Teach the digital generation to listen, says Laura Mvula

The distractions of modern life diminish our musical experience, according to the singer-songwriter. Adam Sherwin reports

Children should be given lessons in listening to music, according to singer-songwriter Laura Mvula, to combat a culture in which young people have lost the ability to concentrate on a piece of work.

Nominated for the Brits, the Mercury Prize and an Ivor Novello award, Mvula graduated in composition from the Birmingham Conservatoire and is one of this year's breakthrough stars. The 28-year-old singer and pianist began writing songs on her laptop while working as a supply teacher in a Birmingham secondary school.

But she fears that the pace of 21st-century life means that the art of listening to music, whether a classical symphony or a contemporary album designed to be heard as a coherent whole, is being lost.

"Learning how to listen is just as important as learning how to sing or play," said Mvula, 28, whose music is informed by jazz, soul and gospel. "It's a discipline to listen, but we don't really do that any more. Half an hour a week set aside just for listening to music in schools would be a good start. It's replenishing just to have that time."

Children might even be taught that volume is not everything. "I used to only play things at maximum volume, but now I understand that to appreciate music you can listen without killing your eardrums," Mvula said.

Tomorrow Mvula releases a rearrangement of her 2013 debut album Sing to the Moon, performed with Dutch jazz orchestra The Metropole Orkest.

"At my album launch I said, 'We're all just going to sit and listen.' My husband [Zambian-born classical baritone Themba] takes time to listen to a complete album on his vinyl. It's like it's booked in his diary.

"I think that's important to have specific listening time, not just having music on in the background while you eat. For me, listening time sounds like heaven.

"Music is like food. It's not good to stand up and eat. If you never sit down to eat and enjoy it, you won't find it nourishing. You need to have that time and space to focus and concentrate on music."

Mvula explained the importance of listening to an audience of 100 music students at a Royal Albert Hall masterclass as she prepared for her performance at a Late Night Prom next week, when she will premiere her orchestral album with The Metropole.

However, she fears that cuts to music provision in schools will prevent the next generation from having the same opportunities she enjoyed. "I had a path into music: from junior school we would sing in assembly, through choirs and to extracurricular activities. Some of it was compulsory.

"At the Conservatoire I had to study a Bach chorale and reharmonise it in a class on polyphonics. I'm so thankful with hindsight, as I didn't realise how important these skills were. I heard so much music that I might never have come across."

'Laura Mvula with The Metropole Orkest' is out on 11 August. Her Late Night Prom on 19 August will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Dunne, played by Ben Affleck, finds himself at the centre of a media storm when his wife is reported missing and assumed dead

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lindsay Lohan made her West End debut earlier this week in 'Speed-the-Plow'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Artist Nathan Sawaya stands with his sculpture 'Yellow' at the Art of Brick Exhibition

art
Arts and Entertainment
'Strictly Come Dancing' attracted 6.53 million viewers on Friday
tv
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant plays Detective Emmett Carver in the US version on Broadchurch

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor goes undercover at Coal Hill School in 'The Caretaker'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ni , Rock of Rah, Vanuatu: The Ni live on one of the smallest islands of Vanuatu; Nelson flew five hours from Sydney to capture the 'isolation forged by their remoteness'
photographyJimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style
Arts and Entertainment
David Byrne
musicDavid Byrne describes how the notorious First Lady's high life dazzled him out of a career low
Arts and Entertainment
Sergeant pfeffer: Beatles in 1963
booksA song-by-song survey of the Beatles’ lyrics
Arts and Entertainment
music'I didn't even know who I was'
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl was left in a conundrum with too much talent and too few seats during the six-chair challenge stage
tvReview: It was tension central at boot camp as the ex-Girls Aloud singer whittled down the hopefuls
Arts and Entertainment
Kalen Hollomon's Anna Wintour collage

art
Arts and Entertainment

TV Grace Dent on TV
Arts and Entertainment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

music
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer is believed to be playing a zombie wife in Patient Zero

film
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Gatiss says Benedict Cumberbatch oozes sex appeal with his 'Byronic looks' and Sherlock coat
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Clothing items bearing the badge have become popular among music aficionados
musicAuthorities rule 'clenched fist' logo cannot be copyrighted
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson will star in Seth MacFarlane's highly-anticipated Ted 2

film
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in 'Gone Girl'

film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
    Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

    Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

    Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
    Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

    Education, education, education

    TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
    It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

    It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

    So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
    This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

    Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

    Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
    We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

    Inside the E15 'occupation'

    We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
    Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

    Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

    Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
    Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

    Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

    The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
    Witches: A history of misogyny

    Witches: A history of misogyny

    The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
    Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

    Meet the most powerful woman in US television

    Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
    'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

    Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

    Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style