Listening is to give one’s attention to sound. Listening involves complex affective, cognitive, and behavioral processes.
Affective processes include the motivation to attend to others; cognitive processes include attending to, understanding, receiving, and interpreting content and relational messages; and behavioural processes include responding with verbal and nonverbal feedback.
Listening differs from obeying. A person who receives and understands information or an instruction, and then chooses not to comply with it or to agree to it, has listened to the speaker, even though the result is not what the speaker wanted.
Listening is a term in which the listener listens to the one who produced the sound to be listened.
Semiotician Roland Barthes characterized the distinction between listening and hearing as “Hearing is a physiological phenomenon; listening is a psychological act.” Hearing is always occurring, most of the time subconsciously. In contrast, listening is the interpretative action taken by the listener in order to understand and potentially make meaning out of the sound waves. Listening can be understood on three levels: alerting, deciphering, and an understanding of how the sound is produced and how the sound affects the listener.
Alerting, the first level, does nothing to distinguish human from animal. At the alerting level one merely picks up on certain environmental sound cues. While discussing this level, Barthes mentions the idea of territory being demarcated by sounds. This is best explained using the example of one’s home. One’s home, for instance, has certain sounds associated with it that make it familiar and comfortable. An intrusion sound (e.g. a squeaking door or floorboard, a breaking window) alerts the dweller of the home to the potential danger.
In a metaphorical way, deciphering, the second level, is to listening what digestion is to eating. An example of this level is that of a child waiting for the sound of his mother’s return home. In this scenario the child is waiting to pick up on sound cues (e.g. jingling keys, the turn of the doorknob, etc.) that will mark his mother’s approach.
Understanding, the third level of listening, means knowing how what one says will affect another. This sort of listening is important in psychoanalysis. Barthes states that the psychoanalyst must turn off their judgement while listening to the analysand in order to communicate with their patient’s unconscious in an unbiased fashion.
However, in contrast to the distinct levels of listening listed above, it must be understood that they all function within the same plane, and sometimes all at once. Specifically the second and third levels, which overlap vastly, can be intertwined in that obtaining, understanding and deriving meaning are part of the same process. In that the child, upon hearing the doorknob turn (obtaining), can almost automatically assume that someone is at the door (deriving meaning).
This is teaching people what to listen for and how to understand what they are hearing in different types of music. In North America, music appreciation courses often focus on Western art music, commonly called “Classical music”. Usually music appreciation classes involve some history lessons to explain why people of a certain era liked the music that they did.
“Appreciation,” in this context, means the understanding of the value and merit of different styles of music. Music appreciation classes also typically include information about the composers, the instruments and ensembles, and the different styles of music from an era. Music appreciation courses are widely available in universities and colleges.
Typically, these courses are designed for non-music majors. A significant part of music appreciation courses is listening to recordings of musical pieces or excerpts from pieces such as symphonies, opera arias and concertos. In some music appreciation classes, the class may go out to hear a live musical performance by an orchestra or chamber music group. Plato’s studies have shown that music played in different modes would stir different emotions. Major chords in music are perceived to be cheerful while minor chords bring out sad emotions.