when i was little, until i was old enough to join them, i used to watch my parents play in the orchestra. it was often a treat because it was usually past my bedtime. i am pretty sure i remember using some of that time to explore delta high school’s stairwells and make forts under the bandroom risers. but i also spent a considerable amount of time watching the rehearsals from the middle of the auditorium in the red velvet-ish seats.
this fascination i have with sound goes all the way back to then. maybe even earlier, but the first true memory i have is from age 4, so that’s all i can really verify. i remember wondering why it was that i could look at each player and then hear that instrument. at the time, i thought that there was something magical about actually picking a player that then somehow caused their instrument to be audible. that was how it seemed, anyway. what other explanation could there be? i would close my eyes and hear the ensemble, but the moment i would look at someone, the ensemble could be deconstructed. as i grew older i would start to play more sophisticated games with myself during the rehearsals. i would close my eyes and without opening them navigate around and try to hear individuals without looking at them. this came in very handy later on when i started actually playing in ensembles and needed to listen without seeing.
i still listen this way – navigating and visualizing and exploring. i think this is why it took me so long to get into rock and punk and other genres. maybe i’ll think about that for another post.
back to physics…the thing that still blows me away is the fact that music and sound, when it gets to our ears, is nothing more than 1-dimensional (2-D if you count time, which you must), fluctuation about a zero point. and yet, by some unspeakably complicated yet ridiculously effortless mathematical process, our brains can deconvolve out of that 2-dimensional “compression” a hundred or more individual sounds, if they were originally there, and others that are introduced in the combinations. and if you practice and use two ears and high-end audio equipment, you can deconvolve a lot more than that.
the connection between these two senses – aural and visual – is still something that keeps me up at nights and keeps my mind occupied on airplanes (it’s always good to have an incessant burning question when one is forced to sit in airplanetubes). why haven’t we exploited this more? why are we so far behind when it comes to using the aural and visual together to represent, explore, and convey information? why is audio almost always relegated to conveying “feeling” or “intent” when used together with visual media? why doesn’t science use more audio?
i was just on a plane today, and i’ve been working on my sonification project, so these things are fresh. one of these days i might post a post here that is about actual music you might be interested in, but for now, i’m deep inside my psychoacoustic world.
as an aside, i was also thinking on the plane about microtonal music (still left over from last week’s explorations of the harmonic table), and wondering whether anyone had or would ever be able to pull off commercially successful microtonal rock. i couldn’t think of any bands that had done this. of course, being on a plane far far above the interwebs, you’re forced to wonder longer about things than you otherwise would. when i got to my hotel tonight i googled microtonal rock. this led me quickly to this website that confused me greatly. is there a direct connection between microtonal music and all of these topics down the left side of the page?
Body Mind and Soul
Faith and Belief
God and Religion
Law of Attraction
Life and Beyond
Love and Happiness
Peace of Mind
Peace on Earth
Spirituality and Science
Alternative Health Sitemap
Even more Wisdom
2012 – Year 2012
Life after death
Meaning of Dreams
Spiritual Art, Music & Dance
Spirituality and Health
yikes. the best part of this little investigation, though, was discovering that my friend elaine walker’s band, zia is mentioned in the “microtonalism in rock music” section on the microtonal music wiki page. a couple years ago she made a music video up on devon island, where i will be going next sunday.
there were some other bands mentioned on that page that i’m sure most of you are familiar with, so i probably don’t need to post links. from what i can tell, microtonal rock seems to be one of those things that is kind of a cool idea, but not all that great to listen to unless interlaced with considerable doses of normal 12-tone stuff. does anyone know of any exceptions in rock?
as another aside, i had dinner with justin saturday night at chuy’s in houston. we sat outside, where they were playing a pretty standard classic rock mix. these are my favorite moments with justin because we play the game wherein he tries to help me guess the song that is playing, about which, of course, he knows everything. during our roughly one-hour dinner session, he knew every single band and song except one allman brothers song (without lyrics), but he figured it out pretty quickly on his fancy new iphone. the game is made much more entertaining by my stunning lack of familiarity with this genre (see above for a clue about what i was doing instead of listening to classic rock in the 70s and 80s). for instance, he had to tell me that the singer was steve perry before i could name journey as the band. and the only other bands i got were elton john (rocket man, for obvious reasons) and the rolling stones (because i recognized mick jagger’s voice, not because i could recognize the song “painted black”).
this got me to thinking – is there a way we could have a “name that tune” contest virtually on the NAP? cuz i’m pretty sure justin would win. and i’m pretty sure i would lose.