Do you really listen?

Sound is a strange concept when you really think about. We are so oblivious to the meanings of sound as we go through our everyday lives not really paying little attention to what we hear around us, only letting it stay as an annoying background noise unless its a soundtrack we’re listening to on our way to work or having a conversation about someone. We never stop to wonder or have a deeper thoughts about the sounds we hear. I had my first MEDA101 tutorial yesterday and we were looking into the topic of sound. Even more so into the notion that sound could bring meaning to particular topics, for me it was the notion of authority.

When I first heard about this I immediately thought of the most obvious sound, such as police sirens, car horns, gunshots on a battlefield and big explosions. Those to me sounded like the sounds of authority, something with a higher power directly related to the government or some political standing. But as the lesson went on I realised that this was not the case. We ended up watching a video of Laurie Anderson’s ‘O’Superman’, which used different sounds to convey a notion of authority, hierarchy and power. It was an absurd interpretation of this notion using voice, vision and sound in a way that I had never seen it been used before. She was able to delve deeper into the meaning of each sound that she had created and used to create this spectacular piece of work, which broke the barriers of what we are use to hearing and instead point out the “realm of meaning”.

From this video and our new found understanding and appreciation of sound we were given the task to note down the sounds we associated with the nation of authority. Now to be honest this did mean I had to take a moment to really sit about and think about this, but I think I’ve got something, well its a start it’s only been my first lesson! But here we go, these are the sounds that I think may offer reference to the notion of authority…

Keeping on the same line as the most obvious sounds that offer the notion of authority would come from, powerful people such as a teacher in a classroom or a political figure making a speech. But to get more technical…

Ambient sounds: a solo bird tweeting, humming of live electricity, slamming of a door in the distance, friction of train wheels on a train track, rustling of leaves and a deep humming

Sound effects: distortion of the voice creating a robotic or more powerful tone, amplified ambient sounds

Heavy constant beat signifying authority and time moving as one at a constant speed always accompanying each other

Readings, voices and narrations: a story being told in perfect balance of binary in conjunction with the constant beat working together.

Authority being everywhere and though we try to go against it, it will always be there around us and ultimately it works.

Voices: many voices in a crowd, but one stands out the most amplified above the noise, layering to create an echo of this one expression of authority To me these sounds offer a reference to the notion of authority through the way in which they can be heard. In my mind they will offer different variations of authority through the distance at which they are recorded therefore adding depth into the piece that would be created. These sounds speak clearly to me as sounds that offer authority in their own ways, whether it be from the echo of a solo bird as it shows pride or through the slamming of a door because it creates fear and stillness once it has been sounded. It is a strange concept to think about after so many years of not really listening to the sounds around me. Though I feel this moment on I shall appreciate sound more for its qualities rather thanit’s presence. Take a listen to the sounds around next time you’re out on your morning stroll and see what you can make out just by listening.



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