"Well in general there are two forms of listening: focused listening and open, global, and receptive listening. This is also true of eyesight, you can focus on something for detail and you can have a peripheral vision of the field. Then, you can also defocus your eyes so that you take in more of the 180° that you can see, and thus you become quite sensitive to motion. The same applies to hearing. You can in a way defocus your ears so you're taking in all of the sounds around you, inside of you, in your memory or imagination all at once. The best image or metaphor I can give for it is a tapestry of sound: threads of sound that come and go and some that stay. Trying to expand oneself to include more and more of the field, I call inclusive listening. And then when something attracts your attention to focus in on, that's exclusive listening. You can do both at once, actually. I have a lot of exercises and pieces that try to expose these different forms. And this is what we do in the Deep Listening retreat. Deep Listening is a process. I guess the best definition I could give is listening to everything all the time and reminding yourself when you're not listening. You also have to understand that there's a difference between hearing and listening. In hearing, the ears take in all the sound waves and particles and deliver them to the audio cortex where the listening takes place. We cannot turn off our ears--the ears are always taking in sound information--but we can turn off our listening. I feel that listening is the basis of creativity and culture. How you're listening, is how you develop a culture and how a community of people listens, is what creates their culture. So that's the theory in kind of a nutshell. -Pauline Oliveros [source]

morocco 1911


When participants enter the room/hall/auditorium, hopefully the lighting will be very soft and the sound system will be excellent.


Most times, participants will expect a musical program to be entertaining and/or educational. However, the Rhythm River program is designed to be experiential. By design, it's not hooked into a lecture, nor is the music selected to necessarily be inviting or enjoyable.


The set-up for all the programs is short and sweet. After the presenter explains what the program is not, participants learn the following:


"We're about to do an experiment--together--in adult experiential learning. You will be asked to listen deeply both to the music and whatever should arise in you as you listen to the music. I will temporarily pause the program three times and at its conclusion, and ask you 'what's come up for you?'


The sole purpose of the program is to use your immersion in the sound world I've created for this occasion to evoke something to come up! There's no right or wrong instance of stuff coming up. At the same time, it's up to you to decide how to frame your listening. This will range from your referring to any previous experence, musical or otherwise, to your choosing to not do so. It matters not to the process, how you choose to listen.


Also listen closely to what your fellow participants express in response to my question. Your answers are also part of the process and sound world.


Of course I could provide a lot of background. Were I to do so, this would tend to 'prime,' or get you thinking about how to respond, versus just responding from your experience and what you already know.


I'd like to tell you the following about music, in general. If we track back through history, in terms of just the documentation of musical artistry, everything eventually falls away. So, stepping backward in time, compact discs disappear, then vinyl records, then 78 rpm records, then Edison cylnders, then player pianos, then written sheet music, and, eventually, any form of written music, and this proceeds so that the instruments themselves disappear because they were made of organic materials, wood and gut and cord and skin.


Now it is the case that people make music and have been doing so for tens of thousands of years. even before there was the term music, our ancestors created sound and lived, obviously, in a world of sound. As an aside, the term for what precedes music is "proto-music."


If we consider the world of music to be an ocean of musical artistry, it begins in the first drops and develops through the later precipitation of more music.


Take this modest information for what you will. We'll be listening to, by definition, modern recordings, but their intention--at a minimum--is to evoke ancient things."


The goal of the Rhythm River programs is: the evocation of a response. The implicit learning is completely open-ended. It is not any different than asking what comes up in the encounter with a painting, or novel, or dance, or any other form of art.


Yet, the emphasis is placed on the encounter with sound, with music, and the distinction of the model of learning is oriented to asking the simple question of the listener,


"What comes up for you?"


It is possible from this that participants may discover something about their own process of awareness too. Within this prospect is contained the seeds of a deeper learning.


- - - -

Single Question FAQ

"Mr. Calhoun, I know I'm interrupting, but would you please tell us something about the music and what this is all about?"


"As I mentioned before, the program is not about me telling or explaining or educating the participants about the music. The intent of the program, what it is about, is about what the music evokes in you, the listener."


"In my case, sir, it evokes me wanting you to explain more about the music."


"Good! One of the things the music evokes is just this desire to learn more."

(At which point, this actual participant walked out. Needless to say, participation is always voluntary!)




Dancers and artists, (if that's you!) are invited to consider the value for their work of being musically mentored in one-on-one Rhythm River sessions. Stephen, able to draw from his enormous music library and sonic globetrotting, is prepared to create custom musical journeys guaranteed to expand the musical horizons of anybody. Creative persons or anyone who feels they could benefit from an extraordinary musical journey are invited to contact Stephen and learn more.



