Charles Starrett


Blog, links, and…

Culture consultant & social tech teacher/facilitator at SoulCo & Northeastern University. He/Him. Dad, Harvard and NEC alum, visual thinker, dabbler in ukulele, electronic music, 한국어, and TTRPGs.


Listening past what we want to hear

One of the most important skills I learned in music conservatory was how to listen. I still remember my teacher’s frustration when he said, “You’re hearing what you want the piano to sound like. Not what it actually sounds like.”

He had me put the music aside, and just play notes and chords of different qualities just so I could focus on listening. Hearing honestly what was coming from the piano. Relating my action at the keyboard with the sound I produced. However harsh or gentle, smooth or jagged, ugly or beautiful that sound was from moment to moment.

The exercise was to hear as accurately as possible. To stop imagining how I was playing the piano, but to clearly hear the music I was making so that I could respond to that sound and get it closer to how I wanted to be paying the music.

To be able to use my senses to close the feedback loop between my intention (the sound I wanted to make) and my impact (the sound I was making).

All these years later, I’ve found myself doing the same in my daily life. By developing my ability to be aware of when my thoughts are coloring my perception of reality, it has helped me to close the feedback loop between my intention and my impact.

To notice when I am seeing what I want to see rather than what is really there. To notice when what I am doing is creating a result which is not aligned with my values, and course-correct. And to notice the moments when the outcome of my actions creates something beautiful.

Not only does closing the feedback loop make it easier to bring my actions more in alignment with my values, it also makes my experience of life that much richer, deeper, and more satisfying. I may not always like what I see, but now that I see, sense, and feel life more clearly, I can respond to what’s there.

Because we can’t respond to life if we can’t hear it calling to us.

8 September 2022

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