ISBN 978-1-959556-73-2 266 pages $20.00
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Jason Weiss’ Listenings is a true “Ars Auditoria” (you heard right, reader, I am making it rhyme with Ovid’s “Ars Amatoria”), thus a treatise on the art of listening & simultaneously a love letter to music & all sound(ing)s. A very practical treatise based on the author’s life-long involvement with this often neglected art—yes, we all “hear” but do we really know how to “listen,” a very different activity? These immanentist autobiographical prose meditations concentrate not so much on what’s between our ears (though that also impinges), but rather on what comes to our ears & how these—& the rest of our body/mind—can process such audio-event inputs. Indeed, we are most alive, can learn & experience most deeply if we can consciously open up to & experience the nomadic in-between of world & self, as mediated by the art of listening.
Listenings is a gathering of writings that speak not only to Weiss’ life-long passion for music ( & well beyond the eleven “Concertgoing” sections) but also reflect on his insights into work as interviewer (“By listening to an/other you become an/other for them; and so, together, you may understand you are the same”), as translator, as walker, as writer, as radio listener (“An invitation to not believe your eyes”), as sleeper (“The unconscious listens by its own lights, and always profits from its finds”) & as everyday passenger in this world.
Trust the author of Listenings when he declares that “see, listen, hear” for him became “see, listen, hear, write.” Indeed, as Weiss puts it, “listening is a form of travel” & that is so because “first it sends us dreaming.” Listening opens up truly unknown & unsuspected areas as it gives us the “opportunity to notice a heartbeat where we never guessed.”
Listen up, reader of this blurb, get this book & listen down into it. Read, I may also have said, & be all ear with your eyes, realize that “we are each a walking, talking drum sounded by wind, sun, air, others’ gazes, sounding in turn through the jungle of this world.”
Pierre Joris, author of Always the Many, Never the One
In Cloud Therapy, Jason Weiss described how a physical activity, swimming, transformed and opened up the way he was able to understand, and see, and hear, and feel the shards of the world that surrounds him. Through his modest first-person singular narrative, the reader was also invited to engage differently with the rest of the world through our everyday activities. In Listenings, he explores the more universal physical activities of hearing and listening. Whether or not these activities are voluntary or self-aware, Weiss describes and notates how they engage with and allow us to understand, and misunderstand, our own bodies, our relationship to things, to the night, to our memories, to our neighbors, to the contours of communication and miscommunication, to music, to what we understand as life. The book opens up deep levels of experience, for example, he invites us to consider whether we hear our lovers’ bodies through our hands. Though listening to music is not really its prime focus, I’d swear that there’s more information about understanding and living music in this book than in most of the books specifically written about music. The book is a compelling, sweet ride.
Jason Weiss was born and raised at the Jersey shore, schooled in Berkeley, spent a decade in Paris, and has been living in Brooklyn for 30+ years, working as a writer, editor, and translator. His first book was Writing at Risk: Interviews in Paris with Uncommon Writers (1991), followed by books on Brion Gysin, Steve Lacy, Latin American writers in Paris, and the ESP-Disk’ record label. He also published Cloud Therapy (2015), short nonfiction texts on swimming, and translated books by Luisa Futoransky, Marcel Cohen, and Silvina Ocampo. With Iris Cushing, he co-edited a big book of selected poems by the late California poet Mary Norbert Korte (1934-2022), Jumping into the American River (2023).