Listening without it impossible?

I came across an interesting quotation about texts which applies, it seems, to music listening and audio:

"We never really confront audio immediately, in all its freshness as a thing-in-itself. Rather, audio comes before us as the always-already-heard; we apprehend it through sedimented layers of previous interpretations or --if the audio is brand new -- through the sedimented listening habits and categories developed by those interpretive traditions." [Paraphrased from Frederic Jameson in The Political Unconscious (1981)]

If this application to audio is accurate, it indicates that what we hear and how we listen are profoundly influenced by how we talk about it, argue about it, interpret it. The ways we talk about it and who we talk about it with change the very ways we “confront” or encounter it the next time.

This would apply not only to the macro impressions about entire songs or even passages of songs, but even the minute ways we describe the details. (Using “etched” to describe the “highs” or “boomy” to describe the “lows,” and so on.) It also would set aside, as obtuse, the repeated suggestion that one can ignore what people say and “just get back to listening for oneself.” There is no such way of listening. Yes, one can move away from the computer, for days or weeks or more, but the notion that one can move one’s “own” mind away from the “sedimented layer of previous interpretations” is, well impossible.

I’m not sure, personally, where I fall on this interesting question. Just wanted to share it.


It is hardly earth shattering but the number of posts I see where people say just listen as if there was some way of getting back to an original pure experience that is not polluted by what people say may strike some as the antithesis of what they think they are doing. Sorry to underwhelm. 

Are non-audiophiles non-audiophiles simply because they don't speak our language, or is something inherent to them? Could teaching them our audio language bring out the audiophile in them? Is there in fact a hidden audiophile within every human, or are we inherently a different tribe?

@middlemass  Contemplate your navel? Are you up to it? 

@sns "Are non-audiophiles non-audiophiles simply because they don't speak our language, or is something inherent to them?" 

I think it has to do with vocabulary but also where they place their attention. I've heard that many musicians don't care about audio sound because they're more concerned with other things.