Centre de Boston

Boston the 07 05 1992


To answer this question, we must first ask another question. What is listening and is it different from hearing?

What is Ostéophonie, the art of conscious listening?

In order to communicate with each other verbally we must be able to listen as well as to speak. Language is, after all, the communication of ideas and feelings through sound. Of what use would it be to speak if there were no listener?

We come to the spoken word with both a desire to express ourselves and a desire to be listened to.

But some listeners seem to listen better than others. When we are with certain listeners, we feel not only heard in the obvious sense but understood as well. We experience a connection of some sort taking place. We feel we are really communicating. These listeners even seem to help us understand ourselves better. Clearly listening involves more than the physical mechanisms set in motion by the arrival of sound waves in the ear, even more than the subsequent verbal and musical analysis done by the brain.

Listening involves a delicate and mysterious inner availability. It requires an openness, an attentiveness, a presence, so that the sound messages may enter and find a resonance in all the listener’s dimensions. With such a listener, communication is rich and enjoyable.

Many things can inhibit or block our listening. A partial or distorted listening leads to difficulties in comprehension and communication.

The purpose of Ostéophonie is to reopen our listening, to give us back an objectivity and clarity, an ability to listen not only to others but also to ourselves. Ostéophonie teaches listening with self-awareness, conscious listening. lt awakens the ability to listen to sounds passing through the bones and touching the physical, psychological and spiritual dimensions of our being.

Like a musical instrument the body is made to vibrate. When it is open and receptive it will vibrate completely, including bones, liquids, tissues and organs. When sound waves reach the body, it begins to vibrate. The inner ear analyzes the frequencies and sends its messages to the brain which transforms the information into meanings, verbal meanings or musical meanings.

When we hear a foreign language, we hear it as a kind of music because we do not understand its verbal meaning. When we hear a familiar language, we ignore its music because we are taken by the meaning. Yet verbal language is both music and meaning. All sounds derive from the same acoustic materials.

The brain is the organ that distinguishes the sounds of verbal language from the sounds of musical language or noise, being an irregular and unquantifiable form of comprehensible language.

Unlike looking, listening extends in all directions at once: above, below, besides, in front and behind. It is spatial.  It can locate sounds precisely. It can tell us what is near and what is far. It is designed to function at all times. We cannot close an ear-lid in order to stop listening. We are evidently meant to be listening at all times.

What we may discover, however, through hearing tests or by comparison with others is that we don't all seem to hear the same things or in the same way. The first exercises of Ostéophonie reveal immediately that our listening is affected by many factors. We may listen differently when we know we are also being listened to, as in a performance.

We may favor one ear over the other or have difficulty hearing what comes from behind. We may not hear high frequencies well and experience a flatness in the tone of our own voice. Perhaps we don't like the sound of certain voices and avoid listening to them when they are speaking. Perhaps we feel at ease when listening to music but find it difficult to listen when communicating verbally with others. We have reduced our listening to a fraction of its normal potential. We have developed listening habits.

Why has this happened? To understand we must consider our whole life's story. We started listening before we were even born. Research proves that the embryo is able to hear, and that by the fourth month of intrauterine life the inner ear is complete. We are nurtured in the womb by the sounds of the mother's voice travelling through her bones, through the uterine fluids into the fetal tissues. We have been listening since the beginning. We have memories, feelings, associations that date back to our earliest life and continue to form after birth into a personal and subjective history of sound.

Part of this history is pleasant. Part is not.

Lacking an ear-lid, we developed inner mechanisms, ways of closing off our hearing in order to protect ourselves from hurtful sounds, from sounds we feared or did not want to hear. As we closed our hearing, we closed also a small part of the body that no longer vibrated with these sounds. We developed a selective hearing in order to adapt to our surroundings.

Although this adaptive behavior was essential to us in childhood it may not be necessary to us as adults. It may in fact diminish our effectiveness as well as our ability to express ourselves and live our life enjoyably and fully.

The aim of Ostéophonie is to recover the totality of our listening in all directions, and to inhabit a body that is sound filled and fully alive, vibrant and resonant. This is above all a source of great joy and inner well-being.

To better understand the relationship between the sound, the listening and the resonating inside of us, let us take the image of the cellist with his cello. The body of the cello corresponds to the human body, the strings to the sound, and the cellist to the listening. The three elements are inseparable.

