Shhh… do you hear that? It’s the sound of World Listening Day on July 18. World Listening Day is hosted every year by the World Listening Project, a nonprofit organization that is “devoted to understanding the world and its natural environment, societies, and cultures through the practice of listening and field recording.” They explore acoustic ecology, a discipline that studies the relationship between humans and the natural world as mediated through sound. So quiet down, open up your ears, and get ready to study soundscapes on World Listening Day.
When is World Listening Day 2021?
Practice less talking and more listening on World Listening Day on July 18.
History of World Listening Day
World Listening Day falls on July 18 to honor the birthday of Raymond Murray Schafer, a Canadian composer and environmentalist who is seen as the founder of acoustic ecology. Born on July 18, 1933, he developed his World Soundscape Project, which laid the fundamental ideas and practices of acoustic ecology in the 1970s. World Listening Day was established in 2010, and each year the holiday has a specific theme tied to it. Past themes include ‘H20,’ ‘Sounds Lost & Found,’ and ‘Listen to You!’ 2017’s theme was ‘Listening to the Ground,’ which honored the life and legacy of American composer Pauline Oliveros, who once said “Sometimes we walk on the ground, sometimes on sidewalks or asphalt, or other surfaces. Can we find ground to walk on and can we listen for the sound or sounds of ground? Are we losing ground? Can we find new ground by listening for it?”
Since the holiday’s inception, thousands of people from around the world have participated in its celebration. The theme for World Listening Day 2021 is ‘The Unquiet Earth,’ created by Lisbon-based filmmaker, curator, and organizer Raquel Castro.
Listening is indeed an art that requires undivided attention and patience from a person and benefits another who is in need of it. Listening is also beneficial for the listener, improving their listening skills and sharpening their awareness of their surroundings. As important as our sense of hearing is, we often don’t use it effectively, blocking out most sounds and voices, and not really listening to the message.
World Listening Day timeline
Canadian composer and music educator R. Murray Schafer is born.
Schafer’s World Soundscape Project paves the way for acoustic ecology.
World Listening Day is created in honor of R. Murray Schafer and his contributions.
The theme for World Listening Day in 2020 is Collective Field created by Wild Sanctuary vice president, Katherine Krause.
Traditions of the Day
With the hustle and bustle of daily life, we rarely stop to not just hear but actually listen to our surroundings — the sounds around us, what other people are trying to communicate, and even our inner voice. Technology and non-stop hustling prevent us from shutting out the noise and listening intently. On World Listening Day, this is exactly what is practiced.
Talking less and listening more is practiced. Listening to friends, family, and having heart-to-heart conversations with patience are encouraged on this day. Comforting others and being there for them by listening to them vent is therapeutic and beneficial for both the listener and the speaker. Staying silent and contemplating the world around us by listening, calms and soothes our thoughts. The aim of the day is to cultivate better listening and understanding, and learning from this underrated act.
By The Numbers
20,000–30,000 – the number of words the average person hears over 24 hours.
70% – the percentage of time spent during the day engaged in some form of communication.
55% – the percentage of time out of the above 70% that is devoted to listening.
85% – the percentage of what we have learned through listening.
450 – the average number of words you’re able to listen to per minute.
25% – the percentage of things people remember that they have listened to.
4 – the number of distinct styles of listening.
40% – the percentage of people who employ two or more of the styles of listening at any given time.
30 minutes – the time spent listening to someone complaining or nagging, which can cause damage to your brain.
12% – the percentage increase in test scores of a group of people who listened to classical music before studying.
World Listening Day FAQs
When is World Listening Day?
World Listening Day is observed annually on July 18.
When is the Day of Listening?
Day of Listening is celebrated on November 27.
What’s the theme for World Listening Day 2021?
The theme for World Listening Day 2021 is ‘The Unquiet Earth.’
How to Observe World Listening Day
Go on a solo listening walk
Pick a route, any route. Live near a beach? Take a stroll along the ocean and listen to the waves. Or maybe you want to walk through the woods and hear what the wind sounds like going through the trees. If you don’t live near anything resembling “nature,” walk a ten block loop around your neighborhood. Take out your headphones, don’t say a word, and try to pay attention to each individual sound you hear along the way.
Host a listening quiz
Use your phone to record a bunch of sounds from your environment, from a particular bird call to the sound of a truck driving down the street. Invite your family and friends over and see if they can identify each sound as you play them.
Go to a concert
You don’t have to listen to natural sounds to appreciate the spirit of World Listening Day. Buy tickets to a concert—it could be a symphony playing Beethoven, that hip new electronic musician at a cool underground club, a Led Zeppelin cover band in the back of a dive bar, you name it. No matter what genre, challenge yourself to tune out all the background noise of your fellow concert-goers and really isolate and appreciate the sounds of the music.
5 Facts About Listening
Women are better listeners
Research shows that women engage both lobes of their brains for listening, whereas men use only half of their brains.
Listening to music helps
Listening to music creates a stress-free environment, for example, listening to music before surgery reduces cortisol levels, and it helps some students relax and study better before an exam.
Listening can help lose weight!
Researchers have found that listening to relaxing music while eating at a restaurant resulted in diners consuming 175 fewer calories.
Listening is a skill
Less than 2% of people have had formal education on how to effectively listen.
Prerequisites to listening
To become an effective listener, it is important to not assume, refrain from making judgments, and hold our thoughts to really listen to what the other person is trying to convey.
Why World Listening Day is Important
It gives us an excuse to quiet down
Have you stopped to think about how much of your day is consumed by words? If you’re saying them you’re reading them, listening to someone else’s, or even thinking them. World Listening Day gives us a reason to back away from words and hear the sounds between and around them.
It makes us mindful about the noises that soundtrack our lives
Think of it this way: depending on where you live and how you move throughout your day, every person has a completely unique soundtrack that plays behind their daily routine. Car noise, wind in your ears, silverware hitting a plate, clicks from a keyboard, papers rustling… You’re so accustomed to these sounds that you probably don’t even think about the fact that you’re hearing them. But we bet you will now, huh?
It applies to any and all environments
Whether you live in the middle of a bustling city, out in a quiet suburb, or way out on a remote farm, the principles of acoustic ecology can be applied to your life. That means you don’t have to go an inch out of your way to celebrate World Listening Day.
World Listening Day dates