We can joke about it as long as we remember this: We're all wired a bit differently. There's no judgment in that. Rather, it should turn into appreciation over our wonderful diversity. After all, it's exactly that very scope of differentiation that gives rise to the manifold creative expressions that serve this diversity in response. Unfortunately, audio in particular tends to segregates lovers of aual Merlot versus Chardonnay, Zirah versus Zinfandel into warring factions. Instead of being one big happy fan club, we allow ourselves to get imprisoned into opposing camps of right and wrong. Now let's ask a curious question: Could our "stock" wiring be modified?
You mean listen with our knees like the grasshoppers, the way Kevin Costner's character Crash Davis was told to try by Susan Sarandon's Anny Savoy coach in Bull Durham?
Not quite. I was more thinking about the circular versus linear gestalt of archetypal energy between woman & man. One is centered in the heart to revolve around it in a great loop. The other flashes between the twin poles of sex and mind.

It seems that a woman's basic wiring is more conducive to a less analytical, more organic or wholistic listening approach than a man's who is more oriented towards analytical, qualitative fascinations.

I believe that in order to become a balanced human being, any man needs to embrace his internal feminine half. The same goes naturally for women and their male halves too, However, in our male-dominated competitive society, that becomes a very challenging enterprise. A woman nearly has to become more man than man -- a kind of übermann -- to be respected and "prove herself". The whiplash of the Feminist Liberation movement shows the dangers inherent in that fruitless endeavor. But, that's a whole 'nuther discussion for another --long and rainy -- day.

For today, I think most audiophiles would agree that women, in general (there's always exceptions!) tend to listen differently - more with the heart, less with the head. I believe a man can learn to listen like a woman, simply as a result of rewiring his instinctual energetic polarity of up-down linearity into a higher octave of circular feeling, one that is comfortable with emotional vulnerability, loss of control and identity, a surrender and merger that is soft, fuzzy, expanded and -- in goold ol' primitive warrior speak -- weak and exposed.

The sexist guide to listening pleasure? Do I detect the title for the next runaway bestseller? National syndication in Penthouse perhaps?
Some behind-the-scenes spanking ensues to put our pesky interrogator into his proper place. Who says schizophrenia can't be great fun?

It simply means to awaken the psychic organ in the middle of the chest. Indian mystics refer to it as anahata, the fourth or heart chakra. It bridges the three lower and three higher main centers. In traditional meditation practices centered on devotion rather than intellectual discrimination, musical events like Kirtan always played a big part. That's precisely because they assisted in stimulating and thereby opening this center. Once activated, the devotee could access states of emotional expansion in which contact and union with something greater than himself was possible.

For most men conditioned by the values and strategies of capitalist society, this development of opening the inner heart is unnatural. It goes counter to the basic jungle law of survival of the fittest. An emotional ninny who cries each time Sinatra croons? That's definitely not it. Hence, this heart-opening doesn't occur as part of the course. It requires conscious effort, intent, volition. Practice, in other words. "Psychic" surgery. Because of that, consciousness and deliberation about the process enter the picture. It's a hard-earned victory of gradual growth and development, not a natural freebie one is born with. Consequently, male teachers in the spiritual traditions can talk about this heart-opening with great eloquence and conceptualizations while their female counterparts will radiate love in beatific ways. They'll smile while shrugging their shoulders in a "what's the big deal anyways?" question mark.

Chakra map property of Kheper, click it for their site
Once a male audiophile can listen wholistically from his heart, there can be a meeting in the middle with his female companion. He can teach a woman the added joys of paying attention to all the audiophile glories that now become leaves and flowers on a mighty tree rooted in the soil of the heart. Some women will respond, others couldn't be bothered. They're already home. They don't need music to stimulate them emotionally - people, situations will do just fine, It's us poor shmucks who need strong doses of schmaltz to feel even a faint stirring of our rusty, ill-tempered heart strings.

And there are different degrees or depths one can fall into, different vibratory rates of feelings, there in this opened heart. Mystical paintings show the Indian monkey god Hanuman with his chest torn wide open to show his mighty heart. Christian traditions have similar renditions. They are pointers that unlimited feeling is the key to Oneness with All, not as a cerebral, neat, tidy and safe concept in the head but a terribly exposed, vulnerable place that experiences your joy and suffering, your bliss and pain, as though its own.

Call this heart the portal of connectedness, that which liberates us from the dark confinement of self-centeredness into a heightened sense of being part of something far grander than this obnoxious personality we call "I". And strangely enough, music can be a powerful trigger for small- or large-scale openings of this portal. Well, perhaps not quite so strange if we consider the vague yet compelling idea that "everything is vibration, i.e. sound and light".
Does it matter what music? Can all music be experienced in this fashion?
To your second question, I don't believe so, to your first, definitely yes. You could posit that a musician in an expanded state of feelings would transmit this state through his music. Well, I attended a concert with Sri Chinmoy, a supposedly enlightened teacher. It bored me to tears. Conversely, I've played with musicians whom I knew to be very ordinary, uninteresting characters with grave flaws and a nearly complete lack of human communication skills. Once tethered to their instruments, they played like Gods to make your hairs stand on end. Afterwards in the bar, they'd have nothing interesting to say.

So what gives?

I think great music that communicates life, energy, passion and inspiration taps into it. There's a space of no-mind coupled to basic technical skills that serve to translate this "download" into something of beauty and coherence. Often such availability to this co-creative process comes from a person's great inability to participate freely in life in any other fashion. Nearly dysfunctional on a whole, all that life force is channeled through one single avenue, thereby greatly concentrated and made potent by such an act of exclusivity.

In general, it seems that great music comes through despite the musician, not because of him. It's essentially a knack for tuning into this place where music happens. This often doesn't translate in benign ways into the remainder of such a person's life. Being a good musician doesn't automatically make you a great human being. Being a great musician doesn't seem to be a product of personality though there will be distinct and recognizable signs that point at a particular artist - tone, tempi, technique, phrases, a certain style. During special sessions or tunes though, such remaining personality traits become transparent to this other presence. It plays between the audience and performer. One calls forth the other. But it's clearly transpersonal. Perhaps that's why some folks call music a gift from God. It doesn't grow as a result of human machinations. The latter can certainly produce sounds mascerading as music. However, such cobbled-together sounds then don't possess the same power to touch us there in the heart.

If we consider the origin of music to be, for lack of a better word, elsewhere, then listening to music offers the possibility of a "return trip" to elsewhere, to somehow crack the outer shell of form and presentation and get to the inner message encoded in the sounds. Music then is like a parcel in need of unwrapping. You can toss it around unopened, build an altar for it and shine pretty lights on it without ever finding out what's inside. Certain audiophiles tend to do exactly that - venerate the wrappings. There's no end for how elaborate your worhsip can become. Still, inherent in the setup is that you're stilling missing out on licking the sugar cube.

How do we unwrap the gift then?

It would be pretty presumptious of me to dispense with a one-size-fits-all formula. What I'd rather do is describe what happens for me, what music triggers it and why, and some of the things I've learned about myself in this process - of turning from an active musician into a meditator, then aspiring audiophile who now also happens to review gear. This latter evolution comes with its own set of curious challenges. I'll discuss them while we're at it, to explain why audio reviewing perhaps isn't all it's cracked up to be - at least when conducted in the traditionally expected fashion.