‘Sound’, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is the “mechanical radiant energy that is transmitted by longitudinal pressure waves in a material medium (such as air) and is the objective cause of hearing” (1).
Today, I took part in the extra credit Physical Chemistry Seminar by professor Andrew Pelling. When I first saw the title of the presentation, I assumed that I would encounter several concepts that I already knew about. However, I was in for a surprise!
I’m really glad to have the incentive to take part in these workshops. While I knew before that they existed, I never took part in them, but now that i participate in them, I get the chance to learn about so many fascinating things that intelligent and accomplished individuals achieve in their fields.
I recently purchased a keyboard and I wanted to try out some different sounds while playing the same line on my keyboard. The same device is capable of producing such a wide variety of vibrations, so I wanted to experiment with them and see how they resonated with me and my playing.
I started with traditional piano, playing the song as the composer originally intended. The arpeggios sounded natural and flowey. I've played it with this sound many times, and it felt comfortable to play.
For this assignment, I took a walk around Westwood near the ice cream shop Saffron & Rose. The farther I walked from the shopping center, the closer I got to a residential neighborhood, and in that neighborhood was more nature compared to the shopping center.
I once saw an NCIS episode in which a blind character could detect one of the detective’s emotional state, just based on a tiny change in his voice. The detective was surprised how she essentially figured out his facial expression and emotions without seeing him, and she replied that blind people could hear better. I was very interested in how blindness could indeed be compensated for in a way by having other senses become more sensitive to stimuli.
In this week’s lecture, we learned about different types of rhythms, sounds, and frequencies within our body. We explored topics like the circadian rhythm, brain waves, heart rhythm, and sound frequencies that we could hear. Circadian rhythms are 24-hour cycles that are part of the body’s internal clock that runs in the background for our essential functions and processes.
Something that deeply resonated with me from lectures was the concept of noise bleaching in our oceans. I’ve always imagined these large bodies of water to be an ecosystem thriving in silence. When I jump into a pool, I am instantly muffled from the bustling that occurs above water level. I derived great joy from the brief escapism, so for as long as I could long my breath, I would swim along the pool floor.
I currently live in a studio apartment in Westwood with my sister and another roommate. So one thing that I have noticed is that there is constantly some kind of sound or noise happening in the apartment. Whether it is the microwave, the food sizzling on the stove, the kettle heating up, or the clicks of the keyboards on our computers, there is always some kind of noise or rhythm everyday.
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.
As a pianist, I feel like I’m quite attuned to sound, especially rhythm and harmonies in music. But I wanted to use this assignment to catalog sounds from ordinary, everyday life. I decided to go on a “sound walk”, similar to what we did for our serendipity expedition in Week 2 and mycomythology walk in Week 4, only this time with sound. I kind of created a sound map, using each interesting sound as my next destination.
Sound 1, Sunset Village:
This week made me consider noise and how my world is constructed around noise in a way I never had before. I've given some thought to how noise is used in movies and TV: a pounding heartbeat in medical dramas to amp up the tension, ominous minor-key music in thrillers. A recent horror movie I watched, Muted, in which the protagonist is deaf and to highlight how this impacted their experiences in the movie most of the movie was silent, made me especially conscious of how noise or the lack of noise impacts life and interactions.
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.
In class last week we not only talked about heartbeat and noise frequencies, we also discussed scale. In class we talked about sound on a small scale and how it relates to life and vibration so for my assignment I decided to use sound on a larger scale.
I had a hard time figuring out what audio to record for this blog. The concept of soundwaves is very complex, and as a musician, I rarely think of sound from a scientific perspective (except when I’m in physics class). Sound is everywhere, and if you really think about it, there is no such thing as silence. For instance, in John Cage’s famous 4’33”, the performer never touches a single key on the piano, yet the music produced from the piece is different every time.