Commonality and Repetition

After beginning ones college life, it is very easy to notice all that is perceived can be boiled down into two categories: that which is static, and that which is changing. Static perceptions can be seen as constant, but not in the sense that there is no break from their presence. These perceptions are, instead, repetitive and dull from achieving a label of ‘usual’. Even the most chaotic of environments, given time, can morph into background static. Taking from the work of Karen Bijsterveld, quoting Doron K. Antrim, “‘the ear tends to follow’ the agreeable ‘regular tonal pulsations’ of music and ‘ to forget’ the irritating and fatiguing ‘regular pulsations’ of noise” (Bijsterveld 156). The audiography I have assembled, Static, explores the constant sounds of my life and the way I listen to these sounds.

Tracks like “That Darn Alarm”, “Morning Shower” and “Genetics Homework” are examples of sounds that, while being heard and recognized, do not entirely register. The shower, the sounds of pencil on paper and the alarm, used solely by my roommate, are all sounds that I no longer pay attention to, simply because of their lack of importance and, in the case of the alarm, because I rarely get up when my roommate does. In the words of Set Horowitz, “[I] keep most sounds off [my] cognitive radar unless they might be of use as a signal” (Horowitz, 4). Static sounds that hold no importance to me often go unnoticed, even if they are heard.

There are two examples of ambiance included in my audiography, displaying two different settings that are experienced in similar ways. While the background noise in my room tends to be quiet at times, the Marche is loud and full of voices and music. As different as these environments are, I ‘hear’ similarly in both. The sounds of the radiator and wind outside are dimmed out just as the conversations and music are in the Marche. Both of the sounds experienced in these areas, heard on an everyday basis, have little significance and are diminished to give way to other sounds that I may cognitively find important.

The track “Suitemate Playing Guitar” is an example of a sound that is heard often in my suite. My suitemate likes serenades us with songs he has written (or like this case, songs we have requested) and often I have found myself semiconsciously using the character of his songs as an indicator for his mood. This act of using semantic listening, something Chion describes as listening for “a code or language to interpret a message” (Chion, 50), is one way the common sounds of my life and translated into something meaningful.

Practice” is a track capturing the work I do at the music center on a daily basis. The amount of time spent playing the instrument have left me familiar with it and the music, but unlike the other examples, the familiarity with the sounds has not left me unaware to what is being played. On the contrary, I often listen harder to understand what I am playing and what must be done to improve my interpretation of the piece. Another example of semantic listening, I often pull meaning from the emotions the composer is trying to convey through the music to try and better perform the pieces. Using causal listening, which Chion describes as“listening to a sound in order to gather information about its cause or source” (Chion, 48), I often have to identify what is being played wrong in order to fix it. The variety of listening methods used while practicing make practicing it something common but not off the radar.

The sounds that are heard on a common basis often go unnoticed, often existing in the background but given no thought. Some are continuous, others are repetitive, but most of these sounds are ignored to leave more room to focus on sounds that we are unaccustomed to. When we do listen to the sounds we have diminished in recognition, we employ a variety of techniques suited to analyze and process the sounds, in the hope that we may gleam meaning from the underlying patterns and repetitions.


Works Cited

Bijsterveld, Karin. “Listening to Machines.” The Sound Studies Reader. Jonathan Sterne. New York: Routledge, 2012. 152-167. Print.

Chion, Michel. “The Three Listening Modes.” The Sound Studies Reader. Jonathan Sterne. New York: Routledge, 2012. 48-53. Print.

Horowitz, Seth. “The Science and Art of Listening.” New York Times. 9 Nov 2012. Web.



2 thoughts on “Commonality and Repetition

  1. The governing idea behind your collection of sounds is interesting and very relevant, I think. You describe the modes of listening you use while practicing music; do you think that in some way you also use reduced listening?

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