[by Stephen]
My first abiding encounter with music was seeing the classic Dave Brubeck quartet in 1968. I was 14. The blind drummer Joe Morello gripped my attention. A year later, I was just starting to buy LPs, and happened into a renowned polka record shop way over on the ‘other’ side of Cleveland. I asked the clerk what he would recommend if I ‘wanted to hear people really play their instruments well?’ He insisted I buy a double record set of Flatt and Scruggs. He hit the bullseye.


Forty years later it remains a core insight about my background that its formative years were mostly about music and being a hippie. I’ve been extremely fortunate over those many years to have been hipped to a ton of music by friends and strangers alike. In my mid-twenties, the fact of musical culture and creativity plugged into what was—until then—just a fan’s ears view of things.


As it also came about, I’ve spent roughly half my work life in the music business. Most of this time spent where it was most personally satisfying: turning people onto music on the front lines, in record stores, and, as a freeform radio broadcaster.


Although today I enjoy creating music as a composer and sound designer, the fact of the matter is that a friend was on target twenty years ago when she noted “your instrument is your ears.”


One can sort of play their ears too:as a rank amatuer, I've sung--along with 75+ others--with Bobby McFerrin, drummed with Babatunde Olatunji, and unobtrusively 'percussed' with The New Nile Orchestra half of one summer.

I've been greatly advantaged by a whole slew of music-enthusiast friends; too many to mention, except for W.D. who has been passing me hot sonic tips for almost 40 years. My musical interests range over all kinds of music, yet they are grounded in my ongoing encounters with the music which I enjoy and the music I'm about to discover I enjoy! One, however,musician towers above all the others: Thelonious Monk.


The most essential ingredients added to all this listening and reflecting upon my own musical experience are everything that I’ve managed to learn from all sorts of remarkable encounters and dedicated studies. For example, I’ve been blessed to spend time with Abdullah Ibrahim and John Cage. I’ve had questions posed to Sun Ra, Randy Weston, George Todd, Joseph Begiswitse Shabalala, Selleshae Demassae, Roop Verma, and others generously answered. (Heck, Selleshae was my roommate!)


The paradigm of experiential listening posed by Pauline Oliveros, (termed by her Deep Listening,) has been a huge influence. The Sufi Pir Inayat Hazrat Khan’s work on the nature of sound is a cornerstone, as are the later works of Joachim Berendt. Then, more recently along the byways of musicology, anthropology and psychology, I’ve pursued my diverse interests tenaciously in considering the nature of musical experience.


The adult learning piece came to me via my associate and colleague Judith Buerkel. My informal interests were transformed in our working together. This led to more studies and eventually led to my beginning to think about the integration of models of experiential learning with musical experience and sound phenomena.


The genesis of the Rhythm River concept was forged in listening to Dr. Ibrahim explain the hidden history of music. (He actually scribbled a map on a napkin to illustrate this knowledge.) This moment, and several other encounters, helped me make sense of Berendt’s concept, that ‘the world is sound’. I set off to learn more. Soon enough I came to understand the functions of music which attend to communication, human development, medicine, devotion, and the transmission of knowledge. This first fractured and then transformed my perspective as I came to realize the crucial functions of music that are not at all about entertainment, the performer-audience dichotomy, and, what for us 'moderns' is its commoditization.


I’ve become a student of the human encounter with music, and taken my investigation back beyond where one can reasonably even speak of music. Indeed the world is sound.


Evolutionary musicology, (or biomusicology,) is the most recent field to galvanise my curiosity. For me, it bookends my longstanding social developmental, esoteric, psychologically-minded, concerns. On one hand, there is the amazing cultural and inner value of music, on the other there is the sound of life itself, and it has been sounding for billions of years!


From my hippie and musical background, I have sustained my lifelong autodidactic commitment to learning across the fields of psychology and anthropology and creative culture for the purpose of supporting adult learning, especially experiential, transformative learning. Although there is considerable rigor and calibration underneath Rhythm River, it is basically a very open and loose experiment about what the human encounter with music evokes.


Hopefully, this brief summary gives enough hints as to why this kind of experiment is in sympathy with what I'm about.

Track NOBODY KNOWS THE WEAVER'S DREAMS, recorded in 2001,under my musical pseudonym, Kamelmauz. From the record IN KHORASAN (2002:Duty Free Records)

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