Resonance – Resonance occurs when a system is able to store and easily transfer energy between two or more different storage modes. To evoke. The quality of a sound being evocative or being deep and full and reverberating.
Strike – To refuse to work at a place of employment, a protest, or to hit another.
Sensitize – To cause to respond to stimuli or to become aware of someone or something(s).
Violence – Behavior that is intended to hurt, damage, or kill.
Sound – Vibrations that travel through air or another medium and that are “heard” when they reach an “ear”.
I am sitting in the woods in northern Michigan. The air is full of chirping birds, the husshh of cars rushing by every now and again on the quiet road at the bottom of the hill; they come like ocean waves but they are less awe-inspiring than ocean waves. Car sounds are not brief sounds. The sound of cars rushing by lasts longer than the sound of ocean waves. Unlike ocean waves, they do not retreat to the direction from whence they came. They pass from one ear to another.
There are also birds. They are often invisible. It is rare to sight the chirping. The birds form an umbrella of short, sharp, cooing, trilling, undulating parabola-shaped sounds overhead. They are noisy! Whatever are they talking about?
My husband is in the kitchen eating almonds. The sound of his crunching is not unlike someone marching on gravel, the sounds of boots on a gravel driveway. Before the staccato crunch however, there is another sound, the first chew that sounds like the bones of a soft animal being shattered in a messy vise. The door hinges squeak and the door slams when he goes outside.
Some sounds are like ghosts.They seem to have no sensible origin, no logical form to which they belong, or from which they emanate. The sound of electrical appliances in a living space is sometimes like this. Such ghost sounds elicit the question- “What is that sound?” Such sounds creak, whiz, and shift without there being any discernible change to one’s environment. These are sounds that generally do not elicit a secondary action in the hearer, other than wonderment and a brief questioning.
Looking outside of the windows, the air is full of things- not just objects that rest in space but bodies that are also moved by the space. These bodies are tiny puffs of seed, grasses, small bugs blown hither and thither. However, there are no sounds until collisions powerful enough force us to take notice. The sound of the wind smacking bugs together is not noticeable to us. The sound of the air smacking pieces of metal together is.
Is sound the result of violence? Sometimes, yes it is. But I do not believe it always has to be. It is ideal to be heard without harming or hurting. But certainly, sound is the result of collision. A body touches itself with a measure of force, or another body and air is pushed out rapidly and meets your own body. You are therefore an object to be struck. You are a thing to be sounded. When struck, you hear the striking. You become conscious of objects colliding. The human animal, fully functioning, is meant to be sensitize-able to her environment, to be struck and sounded by it. Sound is a response you make. I am thinking at this moment, that unfortunately, much of our human-created sound is caused by violence. What do you think?
Exercise 1 – Listening
Close your eyes for 30 minutes. Listen to the world around you. If you have single-sided deafness, the sounds may be flat or muffled. If you are fully deaf, perhaps you may focus on vibrations. (The sense of touch is better noticed now, with eyes closed.) Notice the shapes of sounds; notice the spatial bodies that the sounds around you define. For example, the sound of a street-sweeper (in the city) is a giant, terrifying (to me) maw, not unlike an enormous whale whose mouth opens up to reveal an immensity of darkness that threatens to swallow one. The sound of birds are those of little explosions, a popcorn-popping of sounds, and short curving, undulating lines drawn in the air. Several birds chirping make a bouquet in the air. After thirty minutes time listening with your eyes closed, open your eyes. Share your experience with someone.
What does it mean to be struck? It certainly connotes force and injury even. One can be struck dumb, struck by lightning, struck by a car, lovestruck. When struck, the human be-ing loses possession of herself and is possessed instead by the striker. Is the human be-ing an object to be inhabited at will by a violent universe? At this very moment, a bright yellow butterfly 4 inches wide, is beating itself against the same window you see in the photo above. It sounds like it hurts. I am not in pain but I am struck by another’s striking itself. Sounds sensitize- making one care. Sounds sensibilitize- giving one knowledge of the truths of objects in space and their actions and interactions.
There is a chainsaw growling outside. It is a sound that is hard to express in words for me. “Growl” is only approximate and does not identify other aspects of the sound of a chainsaw. It is also a complaining sound. This sound pushes its complaint at another, not unlike a plaintiff in a court case. It prosecutes.
Exercise 2 – Choreography
Become a Rigid Body
You are displeased
Your voice complains
Now move through your nemesis.
If you perform the above butoh-vocal theatre choreography, please post a link to the video in the comments section!