Headphoneless Day – Pre Statement

So I progressively realized how I, subconsciously, considered the transit time between home and work, home and university, and work and university to be “dead” or uninteresting, in need to be “given life” and interest by adding music. It was such a need that if I reached the subway station (about a block from home, not much but here in SP you’re always in a hurry) and I noticed my headphones were left forgotten at home, I’d immediately return to get them as if the thought of going through the next hour jumping through subway lines without the comfortably sound exhaling from my headphones to my ears would be unbearable.

That being the case and coincidentaly influenced by recent readings I’ve come upon on which authors constantly remind us how reconsctructing a “ear of the past” is hard work because, again, the historical and technical preponderance of the visual realm, I’ve decided to perform a little, maybe even unsignificant experiment. For a day (Just for starters, maybe?) I’ll fly solo without my head companions and, well, just really listen.

Maybe the practicity of headphones gave us the power to mold to our will how we want our private sonic space to be and sound. Even on public transportation it’s easy to find headsigns prohibiting “public” music, enforcing the existence of this sonic personal bubble.

Probably headphones have been massively (I mean access to everyone, independently of social or economic conditions) around for about 12 years, a very recent phenonemon. But let’s take into account how technology almost instantly shifts our understanding of the world, for example if we think at how outdated an iphone 4 might seem nowadays, or how having a radio at home seems quite reliquely. And to think about how much of the sonic world could have changed, not only of the sounds brought by the new technical and digital discourses but also sounds such as the chant of train vendors, people that resorted to street commerce (ilegal in Brazil) to provide to their family victims of the economic clash; or uncertain detection of accents driven by the cultural globalization taking place, among others.

As my addiction to headphones kicks in, who knows, maybe I could shoot to identify this “sonic substance”, or substances, my brain craves for which numbs my oscious time, as if the silence, or its lack of, provoked a state of mind that we simply can’t or don’t want to handle.

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Underestimated

As a child that grew up in Colombia I have some very vivid memories that I realize now have a strong aural charge.

I recall the beautiful times around christmas where families would join together to pray the novena, a christian tradition consisting on gathering to pray together the 9 days (nueve = nine in spanish)before the birth of Jesus Christ. This tradition, I have now realized, is overwhelmed by sonic events that are more than just ponctual characteristics, it is actually the very essence of this spiritual event. We could argue and analyze systematically and whatsoever about the social or religious principles that justify why I think of this tradition as being aural to it’s very core, but there’s the catch. This meaning is not constructed by analysis or thinking about it reaching out to rational conclusions, instead this meaning is justified from experience, from being part of this tradition for 26 years of my life and how my recent incursions in sound studies has led me to trigger different concepts and points of views towards the neverstopping sonid realm which permeated our entire lifes (and so, who we are) almost unnoticeably.

So here I am roaming around online when I become aware that I’m humming a melody. It’s strange because is the very strangeness produced by aknowledging the melody that strucks me out of the inertial state of my tired mind. Before even thinking rationally, if I may, about the melody, trying to identify it’s source or the first contact with it, I’m immediately brought back 12 years ago. For a few brief seconds before I’m Platoed back into awareness I recall with perfection the sonic environment created by the coexistence of diverse elements which, I realized, was the whole essence of the event. It was not the spiritual messages organized on four-line paragraphs (called Gozos) which tradition demands to read one and pass the book for your cousin besides you to read the next, it was actually the very sonority of the rhymes and rythm so typical of an uncle or grandmother who have read and known this text for decades. It was not the melody of the “tutaina tuturumá” song which could not be missed to be sung, but the cacophony of pitches to which our untrained musically family members (in my case pretty much all of them) sang cheerfully. Sound was there all the time. Sound was the shape giver.

Memory first recalled sound, which recalled the visual and only then the actual text. We are slowly and shamefully perceiving how overlooked and underestimated the aural has been. We ought to open our minds (and ears!) and surprise ourselves with our findings.

Wouldn’t surprise me at all if we find out that we shouldn’t have looked for the meaning of everything, instead we should have listened for it.

Sound studies paradigm

Academia has in it’s very core textual production and difusion of information. In my view this still is, dubiously, a visual system. So could we say thay Sound Studies, with the whole discourse of the predominancy of the eye throughout the history of mankind, is contradicting itself by creating knowledge that is very much attained visually? Or sound academics are very aware of this and are taking advantage of it to gradually migrate to an all-around sonic knowledge and scholastic system? How could this new dimension come to be?

Sound is overwhelming

M. Schafer has been widely critiqued for his romantiziced (maybe?) throw on the concept of soundscape. But what if his point of view is more actual than we think? I mean, sound by being sound means that, unlike vision, we are always immersed in it not being able to clog our ears to keep it from invading our private space. But could it be that, because of this fundamental quality of sound, we seek control over it and this is crystal clear by being aware of our obsessive use of headphones on everyday tasks and locomotion? Maybe, just maybe, we are unconsciously overwhelmed by our actual “soundscape” and there is no other exit but to create our own virtual escape?

Interaction – Enaction

“As life becomes increasingly virtual, played out on screens of varying sizes, we need reminding that the connection between mind and body is two-way. Human intelligence is more than abstract processing power; it’s about the interaction between mind, body and the world around us.”

Jeremy Dean