What is the cello without the cellist? Or the cellist without the cello? Or the cello with no strings? Or, indeed a player with some strings but no cello?

The same pattern can apply to us. The sound, the body and the listening go together and cannot be separated. These three are the basis of all the exercises in Ostéophonie. It is not a work with only sounds in the body. It is a work that awakens a listening to sounds in the body.

It is not a listening to sounds. It is a partnership of listening and vibrating to sounds. It is not a technique of singing harmonics. It is a journey through the personal history of sound as it awakens into a recovery of the total acoustic range including the harmonics.

The word Ostéophonie comes from the word "os" or bone and phonation or sound. It means literally listening to the sound passing through the bones. When we speak or sing the vocal cords start to vibrate. This vibration engages first the cervical vertebrae which begin to vibrate. The sound waves are carried throughout the entire skeleton until all the cells of the body vibrate. Through sound we can listen to our body. We can become conscious of our body and we can even help others to awaken a consciousness of their body as well.

Due to a phenomenon known as sympathetic resonance two tuning forks will vibrate together although only one has been set in motion. It is an acoustic principle that also applies to two people. In Ostéophonie, sympathetic resonance plays a central role. The sympathetic resonance between the teacher and the student enables the student to match the listening and the resonance of the teacher.

Through this deep sharing the teacher guides the student gradually towards an open and conscious listening and a fully resonating body.

The awakening of the body and the awakening of listening go hand in hand and are infinite in depth. The first stages of Ostéophonie concentrate on the familiar sounds of verbal language. As our listening deepens, we become aware of the presence of very high sounds that give richness, color and individuality to each speaking voice. These sounds are components of all sounds and are known as harmonics.

We have been listening to harmonics since our days in utero when we heard our mother's voice. The harmonics are what make a language comprehensible in addition to giving a voice its color or timbre. A voice rich in harmonics is a beautiful and communicative voice. A voice lacking of timbre sounds flat and colorless. It is difficult to understand.

All musical instruments produce harmonics. The human body, a magnificent musical instrument produces harmonics. The more we learn to hear our harmonics the richer will be our timbre. In Ostéophonie we speak of liberating the harmonies. This is done first through sympathetic resonance in which the harmonics of the teacher are localized in the body of the student.

Later harmonics are produced by the student through special exercises of inner timbre. These evoke the early memories of fetal listening and are deeply moving and exhilarating.

With the awakening of the ability to hear and produce our own harmonics, comes a heart-felt desire to express ourselves, to communicate with others, to share our inner experience with the outer world.

As we open our mouth and release this sonorous message full of harmonics, we experience a kind of birth of self. This is a spiritual birth that comes through the heart. It unites the body and the mind and offers to our inner being a passageway out of its attachment to the intrauterine memory and into a full life of its own through a sharing of ourselves with others.

Our listening must adapt itself to the sounds of the harmonics travelling through the air as opposed to through our bones. The speed is much slower and enables us to recognize vowels as well as pitches. Musical and verbal languages unite and we are simultaneously present to the inner and the outer worlds.

Then what is listening?

 Listening is to the psychological what hearing is to the physical. With listening we are in the domain of the psyche, the inner self. We touch the spiritual dimensions of our being. Through Ostéophonie, we open our listening. We restore it to its full range. We allow it to become conscious and as it does, we open the inner spaces of our body and mind. We experience a greater openness, a deeper communication with others, a subtlety of perception that can develop infinitely and an ability to listen to ourselves.

Ostéophonie is always practiced in groups. We listen to others. We listen to ourselves. We are listened to. As we encounter the thoughts, feelings, resonance and listening of others, we are stimulated to open ourselves up. There is no prerequisite needed and anyone can benefit from it.

It is the creation of Francois Louche, audio psycho phonologist, musician, composer, lecturer as well as conductor.

His research includes studies in bioacoustics, neurology. He has developed a pedagogy of music based on Osteophonic listening and has taught Ostéophonie in France, Spain, Switzerland, USSR, Austria, Canada and the USA (particularly in Boston).

Lisa Parker

Boston Center for Ostéophonie 21 Kenmore Road, Belmont, MA 02178

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