auditory

8 May, 2010 at 8:30 pm (art, books, friends, life, local) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I just finished with the flame-thrower and am waiting for the encaustic to warm up again so that I can pour yet another layer on to the piece I’m working on, while I wait I thought I’d post what Ron Black, who takes great nature photos, just sent me – pictures of our brand new pond, it’s just a baby, less than a year old.

Standing next to this pond, a small cone-shaped hill lurks in the trees to the south-west, there are acres of forest on all sides and unless a small plane flies over head you can’t see anything man-made here, even the part of the trail that is visible was made by animals. It is also the quietest part of the property.

Sometimes, standing there, I think about how much industrialization has changed the sounds we hear almost every moment of the day, even in the quiet of the night I can hear human sounds I couldn’t hear over the noise of the day – vehicles on a distant road, a train on tracks eight miles off.

I love human sounds, I live in more than one place and where I sit writing this now I can hear my old clock ticking, the neighbours to the east singing prayers, and the girls to the south happily shooting hoops. But just as looking at the ordered chaos of nature is somehow calming and energizing at the same time, the layers of sound around this pond make it hard to walk away. The soft natural sounds (when there are no tractors growling downstream) are meditative and somehow invite further listening.

As a kid I always wondered why sounds can affect the mind and emotions so much, why can music make us feel triumphant or despondent? I was reading an article about preserving areas of natural sounds, and some book reviews about silence (also this) recently, and, predictably, I thought about noise a lot when I stayed in this Buddhist monastery for a while, but this Radiolab show is my favourite exploration of sound. The range it covers in one hour is incredible, and the part where they talk about why there were angry riots when Stravinsky’s ‘Rites of Spring’ was first performed but adoration when it was performed a year later is amazing. I haven’t been able to embed the program for some reason, but here is another link, there are three parts (‘Behaves so Strangely’, ‘Sound as Touch’, and ‘Musical DNA’), they are each fantastic.

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