Wednesday, November 04, 2015

The Essence Of Sound

The Essence Of Sound

So, I had this thought last night that sound and music might not be so much about what you hear as it is about what you feel. Could sound, be it simple noise or complex music, be a cue to not something travelling inwards so much as something travelling outwards? Is the key to how we respond to the events of our lives based on how we somehow transform experience into sound, a sound inside our head that effectively defines whether we will react positively, negatively, or in some cases, not respond at all?

I still remember an incident that took place when I was a young lad in a rock band.

"Ralphie? What's up, buddy?"

"I got you guys a gig for next Friday night."

"Cool. Where are we playing?"

"Well, it's at the Deaf School out on Stafford."

"Ha ha ... Ralphie. God you're an ass."

"Hey, I kid you not. You're booked for four hours. $250."

"Ralphie, we can't play at a deaf school. No one will hear us."

"They don't need to hear you. Trust me, you'll be a sensation."
Before we played that gig, I remember wondering if everyone would just be standing around and watching us, a group of guys jumping around the stage, all the while imagining, of course, that we were The Rolling Stones.

Was I ever wrong — about the audience that is — well, OK, about us looking like the Stones as well, I guess.

The point is that those kids danced and flailed all through the night. When we played fast songs, they shuffled and jived, twisted and turned in perfect synch with the beat. When we played a slow song, they seemed to know the tempo was Adagio, and snuggled up with each other as if we were inviting them to coax one another into one of those knots of romance.

It was very cool. Those kids didn't hear anything, but they somehow felt the sound and expressed it in their dancing.

So, I remembered that last night, and it got me thinking. Sound and music ... how does it travel through space?

Waves, you'll say, probably remembering your Grade 10 Physics classes.

Well, I'm no physicist, so let's scrap the sound waves theory. I live by the philosophy that "What you can't see, can't be." Simple.

And that brings me to the underlying question. How is sound visibly a part of who we are?

Yes, it's a bit ethereal, I know. Not like me at all.

Still, if you hear a scream in the night, do you not see that scream as well? If you hear a young child's laughter, well, there you go, you're already seeing it, aren't you? And all I did was describe it in words.

Now imagine what happens when many sounds become a song. You hear the fusion of these sounds, but sometimes you see that fusion as every hope, memory, desire, pain, dream you've ever had. Something as commonplace as a familiar song somehow can resonate in a way that affects the very essence of who you were, are, and will become. Why? Because you use sound as a way of understanding and reacting to all your experiences in life. You embody a soundtrack that includes a wide range of sounds and songs. What you experience outside yourself clicks a combination of keys on the jukebox inside you, and out comes the right song for every occasion.

Yes, you are an ensemble of one kind or another. Some of you are slightly off-key, some discordant, some with absolutely no sense of rhythm, some with perfect pitch, but everyone resonates in a special way. You ring, whine, tap, purr, squeak, hum, and on and on. You are a composite of a whole range of sounds. These sounds fuse into your playlist of songs, and you carry that playlist wherever you go. It's like you're a living vibration of sounds and tones that you send out into the world around you — whether it be best described as a full symphony orchestra, a three piece jazz band, or a street-corner busker. Your song collection is as unique as you are.

Tones. You create tones. Tones that scale up an octave or down an octave, but, really, what's the difference? The sound you create will be as fickle as your moods, because your emotions generate such beautiful and such terrifying sounds. Think of how we punctuate our emotions with laughter, with groans, with screams, with sobs. Think of how we adopt a different "tone of voice" for different responses to different situations. These tones hover in the recesses of a soundtrack we have gathered over time. This soundtrack never falters, never fails you. Your inner life and your playlist of responses are simply one in the same.

I have absolutely no doubt that others see you more in terms of the sounds you make, the song you carry, than in any other way.

So, see your sounds as they pour out from you, even when you are most silent. See how fear rings like an alarm bell, see how hope purrs as it exhales from your lungs, see how love jumps with a startled twist of the head when your song discovers an unexpected harmony in the song of another.

You. You create sound. And in your interaction with others, you colour your relationships with that sound. Not sure that a salesperson is being completely honest with you? Cymbals and bells crash and clash in a cacophony of noise. Certain that that special someone truly loves you? Ah, let the violins begin. Everything you do is punctuated by, at the very least, a simple sound, and at the best, a complete song or even an entire range of songs. Your sounds and songs cannot exist separate from you and echo through you and from you until the day ...

Ah yes, that day ... the day your ol' bass drum stops beating, and the sound and the song that is you appears to have come to an end.

But it never ends, you know. It never ends. You'll see ... it's not something that I can explain to you, but you will see ...

Sound is not like water. It does not evaporate or change form. The sound and the song that is you carries on and on ... echoing, I suspect, in the forever.



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