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The Museum of Vestigial Desire


tags: well-behaved published on:

Music is a kind of play with symmetry, melody and balance. The notion of not-music that is noise. Practitioners of noise believe they are disrupting the concept of music. But as long as some of the characteristics of music are followed, the sound produced is inevitably music. Rhythm, pattern and and predictability are some such characteristics. True noise does exist though. Boredom with music is one of the reasons that noise-producers cite. But music also does not promote development of the mind. It actually lets us relax and feel comfortable. This comfort is dangerous. It is a sign of passivity, a sign of inactivity. Music calms us down. The mind needs to remain engaged with something in order to develop further. Listening to noise provides us one such way to engage.

Is the desire to listen to music itself a sign of degradation? Of laziness? Yes. A desire to listen to music is a desire to get a break from constantly high-engagement situations. We have to gradually increase our capacity to face high-engagement events and not seek a break from them. Seeking breaks is only seeking a way-out from experiences that will lead to more mental development. Eventually we have to embrace all situations that can lead us to growth. Avoiding opportunities to grow will lead to pain. The prequel to growth is also pain. What we want to avoid is also a penalty. But as we get accustomed to facing such situations and not avoiding them, this initial onset of pain reduces and eventually disappears.

Listening to music vs noise is like this. Music makes us crave for more music. Because music inspires comfort. When we listen to music that we like, the feeling of comfort that emerges is so pleasing to us that we want more and more of it. On the contrary when we listen to noise — our first reaction is to not listen anymore. It is unpleasant. Discomfort emerges. And only if there are concepts in our head to support the act of listening to noise do we even start listening to it. What concepts can possibly highlight this act?

Kshitij was one such listener. He would listen deeply and intently to soundscapes that neither had any patterns, nor melody. Soundscapes that could not be characterised with any other word than noise. Listening to noise made him a special kind of person. He did not crave for the same kind of narrative arcs as everyone else did. Obtuse beginnings and awkward endings both were fine for him. Music builds upon us the expectation of certain pattern — chorus - verse, chorus - verse — and so on. But for Kshitij it was all the same. All narratives might as well have been created flat. Narratives have musical arcs. Music has narrative arcs. Kshitij did not wait for people to complete their sentences. Because all sentences that could ever be spoken were already spoken. There were no new things to be said? There surely were. But not following the same structures. Not following the same patterns though. The same thing could be said with many different tonalities. This everyone knows. But Kshitij, being a person who could appreciate noise, could actually back up this fact with proof. Noise is a kind of music that doesn’t follow any surficial rules of organisation. It forces the listener to make sense of strange stories having stranger surficial qualities.

Kshitij always had to explain himself and his capacity to understand noise. So much so that he just kept quiet when he felt that the questions were of an examining nature and not bearing the student’s warm urge to fathom things. When he kept quiet, he felt offended. He felt judged. The noise listener’s mind seeks patterns in masses of unsorted data. The musician is the musically trained ear of the listener. Kshitij understood all this. But still once in a while it sought patterned sound. If two or more noise pieces are played together, they harmonise with each other and create some kind of patterned sound in the listener’s head. Noise is not the fundamental absence of patterned sound. The point is the location of the place where the patterned information emerges from. In the case of noise, it is not in the sound but the head of the listener. There are many ways to make this happen. Some methods for this to happen we are going through here.

One is the simultaneous playing of multiple noise tracks. Another way is to pause and play a noise track in quick succession. The speed with which this is done creates different kinds of music in the listener’s head. But what is the point of this? First of all, why take noise (something which is a counterpoint to music) if music has to be created from it? Why elaborate on the re-location of the faculty that produces music? Is music so important that even in its absence we are forced to search for it? Not at all. We need to appreciate the versatility of noise. Once we do our perspective is tuned.

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