Will and Zeke’s Davis Green Adventure

Our recording begins as we walk towards the center of the Davis green. You can hear some friendly banter between Will and I as we discuss upcoming concerts. Another prevalent noise is a constant flow of wind while we wander towards the granite benches near the sidewalk. The microphone also does a good job of picking up the dull thrum of surrounding conversation, with a few more discernible phrases interspersed within the recording. For much of the recording we can also hear Will softly strumming his guitar which provides a nice and simple background soundscape. For a short bit you can hear some clicks and pops of my beatbox in accompaniment to Will’s guitar. The long section of our interview then commences which was quite exciting and amusing for everyone involved. We then head back through the Davis center, run into an SGA booth asking for suggestions, and head through the tunnel. It cuts out halfway through the conversation because the sound file was too big to transfer from my phone voice memos.

I enjoyed the interaction of the many human voices throughout our recording because of the differences distinguishable through a reduced lens. Listening to the recording also reveals how cacophonous the more populated areas of the campus are. I was also interested in how a lot of the sounds I could hear on the recording were not exactly noticed while we were in that moment and time. I really liked this particular assignment because I got to see how much sound exists all around us that we aren’t even registering.

Resonance and the Om

Monks meditation on waterfall

 

Essential to an understanding of Buddhist and Hindu cultures, meditative practices, and religious precepts, is a comprehension of resonance. Resonance addresses how even the slightest vibrations transfer energy and subsequently cause movement to spread like ripples until the energy dissipates and the vibrations settle. Resonance also applies to sound studies because of the relationship between sound and movement. Sound waves are caused by movement and even the Brownian motion, the movement of atoms, create sound waves.

Resonance holds a place of great importance when studying these cultures because of the Om and other basic tenets found within these religions. A deep belief in the interconnectedness of the universe lies at the foundations of these two cultures. Understanding the phenomena of resonance is direly important to attaining a state of inner and outer peace is the ultimate goal. By attuning themselves to resonance through use of the Om, meditation, and learning, these peoples are also learning to control the vibrations they cause and to better receive those of others. Resonance is more than just an acoustic property to these cultures; it’s also symbolic of the ebb and flow of life and the universe, of which humans are merely specks within. By exploring resonance within these cultures I will examine these eastern cultures and the sound, mind, and body connections therein from a western intellectual perspective.

 

 

 

 

The Om is extremely important to meditative and yogic activity in both Hindu and Buddhist culture. This simple sound is intrinsically linked to the very foundations of these two religions, and is representative of the thrumming movement of the universe. This particular video captures a group of Tibetan monks chanting the Om in accompaniment with quiet bells and drums. Though the Om is not always carried out for such an extended period of time, it is often used to denote the beginning and end of different activities like praying, meditating, reciting mantras, or as a preface to a religious text.

 

 

Resonance of Mind, Resonance of Body

 

 

Questions concerning the mind, body, soul triad have for many eons puzzled humans. Consistently throughout history humans have searched for answers and balance within the three, but many to no avail. What is the appeal of these meditative states and capabilities? Well for many, it’s the inner peace and calm that is associated with the practice of such yogi activities.

Now although my research is majorly populated by the relationship aforementioned, it is another, more specific symbiosis of life that I will be examining. The main focus of this research will concern sound, mind, and body, and the interaction between the three through different practices such as meditation and yoga. As well, I will specifically explore the effects of sound, dissect them in terms of various authors, such as Schafer, Atali, Feld, and Veal. To complement my research I will also gather and create a select number of sound replications that might be associated with Buddhist and Hindi meditation.

Using the below mentioned five sources as my foundation, with possible changes to come, I will trace the cultural and spiritual history of these techniques and their sounds. Once the significance has been established and a fair understanding of the narrative of meditation throughout human history is realized, the research will then move towards more recent studies and scientific breakthroughs concerning the sound, mind, and body interaction.

