The musician is responsible. It is the musician who invented the sublime art of ruining poetry. -Satie
Repetition is a form of change. –Eno
There is no such thing as an empty space or empty time. There is always something to see, something to hear. In fact, try as we may to make silence, we cannot. –Cage
Musical evolution is paralleled by the multiplication of machines. One might suggest that pure sound, in its monotony, no longer arouses any feeling. -Russolo
Through this project I meant to explore the sociological effects of repetition on the human brain— how it simultaneously “actualizes” us, as well as “desensitizes” us to the world. I also meant to explore the ways that repetition gets used in cultural contexts (to construct identity, to resurrect memory, to preserve systems of power, etc.).
I also thought a lot about the absence of sound— or better— the myth of silence.
I have reached no final resolution, and have strayed a bit far from my initial interests. I have, however, built some tactics into my daily life that allow for temporary actualization, and an ability to exist in the present whenever it makes sense to.
In short: I started compiling audio clips of the sounds I hear every day— sounds that I tend to subconsciously phase-out, or not take notice of because they are so omnipresent. This took more work than one might think necessary…
Outdoor sound-rituals from Telegraph Ave:
Sitting outside on the corner of a busy intersection near my home with a recording device, I became hyper-aware of automobile sirens: the differing pitches and octave changes that, for instance, ambulances make compared to fire engines or police cars. I recorded motorcycle engines revving at stop-lights, the chirping noises at crosswalks that indicate when it’s ok to cross the street, shoe traction shuffling against concrete, and the low, moaning frequencies emitted from the telephone lines strung in complicated tangles above my head.
Domestic sound-rituals from Telegraph Ave:
Then I went indoors. I sat in the common-space of my house when no one else was home, and recorded the low buzz:hum of electronic devices that were left plugged in, the shifting and popping of food packages in the freezer as they reached their freezing points, the wind whistling through the tiny mesh holes of the screen-door. The heating vent above my head spit out a stream of hot air that resonated through the grate in the key of C (I had my tuner in hand). I think I also picked up some faint radio-wave vibrations and feedback signals from the wireless communication devices around me: modems, satellites, etc.
Anatomical sound-rituals from [a body] on Telegraph Ave:
Finally I went into my bedroom, unplugged every electronic device I own, closed my door and windows tight in order to block out all sound from the outside, and listened to the woosh:whirl:pound of my internal organs. I recorded my heart beat, my breath, my intestines gurgling/stomach growling.
After doing this every day for a couple weeks, I realized that I was creating a type of symphony; when I dubbed all the tracks on top of each other, a complex harmony/melody progression emerged from the clamor. The sounds became symbiotic, interacting and intermingling with each other like different sections of an orchestra.
The act of combining the daily rhythms of unmetered (and sometimes accidental) sound, with the rhythms of my internal body, allowed me to appreciate repetition in a more complex way than I ever have before. It allowed me to tap into the fact that through this act of defying desensitization at chosen moments, I could use repetition to generate a feeling of synchronistic affinity with the world around me.
I’m not suggesting there was anything supernatural about this experience— only that there seems to be a rhythmic correlation between the noises that happen inside and outside of my body. Maybe my body has adapted to the rhythms of its surroundings? Maybe my ears picked up and honed in on common rhythms that were only there by coincidence? Who knows, but it’s interesting to think about the ways that the collapse of industrial-capitalism may change the tempo of our heart beats, the cadence of our breath.
Often, I found myself thinking about Sound and its relationship with Music— about the specific sets of repetition our ears have been trained to respond to positively. Song structures have morphed throughout history to mainly involve the components of consistent melodies, monotonous harmonies, and repetitive chorus breaks. Minus the bridge-section of a song, this structure of repeated sounds comprises most of the contemporary music we are exposed to. It has been said that this has come to be not only because such song patterns are easy to memorize, but also because performing them in combination with repeating rhythms, has intensely moving psychological effects (that are sometimes meditative or potentially trance-inducing).
With that said, it feels important to take note of the ways that globalization, imperialism, and Eurocentric influences have dominated the forms of media we have access too, and set strict limitations about what pleasing song structures “should” sound like.
I say this to denaturalize the statements often made by music-theorists about the universality of a collective human response to certain song structures. As a Westerner, I understand and relate to this repetitive style of audio-organization because of the socialization I’ve received…though I don’t always conform to it when making my own music.
Love & Revolt,