May I let my voice be a clarion call. I will use these words for justice. I will use these words for truth. And humour.

Monday, February 23, 2009


Some other people's thoughts on music and nature, along with my own...

While looking up a John Cage quote, I came across this page, with several interesting things to say about sound, music, musicians, and other stuff.

The two notable ones that made me most want to link to it are:
[ David Sanjek on music fans who value the tragic stories of dysfunctional musicians]: "The word 'schadenfreude' grants these lookyloos way too much dignity."

[On why he {Stephin Merritt} subverts genres]: "Because I'm embarrassed." (He added that this is also why Andy Warhol did everything the way he did.)

[On the difference between shame and embarrassment]: "You can talk about embarrassment. You cannot talk about shame."

And here's my 5-minute presentation for class tomorrow on "Why I Love the Sound of Music" (It may be a little fluffy in tone, but I stand by it as one of my truths.)

To me, all sound is musical in some way or another. According to musician John Cage, “Everything we do is music. And everywhere is the best seat.” While some sounds – the blaring repetition of a car alarm or the too-loud hum of a laptop's fan – do still qualify as music to me in the way John Cage describes, they're not the kind I like. Those sounds make me mad, because they are created from principles that mar the natural music of life. The car alarm was intentionally designed to cut through the baseline sounds introducing cacophony, and not blending with the beauty around it, just squawking. And the whir of computers, refrigerators, and the constant sound of the freeway's stream of cars are unfortunate byproducts of our culture's design that raise the noise floor, obscuring our ability to more perfectly perceive nature's music.

Frequently, I will clap my hands together when I walk into a new and interesting space. I clap not really for the purpose of dispelling evil spirits, as is the belief in some cultures, but rather just to hear the acoustic signature. Every location has an acoustic signature, but I imagine many people do not fully note the beauty of this. A hand-clap is a short, sharp sound with such a quick “attack” that it manages to carry many different frequencies of pressure waves as it propagates outward to any boundaries, where it will then bounce around before returning to the clapper's ears. At sea level, the sound's pressure wave will travel at 1100 feet/second, which means that in a cathedral like St. Mary's on Geary in San Francisco or the Cathedral of Christ the Light just north of Lake Merritt in Oakland, the sound may travel 100 feet to a wall or ceiling, then return two-tenths of a second later.

Actually, there will be the direct sound that only takes a millisecond to go the one foot from your hands to your ears, then there is the first echo, then there will be multiple echoes as the sound waves bounce back and forth. The sound is damped partially by the total distance it must travel through the air, and also by the surfaces of the walls or trees or ground as they absorb the sound. A simple example of this how is a wall made of carpet in Elvis' basement will absorb much more sound than the tiles in your bathroom. Actually, the reverberation is one of the reasons people like so much to sing in the shower. That, and the fact that the noise floor created by the shower's spray kind of covers up those off-key notes....

But even the off-key singing I like. I had a voice teacher explain to me that you want to sing each note right on key instantly, but many singers' nature is to start the note slightly flat if its in the upper registers and then sort of slide into the right pitch a fraction of a second later. To me, that's part of what is called the “attack” or the onset of a musical note. The next part is the decay, which is the portion of a note where the “voice” tapers off. This voice can be a human voice, a hammered piano string, a bowed viola string, a horn's honk, a plucked guitar string, or something entirely synthetic. Each instrument has its own unique [act with hands] attack, decay, sustain, and release.

More importantly to me is the timbre of the sound, spelled with an “i” but pronounced with an “a.” Timbre is the quality of the overtones as they relate to the fundamental pitch. Say you pluck a low E on a guitar string, you will also hear harmonics resonate at various amplitudes. There is a harmonic that occurs at half the length of the string and sounds an octave higher than the fundamental. Another harmonic occurring at 2/3rd the length of the string is the perfect fifth, and so on. Synthesizers, with their abilities of sculpting harmonic levels, feeding back, and applying low-frequency oscillators, are able to create any sound imaginable. You may play a note on an instrument, but the sound that comes out may be entirely different, depending on the timbre. With the right settings, a single note can be made to sound like a chord, or may just sound like something many people may not associate with music at all....

There's much more to say about all that's beautiful about sound, but I will just leave it at that, saying that the music to me in life is how our notes resonate and reverberate and resound. So,... Send your sound out there, and see which frequencies it resonates on, and find out how long it takes to come back.

lyrics: Something in Turkish off of a song called "Haydi Kolkola" by Grup Yorum off of The Rough Guide to Turkey

colors: 430,000,000,000,000 Hz (red) to 750,000,000,000,000 Hz (violet)

mood: Okay.

chant/prayer/mantra: May all our sound be a chorus.

pax hominibus,
agape to all,

Labels: , , , , ,

test post
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

free page hit counter