The historical and cultural explorations will focus upon the Tibetan Buddhist tradition as well as the ancient Indian Hindu religion. Both of these “religions” are known to be interpreted more as ways of life, not exactly dictated religious precepts. These ways of life include a great deal of sensory (body) and mind reorientation through meditative practices. The spiritual importance of these beliefs and behaviors stems from the emphasis these ways of life put upon connection and peaceful stasis. In meditation, mind and body, including the sense of hearing, seek equilibrium. This practice has heavily influenced a great many members of this world, and the three religious texts used, Siddhartha, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, and the Baghavad-gita, will provide thorough and exciting insight into the various cultural backgrounds.

I will also address certain characteristics of sound, namely resonance, dissonance, types of sound, and other various attributes sound may possess. In this way I hope to give my readers a full historical and cultural view of meditation, and then address modern applications and neurological studies. This continuity will provide readers with a lot of interesting information to digest and to come away with. With the inclusion of different sound replications, I am sure that this topic will be easily adapted into a vibrant poster format.

My last hope for this project is that it reveals aspects of sound, mind, and body interaction that I have previously been unaware of. My greatest want is to explore this topic and find something new out. Something that will utterly change the way I think. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, it can just be a small new phenomena that I am made aware of. With this plethora of exceptional literature and research before me, it seems inevitable that new discoveries are bound to occur.

Annotated Bibliography

Coleman, Graham; Jinpa, Thupten; Dorje, Gyurme. Meditations on Living, Dying, and               Loss. New York: Penguin. 2005. Print

 

Hesse, Herman. Siddhartha. New York: Penguin, 1999. Print.

 

Kozasa, Elisa H.; Sato, Joao R.; Lacerda, Shirley S. Meditation Training Increases                    Brain Efficiency in an Attention Task”.  NeuroImage. 2 January 2012. Vol. 59,          Issue 1, Pages 745-749.

 

Prabhupada, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. Bhagavad-gita. California: Krishna Books. 1972. Print.

 

Zeldan, F., Grant, J.A. “Mindfulness Meditation-Related Pain Relief: Evidence for         Unique Brain Mechanisms in the Regulation of Pain”.  Neuroscience Letters. 29 June 2012. Vol. 520, Issue 2, Pages 165-173.

 

 

Siddhartha – The plot of this novel follows the theoretical first Buddha, Siddhartha Gotama’s, life in his development from a young and impetuous man into a being of patience, compassion, and simplicity. Herman Hesse has written extensively, specifically concerning Eastern religions and philosophies. This source adds to the sense of historical narrative that I am attempting to couple with the modern research techniques of the two scientific articles. It is intended for all, especially those searching for religious, spiritual, and ethical guidance.

 

“Mindfulness Meditation-Related Pain Relief” – This article focuses upon recent discoveries of the potential for mindfulness and mediation to be employed in pain relief practices. The five authors seem credible as well as intelligent and thorough. The article communicates abstract and difficult topics quite effectively. Most likely intended for further scholarly work and possible applications in modern day medicine. This article will be used as a source in combination with the other peer reviewed article, to establish and examine the contemporary applications and occurrences of the ancient practice of meditation.

 

Bhagavad-gita – This famous text concerns the battlefield dialogue between the Lord Sri Krsna and Arjuna. The Gita is considered a sacred “song” in Vedanta cultures. Its exploration of the religious and spiritual themes heavily associated with yoga, and its examination of yoga itself are of great interest due to their relationship of sound, mind, and body. This text adds a deeply spiritual perspective to the research that will complement the empirical studies conducted on the observable mental effects.

 

 

Meditations on Living, Dying, and Loss – This text also focuses on spiritual and ethical teachings and advice but provides a different point of view. While the Bhagavad-gita descends from an Indian Hindi culture, The Tibetan Book of the Dead is one of the great works to come out of the Buddhist milieu of Tibet. It contains much of the Buddhist lore that surrounds the origin of meditation and its spiritual precepts. It also examines the role of the senses, including hearing, in understanding of self. The editors and translators all possess preeminent degrees in their respective fields, and the Dalai Lama is the source of Tibetan Buddhist culture. I am extremely interested to see what this source will add in terms of human experience with meditation and associated beliefs.

