Can anyone ever experience absolute silence? Like isolate every single sound around you-including the hum of the fridge, the whirling of the wind or even your own quiet breathing? I don’t think that it is possible. Interestingly, people that have colour synaesthesia can see sounds as colours. So, if silence is really is a sound, what colour do these people see? I personally don’t think that absolute silence does not exist. But silence can be considered sound. When there is relative silence around me, my mind does not stop working though. I am thinking, remembering and sorting and that involves sound. I remember the sound of the chair scarping the ground or the sound of the coffee grinder in the morning. I don’t actually hear it but I remember it and that still is sound, so I don’t think that anyone can really, actually, truly experience silence. Sound is everywhere and even in silence we are experimenting with the sounds in our head. Many people actually practice what they are going to say aloud in their heads first before they actually say it in front of somebody. It’s a practice that most people are accustomed to and it revolves around the sounds in silence. They know what they are going to say and sound like and they mull it over in their heads before they say it aloud. I would know because I do, do that sometimes, especially when getting ready to do a presentation. Sounds are omnipresent and it’s pretty hard for you to separate yourselves from them. There are some meditational practices that try to separate sound and encompass you with silence which helps the etheric body. These are however, very sketchy and I don’t personally believe in them. Sounds make us feel alive, alert and aware of our surroundings. Our senses are heightened because of the sounds we hear around us every day. Memories, remembrances and thoughts are constantly triggered by the sounds and noises we hear on a daily basis and therefore they do play an important role in our lives. Silence also does the same and so silence in a sense is a type of sound though, essentially it is void of any sound. To test this theory I want to practice one of silence meditations. I want to try surrounding myself in silence for 10 minutes a day and see what happens. Do I still hear sounds around me or do I create the allusions to sounds around me?
So, I decided to listen to the small podcast of where the actual language of Dr. Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech is removed. All you hear during the podcast are sounds of scraping, distant voices and then the roar of applause that comes from the audience during the speech. There’s this idea that something this important such as this speech doesn’t actually lose its meaning even after removing the language. I know it sounds weird though… it’s usually the language and words that attribute the meaning and importance of something. But here, even though the actual language is gone the sounds of the applause, the shifting of paper and the distant noises all connate to something of great importance. Sometimes it’s not even the actual words that carry the meaning of something; sometimes it’s the little things that actually convey great importance. The gaps in between the Dr. King’s voices in the recording also indicate at some abruptness and urgency. The sounds indicate at the seriousness and importance of the speech even though there aren’t any actual words being said. Listening to this podcast made me realize the importance of sound even if it just is the background sounds that nobody listens to. Sounds carry meaning, emotion and communicate a message. Sounds and words almost have identical functions but they do both connote things. This could be used as a basis for a sound activity. If you took an audio piece and did no editing to it whatsoever, would it still retain its same understanding and meaning? If you had an audio of a serious topic and you had constant whispering in the background, would the message still be strong or would it be stronger if it had none of the whispering? To what extent do the background and foreground noises contribute to the overall meaning of a piece? These questions could be investigated by doing that activity and asking people about what they think and looking at these observations.
James Joyce, as many may know him, is the author of the famous work, ‘Finnegan’s Wake’. Joyce is an Irish novelist, poet and is considered to be one of the most influential writers in the early 20th century. While writing ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ is when he began to gain fame as an avant-garde writer and began to experiment with writing more. Joyce’s work with sound is less obvious and is more subtle than many other sound artists. Joyce appreciates sounds and he believes that sound is integral to writing. Even in ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ he imitates the sounds and uses them as words. In the beginning of the novel there is a hundred letter word that takes up many lines, in which Joyce tries to imitate the sounds of lightning and thunder. He recognizes the importance of sound to the scene and so integrates that into his writing. Joyce does this throughout his novel and it may not be obvious to many but that is his intention—to emphasize sounds in his writing. Many writers do not bother with the actual sounds that may go on in a scene of their work but Joyce made an effort to make his writing seem alive. In my opinion, Joyce made a real effort to add a layer of sensation and change the dynamics of his novel. He believed sound to be literature, and it is. In his poetry collection, ‘Chamber Music’ Joyce is actually referring to the sound of urine hitting the side of a chamber pot. To him that sound is literature and he took that sound, worked with it and turned it into a poem. Originally, Joyce also recorded himself reading a part of ‘Finnegan’s Wake’, stressing the sounds he wrote in and other features. If reading his work is hard, is listening to it hard too? Will we appreciate his efforts and gestures to sound more if we listened to him read it rather than us reading it? Is sound and literature really all that different? I wonder whether hearing Joyce recite his work will take away from its literary experience for readers. Joyce considers sounds to be important and is why he tries to include allusions to sounds in his writing because it enhances the reading experience. But why don’t other writers do that? Does including sounds into literature take away from its literary meaning or does it add to it? I, personally, want to see if I can write I piece where I spell out sounds and include it into the scene I’m trying to describe. I want to let people read it and ask them whether or not it enhances their reading pleasure or not. I want to see whether the sounds have an effect in literature and if it is appreciated.
