In class we discussed noises in the form of a heartbeat (a connection to my anatomy course last quarter in which we needed to be able to analyze electroencephalograms, or EEGs), frequencies, vibrations, and the scale of a sound. As my life is constantly filled with music and exuberant voices, the sounds of walking in a bustling city, and birds chirping outside my window, I decided to focus a little bit more on the larger scale in order to dissect my life and the way it relates to the noises I constantly hear around me. I used my phone to collect audio recordings of the noise of my life and the songs I sing.
Music has always played a huge role in my life. I have been involved in various theater productions since my childhood (hence the title of this blog post), wherein music was heavily intertwined with dialogue, and I grew to love the world of performance art and musicals. Additionally, I play several different instruments such as violin (shoutout Mrs. Ahn…@Brian Cheng and I actually had the same violin instructor), piano, ukulele, and guitar, and I served as the concertmaster for my local orchestra. So vibrations and frequencies—learning to produce the purest and most beautiful sounds—have been a source of both stress and an outlet for creativity for the majority of my life.
Currently I am also a theater minor, and we are always interested in diction and pronunciation—the inflection, cadence, and emphasis we put on certain words is a particular point of analysis during many a discussion section. I am also in an a cappella group on campus called Deviant Voices A Cappella (catch us performing at the Beat ‘SC Bonfire back in 2019, as well as Spring Sing 2021!), so it is always a joy to learn the music and harmonize with my friends in order to produce a large and cohesive song piece. Some audio is saved that highlights the difference of just me singing to how it sounds when it is mixed and mastered in an arrangement that makes all of our voices sound like instruments of their own!
And like most people my age, I like to pretend that I am the main character of my very own indie hipster film by playing soundtracks to every little thing I do—I romanticize doing laundry and dishes by playing Studio Ghibli instrumentals or acoustic K-pop songs, I often like to get ready in the morning by playing Taylor Swift (starting my day off right!), and I often study to the sound of either chill Lo-fi beats, intensely fast-paced classical music if I am studying on a deadline, and even Mario Kart music to get myself stressed out enough to work more efficiently. I love making Spotify playlists of my favorite songs that pertain to a certain season or aesthetic vibe—what constitutes an evening song versus a morning song, or a productive song versus a sleepy song? Why do I get a sudden urge to listen to some songs at certain points of the day, and not others?
Speaking of Taylor Swift and music industry bureaucracy through my Spotify playlists, I started to think a little bit more about ownership of sound. There is a hot debate about Taylor Swift re-recording her old masters after her old record label took advantage of her by monopolizing her music and not allowing her to take ownership of her own music (her master recordings), thereby profiting off of her creativity. It is so odd to me that there is an industry that is based on the commodification of sound—that money, capitalism, and even deceitful tactics are so closely intertwined with music. I am of the opinion that artists should own the rights to their creative endeavors, and that music as a whole is something that shouldn’t even have a price tag attached to it—a concept that will most likely never come to fruition.
But I also thought a little bit more about the natural sounds around me that I would not have acknowledged otherwise. Simple sounds like the first conscious breath I take in the morning, rustling noises as I shift around to get up out of my warm bed, the sound of the faucet turning as I brush my teeth, boiling water and letting my tea steep for a while, the typing of my keyboard when I go to work or listen to Zoom lectures, cooking an avocado and vegan egg sandwich for myself, getting into the car and waiting in line for my second dose of the Moderna vaccine…all noises I took for granted. Even noise perception—how far away or nearby a sound is and how that affects my balance—is a sense that I would not think about unless specifically asked to do so, or unless it is not there at all. I have a friend who is highly interested in ASL and learning to provide better opportunities and accommodations in campus policy for the deaf community, and her work always proves to make me more conscious of the gift that is my ears and my ability to not only listen to sound but appreciate its beauty when manipulated into song.