Sound Study - Sterility and Dynamism

In order to gather my recordings for my blog I recorded them using 'voice memos' on my phone - as such the quality is perhaps somewhat lacking, but I think it does the job well enough.

I began my exploration of the sounds of my environment within my room (Joshua_Doland_Sterility). Sonically speaking my room is quite still, broken only by the mechanical clicking of the clock on my wall. This makes the room feel almost suppressed and subdued, as the normal everyday din of outside noises has been quelled. While this makes for a good working environment, allowing me to focus on my schoolwork, it strikes me as in some ways artificial - something which I became increasingly aware of as I examined the sonic landscape of other parts of my environment. 

After spending some time within my room, I decided to head into my backyard and listen for a while (Joshua_Doland_Dynamo). Coming from my room, I was struck by the complex web of sounds I was confronted with - we can immediately hear the wind rustling through the trees, the sounds of me stepping into dried grass as well as the faint sounds of moving water and distant cars accelerating. I found my dog on our lawn, where I pet him, listening to the sounds that his fur made as it was disrupted - and then punctuating this moment by standing back up, with a sharp crack of my knees and ankles.

While my room had given me a sort of sterile sense of quietness, almost like an operating theater, the ambience of my outside space seemed ever shifting and somehow interrelated. The birds called to each other, like accents which layed upon the steady winds and sounds of water. 

At one point while I was outside an airplane flew somewhere nearby (Joshua_Doland_Overpowering). The sound was immense, drowning out the wind and water and silencing the birds calls. I was really struck at how radically the environment around me change as this overpowering and rather intrusive sound dominated the stage. Sometimes, people who don't understand or refuse to do anything about climate change will rehearse an argument along the lines that humans couldn't possible have a big enough impact to change the climate itself, alleging that it was hubris to think so. I reserve the greatest contempt for these individuals, and this experience really drove that home for me - we are capable of creating things of awe-striking magnitude. Even this plane can itself change the entire landscape around me - I think it no reach of the imagination that humans can affect the world in great and sometime grievous ways. 

After the plane left I stayed outside for quite some time, and then decided that this assignment would be a great excuse to break out my clarinet. While I played clarinet for quite a number of years, since quarantine I've neglected my practice and as such was quite rusty. I brought my case outside and began assembling (Joshua_Doland_Ubiquity). Now that I was more cued into the sounds of my surroundings, I began to realize that near everything I did made some kind of noise. My shifting on the outside chair, my light breathing, the faint beating of my heart in my chest, and the sounds of my clarinet as I constructed it. You can hear in the audio assignment the squeaking of my clarinet case, as well as the gripping sound of the cork as I connected the mouthpiece to the barrel, the barrel to the upper body, to the lower body and to the bell. I withdrew the reed from its plastic sleeve, wet it in my mouth, and then centered it in my mouth piece ready to play for the first time in over a year. 

Before playing a note however, I first tried to center my breath, trying to imagine my chest filling from the bottom with air, spreading throughout my lungs, before the smoothly transitioning to breathing out once again (Joshua_Doland_Breathing). I was sort of surprised and how much worse my breathing had gotten - I was aware that my lung capacity had greatly diminished since I stopped practicing, but taking the time to do this breathing exercise, I really understood how rust I was. 

It was with great trepidation then that I played a few noted (Joshua_Doland_Clarinet). I was relieved to find that I was still capable of playing, though of course my performance was lacking in various ways. Playing my instrument in concert with my environment really made me feel more centered with my sonic landscape - I tried to play along with wind blowing and the birds chirping. While my neighbors were likely less impressed, I had a lovely afternoon becoming reacquainted with my instrument.

Overall I had a great time preparing this blog - I became more centered and aware of the sounds around me, both of the sterility and artificial peace of my room, as well as the ever changing ensembles of the outdoors, which shift from a din of discordant sounds to symphony of parts arranged in tandem. I'm happy that I picked my clarinet up again, and I plan to continue to get back up to speed on it. All in all, a very fulfilling afternoon.