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.
Fugue on “Context is Everything”
An experiment was made in which a world-class violinist played a collection of the most famous violin pieces of all times at the entrance to a subway station. In nearly one hour, only a very few stopped to listen and then only for a moment. he collected a handful of dollars The same artist would be paid five-digit performance fees and receive standing ovations from large audiences in all major cities of the world.
What makes the difference?
The context, of course. why would I ask? The preparedness and receptiveness of a selected audience is key to the perception of aesthetics, yet the topic of context is absent in all theories of music that I heard of.
“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Extending ‘sound’ to ‘music’, we will have indoubtedly an answer: there is no music if there is no perception of sounds as being music.
The notation and exploration of this “context” is the Leitmotif of what is presented here, from the screeching sound of a knife on porcelain in the Prelude to the drum rolls in the Grand Finale.
Fugue on “Everything is a matter of Taste”
It seems further obvious that the evaluation of the ‘quality’ of music is subject not only to the presence of an audience but also to the qualification of the same. The same ‘music piece’ may be rejected by some and celebrated by others.
We need to extend to the concept of a (bare) context to that of a ‘qualified context’.
The question “What makes te sound of a screechy knife blade a notable event?” reduces foremost to the question “what was the context of the (sonoric) event?”
The paradigm of context is not limited to the time of the performance, it is present in the ‘before and after’, perhaps as significantly as in the ‘now’. We can listen to one example in the following fugue:
Fugue on “Timing is Everything”
In the prelude we heard the story of the screechy knife. But why exactly was clapping hands during Adorno’s birthday so out of place?
Adorno was a supporter of the Viennese movement of ‘modern music’ and said to be member of Schoenberg’s ‘Society for Private Musical Performances” in which applause and critics were strictly prohibited. Quality of music, for Adorno, is an individual perception and does not depend on the acceptance of groups of people.
Whatever you prefer, standing ovation or quiet admiration, one thing is clear: the temporal context is integral part ofa ‘sonic event’ as well and this is true for all impact of sound events in a human life.
?The ear of a mother hearing the voice of her child with a noisy background is unmatched by modern technology. It has even be claimed to defeat physics itself – she can hear her child’s voice even when it should ‘scientifically’ impossible to hear.
Fugue on “Intention determines the result”
For the evaluation of the impact of a ‘musical piece’, the intention with which the event is being witnessed, is of paramount importance. This appears obvious but it deserves special attention. We could interpret ‘intention’ as a larger context to the temporal context of a performance. Editing this larger context can change the whole game dramatically, immediately, and irrevocably.
Intermezzo “Music as Mirror of Earthly Movements”
Hymn for Robert Monroe
Intermezzo “Music as Echo of Celestial Movements”
Fugue on Sound Geometry
Intermezzo “Binary, Decimal, Hexadecimal & Quarterny Number Systems”
Hymn for Victor Zuckerkandl
Sonata for “Visualization of Sound”
Fugue on Sound as Color
Intermezzo “Serialization of Concurrent Actuations”
Sonata for “Non-aural perceptions of Sound”
Fugue on Resonance, Harmony, and Breakup
Sonata on Tuning
Intermezzo “Epigenetic Tuning & Reprogramming”
Intermezzo “Etymology of sound“
Fugue on “Sound and Consciousness”
Fugue on Sound and Spoken Language
Hymn for Ludwig Wittgenstein
Hymn for Noam Chomsky
Fugue on “Mass Consciousness Vs the Individual”
Hymn for Arnold Schoenberg
Hymn for Theodor Adorno Wiesengrund
Prelude to the Final – “Sound Consciousness”
Hymn for Johann Wolfgang von Goethe