Laurie Anderson is American composer, musician and experimental performance artist. She is considered to be a pioneer in electronic music and sound and she has invented herself many devices that she uses in her recordings and performances. She really does think outside the box and has found herself experimenting more and more with sounds. She is fascinated and intrigued by them and is motivated by them. So much so, that she actually invented devices to explore the world of sounds. Anderson has mainly been influenced by musicians and music which include the genres experimental music and art rock. Anderson describes herself as always trying new technologies and says that she really loves what she does because it gives her a lot of freedom and she enjoys improvisation. She just loves playing with sounds! The thing that makes Laurie stand out among other sound artists is that in her efforts to learn and explore with sound she created amazing sound inventions! She was that driven and motivated. One of her most famous inventions is the tape-bow violin, which she created in 1977. She used recorded magnetic tape on the bow of the violin instead of using the horsehair. Then she added the magnetic tape head on the bridge. She then plays this new instrument and experiments with the sounds it produces to create music! One thing that I love about Anderson and her work is that she knows that there are no boundaries with sound and that there are always new things to discover. She says that when she listens to her old songs like ‘O-Superman’ it sounds like the same place. What does she mean by that? She attributes a place and sound to her music. Sound for her isn’t just a sound, it’s an expression, it has meaning and it’s a place. What is her theory about sound? How can sound be a place? Laurie is also different in that she likes to take the things that happen around her and entwine that into her music. How do different circumstances and situations change her music and the sounds she produces? I also want to know her opinions on her own work. Why does she think that it’s important to break sound into tiny ‘grains’ and observe it? Almost like playing with putty, but this time it’s with sounds. I want to know what motivates her to come up with these inventions and techniques. I want to try her ‘granular synthesis’ technique because that sounds the most interesting and appealing to me. I want to take a sound recording of some sorts and see if I can using digital programs online, ‘chop’ the sound into tiny grains and see what I can do with those bits of sound. I want to try and slow them, increase its pitch and then rearrange the bits so it becomes a whole new recording itself. Laurie Anderson truly is an innovative and avant-garde artist and her work with sound is incredible. From her inventions to her sound techniques she really is someone who knows what she’s talking about.
Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven was a revolutionary artist that was born in Pommerania which is now a part of Poland’s border but was a part of Germany back then, on July 12, 1874. She was first exposed to art and creativity when she ran away from home and lived with her aunt in Berlin. She would often visit Bohemian theatre circles and she acquainted herself with many of the members of the exclusive group that surrounded the influential poet Stefan George. She began to experiment with artistic choices of her own, but it wasn’t until years later in 1909 when she, along with newly renamed Frederick Phillip Grove, sailed to America. There she met immigrants facing plights similar to her and wanted to create a new art forms and this allowed her to associate with other Dadaists. She was definitely not a woman of her time and she began to explore with sound a lot. She created a lot of sonic or sound poems that expressed certain feelings of hers. One of her most famous ones that got a lot of attention was her ‘Death Wail’ poem dedicated to her husband after his suicide. It was a mourning poem filled with nonsense sounds. Although, I couldn’t find a digital copy of the sound poem, many critics and commentators have described the sounds as being charged with energy. Although the sounds of the words don’t carry any meaning, the way she says them and they way she communicates them had a strong message. That is one thing that I learned, that the words you say don’t necessarily have to communicate your message. Your posture, the way you articulate the sounds and the energy you use are all equal factors in getting your message across. Reading online reviews have also referenced The Baroness to her sound poem, “Beating of Heart” which is a “sexually charged poem.” That made me wonder and question several things. How did she give the allusion to sex but made no effort to look a certain way or act a certain way? All people heard was her voice. How did she manage to take gibberish words and sounds and make it sound seductive? She was an expert in giving meaning to words and sounds that had no meaning and that was revolutionary and her efforts were appreciated. It also made me wonder about the time and culture. She lived during a time where feministic ventures were not really given much positive reception. How did she then garner such wide reception for something so new and revolutionary? What characteristics or what advantages did she have that allowed her as a woman, to accomplish so much? To answer these questions, I want to find out more about her early life and her work done in America and her associations with other artists. I want to see if I can find online any one of her sound poems and listen to it and make observations. See if what people wrote were true about her sound poems and if she really was able to communicate powerful things through just her voice and sounds.
