 11th.)

Check Your Listening
  The Listening Checklist (© The Listening Centre 1985-2004) devised by Paul Madaule will help you to assess yourself or your child with respect to listening. There is no score, simply check as many boxes as you feel appropriate.

Click here to check your listening.


OM! Homage to the Best of Listeners!