Sound & Consciousness
by Maximilian J. Sandor
Overview (expanded Table of Contents)
Prelude – “Cutting Adorno’s birthday cake”
A strange twist of fate made me, as a timid 7-year-old, becoming elected, or better: singled out, to cut the old man’s birthday cake on the day after his birthday, which was the eve of mine – an event which he himself ridiculized as “Kinderkram” – silly stuff that children do. The moment the knife in my hand approached the cake, the entire room seemed to engulf in a deafening silence. Then, when I cut, the knife’s blade, gliding over the porcelain plate below the cake, made the most awkward noise I ever heard until then. A scratchy shrill screeching sound, impossible to define, let alone replicate. Unexpectedly, the silence continued. Seconds, that seemed to be hours, passed by. I was traumatized. Somebody commenced clapping hands and, embarrassed, stopped again. Applause was insult to Adorno’s ears. And then, Adorno laughed, or perhaps just smiled, a significant event in either case, and the birthday crowd relaxed and eased. “Quite unique” he said and was shaking my hand.
What followed were hours of talks, most of which I, barely alphabetized, did not understand to the least extent. About aesthetics, about music and philosophy, and why ‘music is life’. The latter stuck in my ear, it followed me in my life. It made me spend time and money on making ‘music’ on all kinds of instruments while rejecting sillily to learn or play compositions of others other than fragments of melodies which could be woven into a free flow of meditative tonal events.
What elates us hearing a certain piece of music and what bores us while listening to some other? What is the origin of the phenomenal appearance of ‘music’ and why is it found exclusively in the human domain?
Questions I was chasing for a lifetime. While I have not found a conclusive answer yet myself, and only fragments of possible answers from others, I collected clues, hints to potential realities behind our perceptions, some of which I will point to in the following.