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101: Listening x Creativity: Emad Saedi, Composer

Updated: Dec 14, 2023

I’m going to come right out and ask it: Do you consider yourself a good listener?

Or perhaps a better place to start is by asking: Do you know what being a good listener looks like, sounds like, feels like?

I’ve found it helpful to take a step back and honestly assess my ability to listen to those around me and personally, my success or failure in listening tends to be situational: I find myself focussed and actively paying attention to my students in my classroom and with podcast guests, but I know I could do a better job actively listening to my kids and my close family members. Work: 8 out of 10. Home: 6 out of 10, on average.

And while it hurts to admit that rankings out loud, I think it’s an important starting place for this 11-part series all about the intersection of listening and creativity.

I’ve been deeply interested in this topic of listening for a couple of years now, as a way to take in more of the world around me and heighten my creative practice. The catalyst was being given the opportunity to co-teach a course in interdisciplinary innovation with friend and colleague, Chris Ambedkar (who’s been on this podcast before). Each time we teach it, we challenge students to listen deeply as one of many ways to collaborate and communicate and ultimately innovate. I began reading a number of books on the subject including We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations that Matter by Celeste Headlee (HED-lee) and You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters by Kate Murphy. I’ve become increasingly aware of the power we have when we listen and perhaps, more importantly, the opportunity to slow down – even for a moment – when we listen, in a world that appears to be forever-more careening faster and faster towards… I don’t know what. Right in the subtitle of author Susan Cain’s incredible book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Won’t Stop Talking is an unmistakable truth. Where has the listening gone? Was it ever here to begin with? And what lies at the intersection of listening and creativity?

Each episode in this 11-part series will begin with a piece of information about the what, why, when or where of listening (that I’ve learned while formally and informally studying this topic), followed by the who (the conversation with my guest) and finally the how (an actionable invitation to improve your listening skills, based on the conversation). I’ve had the great pleasure of sitting down with 11 excellent listeners, some of whom I’ve known for more than half my life and others I’ve just met. These individuals work in diverse roles and lived experiences. For example…

You’ll hear from a morning TV show producer whose job it is to both listen to her team, as well as listen to the world's news in order to distill it for a Canadian audience.

You’ll hear from an improvisational theater expert who explains what we can learn about the power of listening from the stage.

You’ll hear from a mediator whose job it is to find creative solutions when groups of people are unable to develop solutions themselves.

You’ll hear from a professional jazz vocalist whose job it is to listen deeply to the musicians around her in front of a live audience.

You’ll hear from a clinical psychologist – a professional listener – who identifies what it means to actively listen and how we can tap into her techniques.

You’ll hear from a former radio show host who embarked on a three-month vow of silence, discovering the truths emerge when our only choice is to listen.

You’ll hear from a dog trainer and rehabilitation expert who shares what we can learn from dogs about tuning into subtle energies and non-verbal cues.

You’ll hear from a family lawyer who uses listening in high-stakes situations to better understand how to resolve emotional disputes and use listening as a tool to step back and question ‘why’.

You’ll hear from an Emmy-award winning creative strategist, author and design educator who teaches his students how to listen between the lines to arrive at creative solutions.

You’ll hear from a chiropractor who helps us understand tapping into listening through our bodies, specifically through the act of stretching.

And finally, you’ll hear from a music composer who’s calling to create music at the cost of his stable career meant listening to himself, just as much as it requires listening to the music he creates with others. And this is where we begin today.

And the music you heard just a few seconds ago, called Peivast Waltz (Pay+vast), is an original composition by today’s guest.

Emad Saedi, please tell us a little about yourself...

Listening Invitation:

Emad’s story reminds me of singer, songwriter, musician, composer, bandleader, and television personality Jon Batiste’s speech at the 2022 Grammy Awards. He said this: “I believe this to my core, there is no best musician, best artist, best dancer, best actor, the creative arts are subjective and they reach people at a point in their lives when they need it most.”

I’m so grateful to Emad for sharing his story with us and I was particularly intrigued by his stance on noise pollution in the opportunities that exist in life’s silent moments. So here is my invitation to you to improve your listening skills: seek out silence. It doesn’t have to be for long (however you might find that you want to linger…), but find a spot that’s quiet, like really quiet. Perhaps a quiet corner of a room or even in a closet, sound absorbed by clothing. And sit. And think. And let your mind wander. This is not a meditative practice, per se, but rather a moment of rest for your ears and for your brain in a noisy world. When you emerge from your cocoon of silence, perhaps you’ll discover that everyday noises you experience may sound a little more novel.

Stay tuned for the next episode where you’ll hear from Kati Mason, a morning TV show producer at CBC whose job it is to both listen to her team, as well as listen to the world's news in order to distill it for a Canadian audience.

About Our Guest:

Emad is a classically trained pianist, composer, and sound designer. He is passionate about storytelling with sound and music. Emad composes in various genres and his portfolio contains the soundtrack for podcast, film, video games, as well as classical, pop/rock, and electronic music.

You can find Emad on Instagram or Twitter or listen to his music on Spotify, SoundCloud, Apple Music, and other music streaming platforms.

Music: Peivast Waltz - Emad Saedi

Talk Paper Scissors Theme Music: Retro Quirky Upbeat Funk by Lewis Sound Production via Audio Jungle

Boat Origami Photo: Boat Origami Photo by Alex on Unsplash

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