Last night I heard a story about the Occupy Wall Street Movement on National Public Radio. The report contained recordings of the occupiers’ innovative, low-tech amplification system where the people in the immediate vicinity of the speaker echo his or her words so the larger crowd can hear the message.
In the story I noticed that the people who were repeating the speaker’s message weren’t just repeating her words, but every nuance and inflection of her delivery. This particular speaker had a tone that I can only describe as exuberant and joyful. To hear a group of 25 or so “amplifiers” faithfully conveying that sound along with her words touched me deeply and got me thinking about listening.
When I’m leading songs in a community, I teach through the oral tradition — line by line, call-and-response. People listen deeply when they’re learning this way. They are focused and intent in a way I don’t witness in everyday conversation. This intense process of listening and repeating weaves them together as a community.
They aren’t just learning the song from me; they are helping each other learn the song through their deep listening and diligent mirroring. When they finally master the new song, there are high-fives, shining faces, and great celebration of the beauty we created together.
So I wonder….
How would you listen differently if you knew you were going to have to replicate the exact words, pacing, pitch, and tone of the person who is speaking?
What might you understand about a person, their message, and intention if you literally “tried on” their voice?
Have you been ever been listened to in this way? If so, what did you notice about the experience?
Have you ever learned a song using the oral tradition? What was the experience like?