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Zen and the Art of Music - Introduction

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0
zen pose

Introduction

          When you take a step back and think about the external world in relation with the conscious observer, you realize that the external implies the internal and that everything is happening in a gigantic myriad of interrelated connections. Accepting this axiom leads us to understand that sound, noise and music are all as internal as they are external. We take for granted as humans that we can recognize music apart from sound or noise, however all three are of the same guild. Sound is simply the unbiased word for the traveling wave of air pressure that we as humans call noise or music. There are trillions of noises and musical noises, but they all are sounds. This is where we can say all music is sound, but not all sounds are music...or are they? I will get back to the philosophical implications of what music means shortly.

            When looking at sound in relation to conscious observers, we can conclude that our separation of music and sound is ostensibly related with our higher cognitive faculties and therefore, music is only something of a reality to a few higher order animals. We take for granted that lower consciousnesses interpret the sound around them as being merely communication, cues for threats/engagements and interest or disinterest. Current science can only explain the interpretation of sound based strictly on higher order neurological processes.

           This also begs the question does a deer or an eagle appreciate the sounds in such a depth as his human contemporary? What about a bird with his captivating and gracious song? I would argue not. Instead, animals process sounds in strictly communicative ways. This is not to say that humans do not also use sound for communication, or that music is not a vehicle for communication, however my contention is that communication through sound and music may be different from the appreciation of sound. When sound is organized or manipulated, the human ear not only processes it, but then the brain also forms a myriad of thoughts, emotions and judgments different from that of an animal. Although the animal might also have similar emotional and cognitive judgments, it is strictly responding with an interest of survival in mind.

          Humans aren’t wholly excluded from these reactions either, however the gist of my argument is that humans can listen to external sounds and find pleasure far beyond inferior animal contemporaries. The enjoyability, or inherent lack of enjoyability, and recognition of the manipulation of sound in the human mind is what makes sound turn to music. Smack a tin can once with a stick, ostensibly you have noise, smack it subsequently with intent, rhythm and or convoluted whacks and it turns to music. This is something an animal in either situation would react to with anxiety and misinterpretation.                                         

          Your cat, for instance, would not listen to the banging of the tin can and begin to appreciate the rhythms that are produced, or the quickness or hardness at which it was hit. It would most probably have an initial anxious reaction, followed by an interest in what and where the sound came from and whether or not it was a threat. If the sound were piercing or unwelcome, the animal would then retreat. If it were easy on the ears, it would, after determining its benevolence, go back to its own train of thought. The appreciation of the sound is missing and the appreciation of sound is what I argue is music.

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