on my mind . . . on rereading / relistening

Happy 2013, Dear Readers. Its syllabus time again, in preparation for the the winter semester that starts next week Wednesday. Iʻve had a blissful week of break, indulgently web-surfing down chains of rabbit holes, catching up on music industry news (the physical CD is on the brink of obsolescence), discovering thoughtful criticism and long-form writing (check out NPR.org/music, and consuming “best of 2012” lists.

Here is some food for thought I want to share from an essay titled “The Pleasures and Perils of Rereading” by blogger Lisa Levy, posted on the blog The Millions (Nov. 11, 2011). First, a widely-wuoted remark from  author William Hazlitt:

In reading a book which is an old favorite with me (say the first novel I ever read) I not only have the pleasure of imagination and of a critical relish of the work, but the pleasures of memory added to it. It recalls the same feelings and associations which I had in first reading it, and which I can never have again in any other way. Standard productions of this kind are links on the chains of personal identity. They are landmarks and guides in our journey through life.”

Levy then quotes several other authors on their experiences of rereading. Here is a particularly poetic comment from author Allegra Goodman:

“I think unfolding is what rereading is about. Like pleated fabric, the text reveals different parts of its pattern at different times. And yet every time the text unfolds, in the library, or in bed, or upon the grass, the reader adds new wrinkles. Memory and experience press themselves into each reading so that each encounter informs the next.”

And Levy’s own reflections in conclusion:

“Whether we go back again and again to a classic or pick up an old favorite to see how it has fared or dig deep into the treasures of our youth, rereading is an experiment that is bound to change us, and to change our impressions of the books we read. Rereading can certainly surprise, it can instruct, and it can make us feel safe. Maybe it is not indulgent to reread a book, but a way to learn; and what is any sort of reading but a way to learn, whether it is something new about the world or just something new about ourselves?”

You know, dear Readers, let’s play “find-and-replace.” First, replace all instances of “reading” and “rereading”  with “relistening”, and all instances of “book” (and “text”) with “recording”. 

How relevant are these comments to Hawaiian music? When a return to an old recording is potentially an opportunity to revisit the moment of our first hearing of its sounds? When a return to a singer no longer with us is also a potential opportunity to discover something previously unnoticed, produced by sidemen on the session?  When a return to a track is also a moment to appreciate how musicians’ wanderings in other musical idioms (like, say, flamenco) have enriched their take–and our listenings–on a Hawaiian song? 

Happy listening, dear Readers!!


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5 Responses to on my mind . . . on rereading / relistening

  1. Anne Blankenship says:

    Active relistening is an excellent recommendation! It’s part of our continuing, continuing education. Still, there are strange surprises when re-reading a novel one first reads at age 12. H. Ryder Haggard’s “She” for example 🙂

    • amykstillman says:

      how literary, Anne! I would have turned to the Little House series. Thinking back on how I imagined the snow to be, though . . . I think I was kind of far from reality. 🙂

      • alohaipu says:

        I just didn’t know any better because my parents were never children and we didn’t have any children’s books at home. I loved the library tho, and remember Black Beauty, which is another story that has a different impact now. I’m just now starting to read girls’ books for the first time – finished Anne of Green Gables yesterday. Wonder if it hits a child’s sensibilities differently. As an adult I found her a little annoying 🙂

  2. Wonderful recommendation! I have been “rereading” the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. It is now time to revisit and re-listen to my Hawaiian Music Library. Mahalo no.

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