“We’re in a world where disruption is a daily deal. In music, we call it dissonance. We have a way of resolving dissonance, and a lot of it has to do with the way we listen.”
Freddie Ravel, the accomplished session musician, versatile pianist and recording artist taught a packed audience at the WBENC National Conference and Business Fair on Wednesday, June 22 how to apply musical concepts and structures to improve our own listening and leadership skills.
Ravel noted that we speak at about 150 words a minute. Our brains think at between 600 and 1,000 words a minute. So when we begin speaking to a friend or colleague, the listener’s brain is already racing ahead of us, maybe even in a different direction. Because of this variance in the speed and tempo of human speech and hearing, we often miss the subtleties that are meant to be communicated.
One way musicians overcome the effects of dissonance is to adjust the key in which they are playing. Ravel likened this to listening with empathy, slowing down our inner thoughts and placing ourselves in the shoes of the person to whom we are listening to gain understanding and appreciation.
The juxtaposition of melody and harmony is like collaboration in business, Ravel said. Played in the same key, the sum of the parts becomes greater than the individual contributions. “Melody and harmony is what you sing; rhythm and timing are everything!”
To illustrate, Ravel stood at his piano and bounced through the familiar opening bars of “Satin Doll,” the jazz standard immortalized by Duke Ellington. Then he challenged his audience to listen to the same piece of music played in a different way. Ravel proceeded to pound the piano keys, eliminating all the pauses and stops that deliver the distinctive rhythm and beat of the song. The piece was unrecognizable.
“That’s what happens when we don’t pay attention to the space between the notes,” said Ravel. “When you take the word ‘listen’ and rearrange the letters, you spell ‘silent.’” Effective communication requires us to be silent at intervals.
“Music is the undisputed international language; it is the essence of who we are,” Ravel said. In his entertaining, music-filled keynote speech before 3,500 business owners and corporate sponsors in the cavernous hall at the Orange County Convention Center, he gave us a glimpse into the tools that musicians study and access to perfect their performance. Bravo!