My experience with this assignment was very “opportunist” – only in one instance did I go into an experience with the expectation that I would be writing about it, and instead made plenty of excuses in plenty of situations to just listen. My regret was in not actually buying a notepad as was suggested, as a good deal of my writing took place after the fact and was based on lasting impressions. My four submissions don’t actually account for the listening that took place over the break, though there were many instances I would deem too personal for academics anyways. Overall, it was a very engaging but free-flowing experience, and it was fun encouraging my friends to join me in appreciating the subtle nuances of both the everyday and the peculiar.

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5 responses »

  1. david42denton says:

    Feb 17, 2012 (Friday), 2:39-2:56am, my friend’s new apartment (Augusta)
    Variation 1: pinpoint the location of the noises
    Several inconsistent noises downstairs to the left. Approx eight noises on the same level, half in the kitchen, rest dispersed into two walls in living room and two bedrooms with occasional “guests” in the living room that did not reoccur. MANY (approx 15) from upstairs in the attic.
    Variation 2: locate tempos in the creaking
    After spending several minutes, I gave up. I could determine no individual consistency in the time in which the noises were created.
    Variation 3: attempt to locate patterns between noises
    Although it appeared to be random at first, I noticed that the noises from the attic tended to occur within several seconds of each other. Unlike the rest of the house, the attic had more consistency in terms of clustering the noises.
    Variation 4: attempt to determine the actual cause of the noises
    I listened for thumping sounds as much as possible to determine if there was an outside source creating the noise (as opposed to one in the walls). I hypothesized that the creaking could have something to do with the heater and my suspicions were confirmed days later.
    Variation 5: activate reduced listening (sounds-in-themselves)
    In my focus was a myriad of randomly occurring, rapidly popping high pitches that had a slight glissando either slightly up or sharply down depending on location (which was in every direction). The noises in the attic were briefer, more rapid in popping, and carried the glissando more dramatically. The noises in the living room were much slower and lower in pitch, sometimes lasting for more than five seconds at a time. The popping was very “dead,” muted heavily by the wood but amplified by the acoustics of the apartment. On occasion, I would hear what might be called a retardando+crescendo in a living room creak: the popping would start out soft and rapid and would become then slow down, becoming much louder as it did, every new pop very pronounced. In my fringe was my elevated heartbeat and in the horizon was the breathing of my sister and cousin.
    Summary:
    My sister, my cousin and myself were assisting our friend in Augusta with moving into her new apartment, an obviously older house with wood flooring. The attic, which was supposed to be used as a massive storage space, had a history attached to it (including servant’s quarters), and being decayed and outdated, appeared extremely creepy to the general group. After attempting to fall asleep for some time, the house began moaning and groaning significantly louder than it had during the day. At first, it was only in the attic, which gave me the impression that someone else might have been up there. This initial creaking from upstairs caused a fearful reaction in me that elevated my heart rate until I could hear it pounding in my ears. I focused very intently on the sounds and was startled when they began happening all around me. I listened for quite some time before realizing how ridiculous the situation was – and also how brilliant of an opportunity for a sound journal entry. I listened to the creaking for another ten minutes or so, taking in as much as I could. The sounds would come from completely random places all around me, creating a “surround sound” effect that was truly acoustically relevant: I could faintly feel the creaks closest to me and the way they cut through the otherwise silent air. I was told later that the heater hadn’t been turned on in months and that the creaks were a direct cause of it.

  2. david42denton says:

    Feb 24, 2012 (Friday), 4:30-4:55pm, friend’s new apartment
    Variation 1: attempt to find a rhythm in the ringing
    Experienced difficulty finding a tempo that fits both the space between the sounds as well as the time it takes for the pattern of three to repeat. Needed to try again with variation 2.
    Variation 2: cont #1
    Found tempo. 4/4 works for the ringing itself, but the space between ring clusters calls for something else. 14/8 appears to work, giving or taking an eighth note value. (29/16? 27/16?)
    Variation 3: fill in spaces with music
    After finding the tempo, I mentally filled in the spaces with a cello line corresponding to the tonic in minor. The last two beats proved the most difficult because, as mentioned before, there appears to be a slight give or take in the ending note values, at least in the way I counted it.
    Variation 4: attempt to find key
    Using another song as a reference point for middle C, I found that the tone is a slightly sharp E. It is not actually one note, but rather a grace note from a perfect fourth below up to the tonic.
    Variation 5: activate reduced listening (sound in-itself)
    The high, digital sound was just a little bit shrill and very bright. It emitted in bursts of three with three bursts per pattern set. The emission itself sounded “small,” struggling to project. The sound was muffled somewhat by its location in the room, although the intimate acoustics of the room made it very present and immediate.
    Summary:
    A week later in the same apartment, I was taking a nap when I realized that my phone was going off. I had forgotten that I had set an alarm. However, I’ll confess that I was far too lazy to actually move off of the bed and shut off the thing, so instead of trying to block it out, I tried listening more intently. The first time it rang, I was still attempting to find what to look for. However, the five minute break between rings allowed me time to decide on what I was going to focus on next, which in turn made each listening more temporary, and therefore more “performative”.

