Due Wednesday, September 05, 2012
The sound of silence
“A horrid stillness first invades the ear, and in that silence we the tempest fear”(Dryden, 7). Silence inevitably starts with a sound, which either goes off very slowly, or ends in a Swift movement; and it ends the same way it started, with noise. Noise, sound, our perception of both has changed since they were recognized and “categorized” as such. People see this soundscape changing; our awareness is evolving, and prompting that change. What we categorize as noise has influenced our music or maybe our perception was influenced by our circumstances and thus changed music. Attempts at analyzing these changes have come out with completely opposite approaches. On one side is Schafer, best known for introducing the concept of soundscape, and his wish to going back to Apollonian music, music that was natural, calm, and soothing; and on the other is Russolo, an early 1900’s artist and futurist that argued for embracing the new sounds that man and machine were making, and make away with the old and used up music of the day, new was good and old was bad. Should we contain this avalanche of noises before our perception of real sound is destroyed? Or should we embrace these “noises” like the raw and energetic side of sound? The clank of machines, sound of cars, the hammering sound of our own heart, the harmony, the dissonance, the rhythm; it all comes to us or from us. We should welcome all sounds and strive to understand them. What sound and noise give us is mainly context. People can be overwhelmed by context. They are put in a position where everything that is happening, what everyone is doing, where they are standing, is thrust into their minds in a single line of sound; a cacophony, as the brain interprets it. As the animal instinct is still a part of us, we cringe from such awareness of others. Our brains have been trained to have only one focus, when more things try for our attention, our brain gets lost in the tunnel it has constructed. Our attention has no idea where to go, what to “see” and what to ignore. We are lost in context. So we find ways to stop the flow of information from overpowering our mind. Some people just turn off the soundscape; they push it all to the back of their minds, they make the tunnel stronger. These people are at the greatest loss; they may be able to concentrate better on the thing they are doing or thinking, but all around them is merely a mass of grey. When you choose to be deaf to most of the world, the world forgets about you. Soon neither world nor you can find a connection. “People around me walk and walk, they train their eyes on the horizon and walk their walk, aimed at a distant destination, not seeing what they pass, not thinking where they thread. Zombies they are, unaware of the world and lost to the void. I sometimes feel a glance in my direction, I smile; for one second, feelings come back to those masks and cracks appear as smiles make their way to the surface of their beings. Not all is lost; but most of it is as I turn around and their faces return to that stone-like expression.” Some people suppress sound with sound. It is not the same as tunneling, mind you, since sound is not suppressed by our subconscious, but changed. We give our mind a string of recognizable, understandable, pleasant sounds (music, rhythms, stories, mantras, whale sounds, etc.) that is going to take away the other distracting sounds, leaving us with our thoughts and that other chosen sound (plus the really loud or close sounds around us, albeit diminished greatly). This, of course, is a great strain on the ears and research estimates the main users of this method, teenagers (teenagers from the 90’s are not teenagers anymore but…ok) are getting irreversible damage to their hearing. Connections to the world suffer, but are not severed;...