 

“Meditation Training Increases Brain Efficiency in an Attention Task” – This study examines the attentive ability of meditators in comparison with non-meditators. In Their findings they have found that attention attribution efficiency and impulse control are increased in meditators. The relationship between meditation and sensory attunement is a direction I would like to head with this research, and I feel this article will emphasize and support this focus. This source will provide assertions and statements with factual back-up. The exploration of this phenomenon will add much credence and understanding to meditation as a practice and tradition.

 

 

A Day With Jack, My Dog

Begins: 8:09 February 9, 2013

Ends: 8:23 February 10, 2013

            This 24-hour and 14-minute section of my life begins on a frigid Vermont eve, as my dog, mom, and I jump in the car to drive home to our 20×18 Foot, waterless, three room skiing camp. It used to be a hunting camp but the moose head and rifles shipped out about eight years ago when my mom stumbled upon the hidden oasis. With a bubbling brook, willowing pines, miles of snowy kingdoms, and infrequent snowmobiles, this house has been a haven for rest, relaxation, and escape.

My day begins at 8:09 the night before with Jack quiet and unnoticed in the back, and my mom’s distinguished voice cutting in above the loud and bumpy noise of the car rattling over the road. The first two recordings capture these combatting sounds of the drive home. My mom’s voice represents all three of Chion’s methods of listening, causal, semantic, and reduced because I’m listening and I know it’s to my mom, processing the words she’s saying, and I’m also catching the strain in her voice. On the other hand, when my mom isn’t speaking the ambient sounds of the car, the tires, the gravel, and the snow, are heard as a simple causal background and don’t undergo the reduced listening gaze. This contrast between the two recordings displays an interesting correlation between what humans might consider ambient noise, and what they might focus on more readily and understand more fully. As I listen to my mom’s voice, I can’t help but hear the effort in her voice, also known as her intonation. When the ambient noise returns to the solo stage, it seems almost subconsciously ignored. Since there isn’t a human voice speaking words that have meaning, the hearing sense returns to its most basic and easiest function, causal listening. Much like Horowitz discusses, it seems as if since nothing “dangerous or wonderful is [any]where within the kilometer or so that [my] ears can detect,” I am at ease and paying very little acute attention to my surroundings (Horowitz 1). Because I was comfortable and safe in the car, my auditory alert system was diluted and fuzzier.

 Next comes a short excerpt of couch life from inside the cozy camp. The thirty-four seconds of camp ambience, represented by my mom’s cooing of my dog and her subtle typing, are overlaid with another more prominent level of sound. Whilst I was surrounded by the natural rhythms of my home, quite comfortable and at ease, I was also using technology, my laptop, to watch a short bit of BBC’s Planet Earth documentary series. The squawking of birds followed by heavy flapping and screeching exceptionally simulates a short auditory experience of a jungle. I think this soundscape would greatly interest Professor Horowitz because of his interest in the apparent attack of technology. What is most interesting is my paradox of immersing my mind in sounds and images of nature, through the use of hearing’s worst enemy: the humdrum of modern technology. Horowitz claims listening is a skill that we’re in danger of losing in a world of digital distraction an information overload,” but it seems technologically simulated nature is becoming extremely effective as we progress (2). I would question whether this is a positive or negative development in our auditory relations with our machine world and the natural world.

The next morning begins my daily maneuvers, which appear as a semi-routine when taken as a group of three. My first task, as every other morning I get the chance, I turn on my computer, rub the sleep from my eyes, put some water on to heat, and throw on Twiddle’s When it Rains it Poors. Next I scratchily get dressed for the day, today’s different though; it’s an adventure day. I pull on Under Armour, Hot Chilly leggings, warm socks, a breathable athletic shirt, and then toss on my Patagonia pullover. The shifty sounds of this short excerpt lead up to the actual boiling of the water, followed by the short pour into the teacup. With my uplifted mood and preparations both checked off for the morning, I’m ready to begin in earnest, a walk with Jack.