  3. david42denton says:

    Feb 25, 2012 (Saturday), 11:43-46pm, trail in woods (Augusta)
    Variation 1: establish fringe as object of focus
    My focus shifted from conversation and the occasional crunches of snow to the wind’s effect on the trees, which was present everywhere around. Howling with slight glissandos up and down, dry, hollow, mourning, calling, shaking, creaking.
    Variation 2: establish horizon as object of focus
    Faint sound of wind chimes, random pitches in harmony with each other. Low pumping sound. Low, random bumping sound on the furthest reaches of my hearing. Lurching/sandy sound in distance every once in a while.
    Variation 3: reestablish focus on immediate area, specifically on snow
    Different types of sounds created from different footsteps. The right foot makes a higher pitch than the left foot for almost everyone. Exception with one member of group, must have been left-footed. Weight of group members determining factor in the quality of the footstep: lighter girls have higher-pitched steps with less crunch. Heavier girls and males have definite crunch. The heavier footstep is made up of both the initial impact as well as a rubbery, slushy sound that follows from the weight actually being applied.
    Summary:
    I was taken with friends to a trail in Augusta for a midnight walk under the stars. The sounds of the wind drew me in and I decided to make it an exercise in focus/fringe/horizon observance.

  4. david42denton says:

    Feb 26, 2012 (Sunday) 4:56-5:05, friend’s apartment (Augusta)
    Variation 1: remove all fringe and horizon sounds
    Was relatively easy to accomplish because of the strength of the sound on either side of my head. Very soon, the rhythm and quality of tone were all I heard.
    Variation 2: note any differences between the left and right
    I found that the left pitch was the slightly lower pitch, but found remnants of both pitches out of each side. Other than that, they were fundamentally the same.
    Variation 3: note the rhythm created
    The tempo was fast, veeeery fast, and difficult to calculate. The fluctuations had a subtle quality about them – the usual “envelope” of rhythm, especially decay, was not present, giving it a profoundly “wavelike” quality.
    Variation 4: note the timbre
    Both tones were completely “pure” midrange pitches that had an inorganic, artificial quality about them. The tone created from their combination, the middle pitch, was almost inaudible and grew in volume the longer I focused on it. Unlike the pitches distinctly on the left and right, the middle pitch felt very natural and “floaty,” almost like a distant synthesizer pad effect.
    Variation 5: note any fluctuations in middle pitch
    The longer I listened, the louder the middle pitch became until it was my focus with the left and right pitches resting as my new fringe. Wavers in the middle pitch appeared more and more frequently as I looked for them until I felt as if I could control them at will. This continued for some time until I ended the exercise.
    Summary:
    I have had an interest in binaural beats for some time and decided to log a session as my final entry. (For info on the process: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binaural_beats) At first, I attempted to focus my attention on the finer details of the recording rather than lose myself in meditation. Later on in the exercise, however, I experienced a phenomenon that others and myself have commented on and even pursued at times. After extended exposure to an alpha wave binaural beat, the middle pitch can fluctuate based on the listener’s focus on it. I have no proven medical explanation, but my best theory is that the laws of thermodynamics that binaural beats are based on makes room for the concept of dissonance between emitted brain frequency and the received beat frequency. After syncing the brain in an alpha state, alterations to the brain frequency could manifest themselves to the listener as fluctuations in the middle pitch.

  5. david42denton says:

    April 1, 2012 (Sunday) 10:11-10:14, my apartment (Farmington)
    Variation 1: take note of latent sound in environment
    Subtle hum from fridge, sound of liquids from lower walls (from heating), buzzing starts from lower walls, goes away, dog parking in other apartment, neighbor must have left, dog howling violently, can hear strains in dog’s voice comparable to the distorted effect of an unabashed scream that decrescendos in a downward glissando, creaks from fridge, water moving above and beyond the kitchen (someone must have turned on shower), semi-frequent voices heard moving past front door.
    Variation 2: divide sounds to their most basic elements
    The hum of the fridge is located behind and below it whereas the creaking emanates from the front all around the door area. It is rhythmic, but the reverberation carries the noise even between pulsations. The heater contains three sounds: liquids, a hum similar to the fridge, and a “whir,” what I imagine is air. The dog (still barking) could be divided into the sustained pitch and its overtones created from the “screaming” effect with a downward glissando as a consistent ending motif. Voices moving past the front door are usually in sets of two or three and are more likely to be female than male.
    Variation 3: take sound and sample into ideas
    Hum in the fridge could be slowed down greatly to create a chaffing, grinding sound. Already rhythmically consistent: no further editing beyond recording would be required, though it could become a full bassline with a pitch mod. Liquid sounds inconsistent, but could provide aux percussion with bitcrusher or add color with delay/reverb. Hum from heater not as rhythmically consistent or clearly articulated as fridge, not worth pursuing. Both hum and whir would make recording the liquid sounds difficult. Dog’s howl could be slowed down slightly and chopped up for greater rhythmic value/exaggeration of the glissando. Brief samples of the scream effect could be dispersed through a mix, crescendoing and decrescendoing in different areas of the pan. Voices could be reversed and run through vocoder and pitch mod for female robot voice instrument. The presence of multiple voices simultaneously could make for an interesting effect.
    Summary:
    For this listening session, much like the cell phone alarm session, I fully immersed myself in the sounds of my environment and then tried to apply them to a composition idea. However, whereas I mostly focused on pitch in my previous session, this time, I tried to think more along the lines of recording/production and ways that I could amplify some of the inherent qualities in the sound.

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