After listening to Stephen Fry and his podcast ‘The Joy of Gibberish’ I became more fixated with the idea that gibberish is actually a language. I mean, we all speak it, but there just isn’t a specific order or structure to it and I think that’s the beauty of it. We don’t have to know what we’re saying as long as we have the freedom to say. Sometimes we all need to speak a bit of gibberish. Some people actually attribute feelings to the language that they speak. When people speak in their mother tongue, they feel that they feel secure and comforted; they associate feelings to the words they speak. Similarly, I think that we do the same with gibberish as well. When we have the freedom to express ourselves through gibberish we feel excited and liberated. Like Ms. Parrish says, when we get to make whatever noises and sounds we want, it actually is a mentally cleansing exercise. Gibberish is a language, it liberates us and we feel an affinity towards it. Sound artists also do familiarize themselves with gibberish. Even The Baroness, whom I did an investigation on, had used gibberish words and sounds in her sonic poetry to express her feelings of anxiety, anguish and happiness. Gibberish is an outlet for people to express themselves, and it gives them a chance to attribute meaning to absolutely meaningless words. Gibberish is a sign of development and is very linguistic in its nature, and therefore I absolutely believe that it is a language. How did gibberish first come about? Can you actually use gibberish to converse with people but connote your feelings with your dialect instead? That can actually be a good sound investigation. You could have two people that will actually carry out a conversation in gibberish but convey meaning, emotions and everything through the pitch, speed, repetition and dialect of the words. Will the two people be able to successfully communicate with each other? What will the results of the experiment be? In that sense, gibberish is indeed a language then. If two people can successfully use words and sounds to converse with each other then, what they’re speaking in is a language. Gibberish is an interesting thing, I mean it has no meaning but we attribute it with meaning. Isn’t that kind of antithetical? Whatever it is, we speak it and I know for sure that in that sense gibberish is a universally-spoken language.
When we went as a class on our trip to Book City, I noticed a very interesting genre of writing that I’ve never heard of. As I was skimming through covers of books, I bumped into a book, whose title I’ve incidentally forgotten, that was dystopian fiction. It also made reference to George Orwell and his take on this genre, which was his novel, ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ which was about a totalitarian society. I was intrigued because I was somewhat familiar with the works of Orwell and wanted to know more. I felt interested about dystopian fiction and wondered about what it was and if it was a conventional method of writing. Many of us may have heard about utopian fiction, which is a genre where the author writes about the creation of an ideal society and keeps this utopia as the setting. Utopian writing was very common and more than thousands were written in the English language during the twentieth century. Dystopian fiction is actually the opposite, so it’s where an author uses a degrading and horrible society as its main setting.
I thought about the cultural impact of dystopian fiction and thought about when this genre came about and how. I thought that it might have had to do with the cultural and political situations of the time that influenced many writers to write dystopian fiction. After I became a bit familiar with the genre, it reminded me of ‘The Hunger Games Trilogy’, which deals with the struggles of people who live in an uncivil and inhumane society. The trilogy is actually considered to be a young adult dystopian fiction story so, that means I have read some dystopian fiction but just didn’t realize it.
I thought about the impact of dystopian fiction and how writers manage to show different aspects of a bad society. Like in the book, ‘The Giver’ the storyline develops by first showing a utopian society and how it later progresses into a dystopian fiction. The change in perspective is cleverly written and explored in the work by Lois Lowry. This made me wonder what situations and conditions drive writers to write dystopian fiction. Is it the political and social conflicts they witness? Is it about something they want to raise awareness about it? Are writers trying to hold up a mirror up to current society? What motivates and inspires writers to write dystopian fiction? I even recognized that dystopian fiction is actually very popular right now among young adults (The Hunger Games and The Divergent trilogy), so why is that? I would actually even like to draw out a rough plot line of my very own dystopian novel 🙂