The earliest sounds of our excursion are my two attempts at capturing the natural stillness surrounding us. For so long, the only harsh sounds of my atmosphere are my heavy footfalls, but when they stop, a total silence encompasses my auditory world. But then, as I stop to record and take a sip or water, the faint murmur of snowmobiles approaches, and quickly grows to a harsh berating mechanical sound. Again my mind turns to Horowitz, Chion, Schafer, and maybe even Bijsterveld, as I contemplate the type of sounds, causal and reduced, their historical and cultural ramifications, and their current source: technology. This juxtaposition of silence with manmade interruption is interesting, but not alone. The very next recording captures another brief technological intrusion, the car driving by, followed by the crisp beat of my footsteps. Only between them, there is another notable exclamation of sound. My quite estranged voice, to mine own ears, cuts through the crunching snow to signal my ingrained need for lingual communication.

The walk continues a, little more organically, with Jack’s sniffing layered above the quiet birdcalls subtly crisscrossing around the immediate area. It’s an ineffable moment of natural peace and I’m grateful to have captured it. A while after, we finally reach the main road, and are immediately bombarded by the roar of commonplace automobile. Silence recaptures its hold briefly, only to have it shattered by a cluster of cars roaring by. Now Jack and I are resigned to a period of repeated and equally jarring mechanical interruptions. We amble rather soundlessly, more for the reason that the ears are forced to be ever wary of incoming cars, and unable to catch the nuances of the breezes and river nearby. A pity the Mad River couldn’t make an appearance, but maybe another day. The monotonous necessity of the causal listening reminded me of Karin Bijsterveld and her inquiries within Listening to Machines: Industrial Noise, Hearing Loss and the Cultural Meaning of Sound. Specifically, she discusses the necessity of hearing within industrial settings, but it seems to me that even two-lane Route 100 has become a hub of technologically caused noise. Everywhere, not just in the factories, are the harsh interruptions of human mechanical culture.

Luckily only about fifteen minutes go by and we find a side road, laden with quaint residences, that parallels the highway, but with a major reduction in auto-noise. This recording captures the crescendo clacking of Jack’s claws upon the gravelly and deteriorated pavement. What most interests me is the dynamic of Jack’s approach. How it goes from quiet, to a climactic and powerful sound, and suddenly dies when he reaches me, and his other goal, an ear-scratch. I found this little snippet to interest me more musically than many of the others. As a beat boxer, I am always subconsciously on the lookout for interesting sounds or effects to replicate. How I somehow managed to get my recorder going just before he trotted contentedly over to me I will never know, but will forever be thankful for. I imagine it might also interest Chion in terms of sound type and resultant effects.

To finally wrap-up this day of some mixture of companionship with Jack, nostalgia with my mom, my regular routines, serene nature, and invasive industry, a cascade of noise and refreshment washes away the trance of the auditory adventure. The shower’s surround-sound effect, coupled with the physical effects of the cleansing water sweep away the soundscape of the day. As soon as the curtain pulls closed, the sound sphere of my perception shrinks and returns to dorm-life mode. I am readying myself for the nearly constant murmur of human interaction, whether it be music, conversation, or movement. I reflect on my day and realize suddenly what a wonderful day with my dog that was. And then I decided to write about it.

 

Works Cited

Horowitz, Seth. “The Science and Art of Listening.” The New York Times, 11 Nov. 2012. Web. 11 Feb. 2013.

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

Schafer, Murray. “Open Ears.” Thinking About Sound. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 25-39. Print.

Bijsterveld, Karin. “Listening to Machines: Industrial Noise, Hearing Loss and the Cultural Meaning of Sound.” The Sound Studies Reader (2012): 152-64. Text.

 Twiddle. “When it Rains it Poors. Somewhere on the Mountain. 2011. CD.

 

Below is a sequence of my 12 recordings, played as read. Another can be found by following this Soundcloud link and starting at the bottom, and working your way up.

Driving Home on dirt road Driving Home Two Pulling i Driveway Planet Earth Watching twiddle 30 second morning Getting Dressed in the morning Pouring Tea Water Silence Penetrated by Snowmobiles Car followed by walking Sniffy Puppy Getting to edge of the road Jack Walks to Me taking a shower, Sugar loops at beginning?

