Everybody is competing for your time: Friends are posting their creative endeavours looking for validation; Social media posts bits of sensational news to hold your attention; advertisers; silly memes; rants; quizzes and lists to do or ignore. We tend to commit to the things that take the least amount of our most precious resources. Time and thought.

To read a poem takes about a minute. To glance at a photo or a painting can take seconds. We go scrolling through life, eyes ricochet off pixels. Some articles catching our fancy and we take some minutes to read, maybe respond. Click, click. Like. I agree….

All art takes time to create, but a film, a play, a book, a record album, a painting, a photograph should all take a considerable amount time to experience and reflect upon.


Recently, a number of my friends have been posting their ten essential albums, or books or films. Supposed to not explain. Why not? When someone tells me they love something, I want to know why.  

I love seeing familiar album covers. I enjoy my memories of the album and I enjoy the connection made with the friend via this album. Often it guides me to listen to something I haven’t heard in years. Sometimes I seek out an album that is unfamiliar to me to see if it helps in my connection or understanding of the person who has put it in their top ten. Commitment. Time and thought again.

I listen to a lot of music in a day. I spend a great deal of my time learning, practicing, composing and recording music, and I also enjoy sitting still and listening to music to match my mood, or alter my mood. It can be as diverse as Tower of Power to Keith Jarrett to a Muddy Waters and beyond. I don’t do Spotify. I like to choose.

In 2007 I took a chance on the CD “West” by Lucinda Williams(whose music I did not know) because Bill Frisell was a guest contributor on the record, and I love his guitar work. I am not sure if I was aware at the time that Hal Willner had produced it, although I was very aware of many of his compilations Kurt Weill and Thelonious Monk) and the “Night Music” show on TV.

“West” resonated with me. I learned how to play and sing “Everything Has Changed” within days of hearing it for the first time. I am now a lifelong fan. According to my computer I own 14 of Lucinda’s albums for a total of 155 songs. 

Throughout this last week I have been listening intently to “West”. I think I have listened to it six (and a half….fell asleep…won’t count that) times this week. I chose “West” because of something I had read in Bill Frisell’s reminiscences of his friend Hal Willner who had succumbed to the Covid 19 virus last week.

One listen to “West” takes an hour and nine minutes. Six listens is a commitment of nearly seven hours, (not in a row, mind you). When I listen on this level, it is the only conscious thing I am doing. I don’t consider doing housework with music playing to be “listening”. Throughout my teaching career I have tried to install in my students the difference between “hearing” which is passive and “listening” which is active. To Listen is an invisible action verb. 

Sometimes when I listen, I concentrate on one particular facet of the recording such as the guitar interplay; (Frisell and Doug Pettibone) or the drum sound;(Jim Keltner) or the lyrics…. or the stereo mix.

Sometimes it is merely for pleasure. My mind shuts down my own static and I absorb the gestalt of the artistic statement through my ears.

If you have read this far, you made a commitment. Thank you. I encourage active listening, reading and the parceling of time to truly appreciate works of beauty that deserve to be heard.

2 thoughts on “Commitment

  1. You write from the heart Ian. I thoroughly enjoy what you write and don’t often have the patience to read through somebody’s work.
    I think I have adult ADD and can’t seem to focus on any one particular thing for any length of time. But I can tell you when I saw the Vignettes and Bagatelles email I would not open it until I knew I’d take the time and commitment to sitting, reading and commenting on it.
    The one thing I do have « patience «  for is sitting down and listening to music I choose to listen to, something that I know will move me somehow and in some way.
    Thank you Ian for putting your thoughts into writing cause it seemed to allow me to do the same. ☺️


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