The Takers and Sound

Reading some articles in this book recently has made me more thoughtful about the way we perceive sound. I recall watching a TED talk by Evelyn Glennie some years ago, in which she speaks about how our ears are simply one way through which we perceive sound – in actual fact our entire body can be developed to become a natural resonator, allowing us a more full experience of sound. This approach is used with Deaf and hearing-impaired children as described in the book, with very encouraging and positive results. Just the simple act of being able to listen opens the door to so many other areas of development: self-awareness, self-perception, physical awareness, communication, acquisition of language, etc.

 

I also recently read this book:

Put two seemingly unrelated books together, and this thought emerged:

Even our culture of sound has become overridden by Taker Culture!

 

What used to be was that music and sound was part of everyday life. If people wanted music, they simply made music. No wait – they did not have the need to WANT music. Sound was simply part of their landscape, their living, their breathing. They took part in the creation of it, as natural as their breathing was a part of them.There was no divide between performers and audiences, players and listeners. Music was Life. For example, we know that many native African tribal cultures (example of leaver cultures) do not have a separate word for Music. To them, it is in inseparable from life and living.

But taker culture has taken it apart, like all other things thought as unrelated to production. In taker culture, sound and music has been transformed into a commodity, an industry, a product, and in some instances, a tool. And to gain full control over this tool and resource, technology has been developed so that takers can use sound at their whim and fancy.

Soundbites to win votes. Hypnotic beats to lure people into clubs. Catchy choruses to entice shoppers to buy more things in the malls. Jingles to make a product look attractive.

There is a positive side, yes. With the technology of recording, availability of speakers and music players, sound has definitely become more accessible. Popular music can connect people, even if they live halfway across the world from each other. Classical music lives on in CDs and box sets. Even the music of leaver cultures can become immortalized through recordings. And everything becomes so convenient – unlike our leaver ancestors, we do not need to physically produce the music – we can simply press a button and our devices do the work for us.

But… at what price?

I can’t help but feel that this convenience, this ready availability of sound and music around us… has dulled our senses.

We are so used to hearing music through speakers and headphones that we are less sensitive to the vibration of an acoustic instrument, less likely to become immersed in those subtle vibrations. We have forgotten the depth of connection possible when we sing or dance in a group, as we are so used to directing our attention to the performer on stage. We have become so convinced by Mother Culture that to make music needs “specialized training”, that we cannot imagine what it is like to live otherwise. To sing and dance uninhibitedly would be considered barbaric, a reminder of our leaver ancestors, and we don’t want to go down that road again, do we? So we shut ourselves in on this side of the divide, and continue to deny ourselves the full experience of sound, content to let our machines and devices do the job.

Ironically, it may be those who are denied the normal function of their ears who get to really experience the full subtlety and beauty of sound and all its layers of acoustics and vibrations.

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