Silence and Noise

March 1, 2012

After our encounter with Japanese noise music last class, I struggled a bit with the idea of music – and why such an apparent lack of melody and typical musical structure appeals to some listeners.  Similarly, I wondered why something explicitly called “noise”, composed of such aesthetically troubling sounds, can be considered music. But then, much music that I consider astounding has been deemed horrific by other listeners.  As I’ve been pondering this relationship and examining my own listening habits and preferences, today, in another class, a professor proclaimed that “if there were no silence in music, it would just be noise – a long scream!” I think she really hit the nail on the head (although she wasn’t talking about noise music in particular).  Her statement was similar to what was said a few classes ago, noting the relationship between sound and silence, and how the lack of one makes the other extremely disconcerting, to say the least.  I think what my professor said epitomizes the conventional view of the relationship between sound and silence, and the result if one is diminished to the point of vanishing.  In order to find the most appealing balance of sound and silence, boundaries must be pushed and combinations of the two conditions must be experimentally toyed with.  From concerts that lack deliberately produced sounds, to performances that contain screaming guitars but little to no silence, we can only locate the borders of what is we consider “musical” after having crossed them into the realm of excessive silence or chaotically noise.

On an entirely unrelated note, everybody who lives in my house is currently complaining about a faint car alarm going off on Dryden Road.  Again, once a strange and repetitive noise was drawn to our attention, we couldn’t remove it from our consciousness and relegate it to to something we hear but don’t actively listen to.  I’m a bit dismayed at how much attention this meaningless noise demands from us, and how we are unable to adapt and begin to ignore it.

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