Sound Without Words

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.


Laurie Anderson—An Inventor and Pioneer in Sound Artistry

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.

Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven— A True Baroness

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.