Do you hear what I hear? A guide to deep listening

Chapel is a great place to deeply listen to music and meditate on songs spiritually.

Every Tuesday evening, a group of students gathers to listen to music. Sometimes it's well-known; sometimes it's music from up-and-coming artists. These students, known at Calvin as Cultural Discerners (CD's), then go back to their dorms and lead deep-listening sessions with their dorm mates.

Student activities director Ken Heffner says that this kind of deep music listening is an important spiritual practice. As such, it's best done in community—and with God's help. "Don't try doing this alone. Do it with the Holy Spirit," he says.

TRY IT YOURSELF (even better with friends)

  1. Find a piece of music that intrigues you. Get into a prayerful mindset.
  2. Listen to the song quietly.
  3. Reflect on what the music does to you on an emotional level. Does it give you joy? Make you feel depressed? Angry? Hopeful?
  4. Now think about why the music is powerful. Start to ask questions about the musical style and lyrics. If one of your friends has a technical musical background, ask him/her to identify things about the song's rhythm, key, etc.
  5. Do some research about the song's artist and find out why he/she may have written the song. Does this change your experience of the song?
  6. What does the song say about God, the world, the human experience—either explicitly or implicitly?
  7. After reflecting on these questions, listen to the song again.


  • "Barton Hollow" - The Civil Wars
  • "Men of Snow" - Ingrid Michaelson
  • "After the Storm" - Mumford and Sons
  • "Laughing With" - Regina Spektor
  • "One Foot" - fun.

VERGE: winter 2012

First-Year Experience