Heightened Consciousness Through Music and Listening:
Addressing the Global Mental Challenge
Klavierhaus NYC Appoints Steinway Artist Hsing-ay Hsu Artist in Residence,
Uniting Performance with Biology and Emotional Exploration
As we approach World Mental Health Day on October 10th, the global surge in mental health challenges looms ominously on our future. Amidst the cacophony of sensory overload, rapid change, polarizing politics, and pandemic fears, additional mental epidemics arise, Hsing-ay Hsu has been concerned about a significant missing piece of the puzzle - the art of listening.
For the concert music community, this pianist-turned-educator has stepped up with innovative solutions, synthesizing music training, biology, and emotional insight. Her concept to “lead with listening” applies to verbal and performance communications, teaching, and finding meaning in the human experience. Scientific evidence shows that musical engagement brings lifelong cognitive benefits, helps us recover from stress, and fosters social collaboration.
Hsing-ay Hsu’s Conscious Listening™ programs empower performers and audiences to unlock these life advantages in the process of finding musical connections:
· Guiding real-time listening to the creative processes of musicians choosing what is primary among the
interplay of musical elements.
· Capturing playfulness and wonder in performance, which transfers to the quality of daily life.
· Developing advanced listening skills (including open-mindedness, flexibility, and emotional
discernment) more effectively by an indirect approach of translating the language of music.
· Building trust by leading with listening and observation as the starting point of teaching or performing.
· Embracing music and life, which encompasses broadening the emotional experience.
· Holding intense emotions and shifting quickly.
· Prioritizing time to reflect.
· Being present and focused for extended durations.
· Expanding pleasure with multidimensional awareness and a practice of listening.
Imagine a world where we are...
multidimensionally connected to ourselves and others,
open-minded about what we don't understand,
and intentional about how we fit into the big picture.
Leading with the act of listening in the "Nutmeg Studio NYC Piano Masterclass" on November 4, 2023, her recital on February 25, 2024 expands on her Pairing Series to connect the literary concept of “points of view” with piano music on. The March 22-25, 2024 festival starts with an interdisciplinary showcase featuring collaborators from the Met Opera Orchestra, Babel Movement Dance, and Off-Broadway theater.
Hsu brings her virtual initiatives into the physical realm, presenting a Conscious Listening™ Café with Grammy Award-winning violist and Eastman professor Masumi Rostad and Klavierhaus founder Sujatri Reisinger. "Find Your Flow™ Piano Intensive” combines Zoom, in-person, and recording experiences to offer hands-on engagement. Online workshops and YouTube conversations will supplement the immersive experience at Klavierhaus, nurturing a culture of "conscious listening" one note at a time.
Hsing-ay Hsu’s Conscious Listening™ process highlights the synergy between activating cognitive processes, breath awareness, and emotions to make sense of a scattered reality. Hsu has been troubled that the awareness that comes from conscious listening, a crucial element in communication and health, is undervalued and largely absent in our society. As soloist, chamber musician, educator, listening facilitator, homeschool mom, and caretaker of family through medical crises, she has witnessed how a deficit of listening skills leads to miscommunication, depression, and system dysfunction. Musicians can access multidimensional awareness by practicing “kinesthesia” sense, the awareness of muscular and breath effort, simultaneously with emotional awareness. Breathwork can help with both the technical security of performance and the speed of calming down the nervous system. Practicing an instrument also requires one to literally slow down the thinking process in order to negotiate all the various layers of sensations at the same time and to decide on what is primary at any given moment. Lastly, musical expression encourages empathy for a wider range of cultures and new emotions, breaking through the boundaries of habits. Every healthy society in history has embraced musical expression within the heart of its identity, with conscious listeners who negotiate many elements to find an “artistic vision” forward.
A Playful and Wondrous Musical Experience
By practicing the art of listening through focusing on one musical detail at a time (melody, harmony, rhythm), then connecting it to non-musical ideas, emotions, and personal experiences, Hsu guides the journey of listening from the objective, through the subjective, to an integrated "knowing" experience. The opposite of pre-concert lectures, Hsing-ay’s Conscious Listening™ Café gatherings start with what the participants are able to notice in order to approach complex technical knowledge, with playful, inductive learning and discovering new questions.
Michael Gendel from Colorado, winner of Hsu’s “Orchestral Colors of the Piano” Intensive and Contest, comments that "she can always shift the focus beyond simply 'liking' something or not, to what is compelling and significant in a particular interpretation." With Conscious Listening™, the work of figuring out emotional needs becomes an effective social game.
Finding the “fun” in music is especially important for musicians who experience an unsustainable amount of pressure. After an over-practice injury, Hsu was forced to regain from scratch her onstage confidence. She now trains others to expand their boundaries, transcend old patterns that prescribed their actions and suppressed their ability to listen, and create quick emotional shifts in the moment, so that every performance is fresh.
Training for Listening
In Hsing-ay’s Conscious Listening™ workshops, the audience listens to one musical excerpt multiple times, each time with a different focus such as guided listening, vocabulary, ear training, discussion, and breathwork. This practice of multidimensional listening brings the listener closer to the composer's language and invites an expansive response with mind, body, and heart to find personal connection.
Hsu observes that defusing conflict over musical interpretation is a step towards letting go of the need to control. "When a student gets upset because the phrases are not predictably four bars long, or frustrated by experiencing the tone of a Mozart symphony differently from everyone else, it provides exciting opportunities: to practice how we value variation, how we perceive music, diversity, and how to link emotions to actual physical details such as tempo and dynamics."
Slowing down to notice details also activates the slower mental processes that provide the best chance of retaining knowledge and integrating change. "As a facilitator and educator for over two decades, I listen carefully to de-escalate emotional triggers, invite new perspectives, and encourage both a more discerning experience and a broader awareness.”
Teaming up with Klavierhaus NYC
With the support of Klavierhaus, Hsing-ay campaigns for listening skills in the Conscious Listening™ Piano Residency and Festival NYC. Celebrated by international media as a performer, and equally devoted to music education, she is now in her fifteenth year of helping performers and audiences understand the composer’s musical language and diverse interpretations, while exploring multiple dimensions of life.
Beginning with her "Nutmeg Studio NYC Masterclass" on November 4, 2023, the residency continues with Hsu in recital "Points of View" on February 25, 2024, leading up to a festival taking place from March 22-25, 2024, featuring a “Collab Showcase” with guests from the Met Opera Orchestra, Babel Movement Dance, and Off-Broadway theater. Hsu will also lead a Conscious Listening™ Café with violist Masumi Rostad and Klavierhaus founder Sujatri Reisinger, and "Find Your Flow Piano Intensive" for adult pianists and piano teachers. The sustained time and intimate environment will enable a culture of listening to flourish by building intentional habits of "conscious listening" and fulfilling the primary human need to connect emotionally.
Founded in New York City in 1993 by Gabor and Sujatri Reisinger, Klavierhaus has collaborated with world-class pianists, including previous Artist in Residence Richard Goode, Sir Andras Schiff, and Yuja Wang.
Copyright 2023 Hsu