Sounds of Slavery, Tension, and Industry

Like all memoirs, The Narrative Life of Frederick Douglass is written in hindsight. It is a reflection on the past and no mere imagining of the mind. Douglass’ does have a point of view, which is irrefutable, but a reader cannot help but feel that he does his utmost to write with clarity and fairness. He attempts, if not succeeds, to create a somewhat objective window into the life of a particularly lucky and contemplative slave: himself. For the purposes of this particular examination, his narrative contains two main groups of writing, and as such two collections of sound. One of which concerns the tensions Douglass found himself surrounded by during his tenure as a slave. The latter deals with moments of peace, reflection, and simplicity. By taking a period of violence in comparison with one relative peace, I hope to examine the dynamics of sounds, circumstances, and their meaning to Douglass.

As any reader peruses Douglass’ descriptions of his slave life, certain characteristics crop up time and time again. Some of these generally ubiquitous aspects fall under the heading of brutal, violent, cold, isolated, fearful, ignorant, and alone. But most hurtful of all are the occurrences that highlight the sheer powerless nature of the slaves as humans. One of the most striking and despicable examples that Douglass highlights with a tone of cold reality is found on page 14 when Mr. Gore kills Demby the slave without a second thought. After Demby stumbles to a near creek to escape the harsh crack of the whip on his fleshy back, Mr. Gore, the overseer, follows him and announces that “he would give him three calls, and that, if he did not come out at the third call, he would should him. The first call was given. Demby made no response, but stood his ground. The second and third calls were given with the same result. Mr. Gore then, without consultation or deliberation with any one, not even giving Demby an additional call, raised his musket to his face, taking deadly aim at his poor victim, and in an instant poor Demby was no more” (Douglass 14). This event can be examined through a variety of lenses, but let us turn our heads towards the juxtaposition of anticipatory silence punctured by extremely violent sounds. At the beginning of this section, a short but horrendous pattern took center stage. The sequence of outright wailing and pleading by Demby to be spared the whipping would be cut through by the vicious snap of the supersonic whip upon his soft flesh, only to be followed by screams distraught pain. This would repeat only a few times. Then a scuffling of feet would ensue only to be followed by the thump of sprinting. Afterwards an explosion of splashing would be coupled with a moan of relief as the cool water of the stream cascades down Demby’s burning whip marks. But alas, now that the spurt of resistance is over, a deathly silence falls over the group as Mr. Gore confidently approaches the stream. He tells Demby, in a low a malicious whisper, he has until the count of three to obey. Demby is now confronted with an ultimatum: life and slavery, or death and freedom. The contemplative and tense silence is broken only by Mr. Gore’s count of three. Finally, after an eternity, the stillness is shattered by the seismic crack of the gunshot and the splash of Demby’s body as he crumples. After that, silence again.

In contrast to the extremity of both silence and jarring noises, when Douglass begins working as a freeman near the end of his narrative, the sounds change entirely. Instead of combat between stillness and conglomerations of violent sounds, he finds solace in “stowing a sloop with a load of oil. It was new, dirty, and hard work for me; but I went at it with a glad heart and a willing hand. I was now my own master” (68). This moment to me is one of the most beautiful reflections within the entirety of this book. I can hear his grunts and the drop of oil canisters onto the boat. Hear the gangplank creaking as Douglass slowly advances back and forth across it. His breathing mixes with the stirring of the water below as it shifts the boat ever so slightly. Although I can’t hear it, I can see him smile. And intrinsically important to the simple peace of this moment is the cacophony of sounds from all around him. The ship is alive with action and preparations but absent of a few very important sounds. There is no whip slicing through the air. There is no holler of pain and no exclamations towards god for mercy. There is no silence, but there is peace in the shift of the ship and efforts of the workers freely performing their duties.

Whilst both scenes deal with manual labor these two excerpts differ hugely in the corresponding moods they create. One portrays violent and hateful noise cutting through the soft layer of silence encompassing fieldwork while the other features dull thrum of vibrations and activity with little excitement and much continuity. Sound occurs due to vibrations, but so does tension. In the first example, overt tension between the silences and the jolting sounds creates an atmosphere of brutality and hate. In the latter example, tension disappears. As the work gets done, very little silence slips in, but neither do startling noises violently cut through the air.