Sound of the Mundane

Photo by Kristen Sturdivant.

January 18, 2019

It's been a little while since the last blog post I made. I've been fairly busy lately, with school finally starting.

Let's talk about music. I have a decent chunk of musical experience, having played the piano for a few years, as well as dabbling in music composition. One thing that usually seems to be prevalent in my interactions with other musicians is the idea that when it comes to sound, there is a certain desirable quality to aim for.

If it's a piano, then having the notes tuned properly what is seen as "good". If it's a clarinet we're talking about, then the breathy sound that beginners sometimes produce would be considered "bad", while clear, smooth notes that the clarinet is known for are a player's goal.

What I would like to consider is an appreciation for a more inclusive variety of sounds merely the ones considered musically good. There's lots of sounds that we hear every day which hardly merit a second thought: the sounds of walking, opening doors, cars, and the like. I'm sure you can think of plenty more.

Occasionally, I've taken some time out of whatever I'm doing at the moment to simply observe, with no distractions, the sounds of what's going on around me. Unless one's in some super-silent location (which I imagine would be interesting to listen to as well), there's always some sound going on. I believe that any sound which isn't physically damaging(for example, too loud) has potential to be appreciated as much as any fine piece of music.

While you may dislike or like some sounds more than others, I, myself, would not necessarily label them as "good" or "bad" sounds inherently. The sound of traffic may be annoying because it indicates that time will be wasted, and the screeching of nails on chalk hated due to the shrill shivers it causes, but independently of associations, all sounds are just vibrating air.

Even sounds that people dislike can be utilized in art that is designed to cause discomfort—for example, a horror game or movie. I believe that there is a lot of potential in the most mundane sounds, and I'm pretty sure that plenty sound designers have put a lot of thought into how to use such sounds in their work.

Another argument for the appreciation of mundane sounds is the uniqueness of the individual listening experience. Everyone has different daily routines, and what you hear, as well as your reaction to each sound, will be different.

If you get a chance, try taking a listen to the sounds around you, no matter where you are. It may very well be interesting.

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