Music Listening Club: Hearing the bigger picture

From First-Year Studies to the Doing Nothing class, Lawrence has a long-standing tradition of deep listening and discovery. Recently, that tradition has been reflected in the emergence of the Music Listening Club. The club’s president, junior Joey Davis, said Music Listening Club is a space for Lawrentians passionate about music and musical discourse to engage with music they otherwise may not have listened to. The club tries to spotlight a variety of different voices, styles and genres as to expose clubgoers to new musical experiences.  

“We don’t want to be a Rock Listening Club, we don’t want to be a Pop Listening Club or anything like that,” said Davis. “We want to just put on interesting music.”  

Davis had been exploring different genres of music in Winter Term and wanted a space to discuss his findings with other Lawrentians enthusiastic about all things music. As a self-proclaimed proponent of listening to albums in their entirety, track-by-track, he had been wishing that more people would come to recognize the importance of the practice.  

“The artist’s intention is to listen to an album all the way through, and I think we lose something if we remove the individual tracks from their context,” claimed Davis. “It can make a big difference.”  

Determined to kickstart the “club that [he] wished existed on campus,” Davis put up the first posters of the Music Listening Club advertising their first album, “In the Court of the Crimson King” by King Crimson, in Winter Term. About a dozen people showed up at the first meeting in the Warch Campus Center Cinema.  

Since then, the club has had a similar formula; after listeners get comfortable, they project the lyrics up on the screen. After listening to the album, listeners break off into small groups to discuss the album before coming back together to share thoughts. The discussion is hosted by two board members, one who is more familiar with the album and one who is less familiar with it, which adds diversity to the conversation through different perspectives, according to Davis. At the end of Winter Term, the club hosted a study session where they created a playlist that anyone at Lawrence could add music to with de-emphasized lyrics and calm beats — “something to study to,” as Davis put it.  

Because they want to choose albums that Lawrentians are particularly passionate about, the Music Listening Club chooses albums through Instagram messages from students. From there, the board discusses the top choices based on what they believe is going to generate discussion and what they have already listened to. In doing so, according to Davis, the Music Listening Club can keep their scope broad. 

“It can be hard to commit to listening through an album, but taking that time can be rejuvenating,” said Davis. “When you set aside some time to engage with art like that, our hope is that the stress of the external world, the college stress and everything, will just melt away, and that listening to and discussing art can help those fade to the background, at least for an hour and a half.”