Full consciousness of being: “An individual note…”, Daphne Oram

Daphne Oram-Oramics

The dichotomy in which many of us have been moving for a few months has led me to question the simple fact of being. But what is it? Is it a physical act, an idea, an emotion? My existence is crafted by my thoughts and actions, and how these affect the natural order of things. At the same time, these impulses make energetic connections with others and shape my understanding of the external world.

I recently finished  “An individual note of music, sounds, and electronics” by Daphne Oram. Yes, once again, this is an essay in which I try to discern my existential concerns with the work and music of an avant-garde composer. It has been a great experience to read it because Daphne Oram manages to create beautiful analogies between the being (thinking, doing, existing) and music to explain individuality. The essence is understood as wave patterns. Our way of being and dealing with any impulse is similar to the modulations, feedback, and filters in music.

If we harmonically integrate our individuality, according to Daphne Oram, we may be able to create a positive resonance. However, external factors, or our internal processes, are not always able to apply intermodulation and filters steadily. I see this as the chemical and psychological imbalance of those -like me- who live with depression and anxiety.

It is like an overpowering noise, a hiss behind your head, that clouds your vision of reality. White noise, like white light, contains all the frequencies of the sound spectrum playing at the same time. The physical sensation of being in a depressed state is like living in perpetual white noise.

Another aspect that makes us unique is the ability to “see beyond.” But what is this so-called ‘beyond’? Is it a metaphysical state? Martin Heidegger speaks of “temporality is temporalized as a future that becomes present in the process of having been.” It is a constant of trial and error. The possibilities are infinite in themselves. Consciousness is an entity that continually learns and adapts. Some aspects grow, others change or decay until disappear. “Consciousness cannot go through the same state twice,” says Bergson.

Level of Resonance

Our regions of resonance are in constant development. Our consciousness must rise so that we can be able to affirm our individuality. It is like learning for the first time; a primitive process. Knowledge equals Consciousness. Returning to Heidegger, “Only who already understands can listen.” For this reason, on many occasions, specific temporalities and relationships disappear because we do not exist at the same level of resonance. Instead of being harmonic, we produce feedback.

Imagine your body and your mind as an instrument made up of circuits that are capable of controlling volume, dissonance, and balancing according to the circumstances. Entropy reforming itself. Today you receive a stimulus, but tomorrow will be insufficient.

It is complex to think in those terms because we have learned to understand life from absolutes. Nor do we allow room for randomness. However, we are malleable bodies capable of reconfiguring our wave patterns. Although unique, their shape and sound coexist with a wide diversity of catalysts.

Now, apply this idea to habits, structures, patterns, and beliefs —we are capable of unlearning them, of rewiring our brain as we were controlling volume and balance. I find it fascinating to think in terms of infinite: How many times can you rewire your brain? Endlessly. You never stop learning. Likewise, as malleable beings, we can also control and modify the way certain impulses affect us.

Let’s use the example of a modular synth and electrical impulse modified by envelopes, filters, and wave controllers. What we hear of this process is dependent on our levels of consciousness, external elements, and even the level of distortion that our ears can produce. 

The vital instrument

Maryanne Amacher, an American composer who worked with psychoacoustic and ”ghost sounds,” said that: “[My audiences] discover they are producing a tonal dimension of the music which interacts melodically, rhythmically, and spatially with the tones in the room. These virtual tones are a very real physical aspect of auditory perception. Those are similar to the fusing of two images resulting in a three-dimensional image in binocular perception.

In one of the final chapters, Daphne Oram states: “If individuality has been fully developed, it will be of great significance. It will have a sonority. It will have a richness of overtones, enveloping a spacious range of harmonics. When such a wave pattern is transmitted, it is sure to create resonance in many sympathetically tuned circuits”.

For several months my region of resonance has continued to vibrate at its own pace. I’ve left behind many cycles and spaces where I no longer manage to have harmony. Now, they only generate feedback and noise.

Even the box that contains my vital instrument feels suffocating, discouraging. I am in the middle of my own entropy dissemination. Perhaps the discomfort should translate, as Daphne Oram puts it, into this “endless pulsation of energy” that will perfect my new individuality.


Daphne Oram is one of the essential British avant-garde composers of the 20th century and a pioneer of concrete music. In addition to being the first composer to produce electronic sound, she was also the first to run her music studio. She is also the inventor of Oramics, a technique for creating electronic sounds, as well as the one who built the first electronic musical instrument.

Maryanne Amacher was an avant-garde composer and sound artist. She was known for researching and working extensively with psychoacoustic phenomena and ”ghost sounds” also known as auditory distortion products, in which the ears themselves produce audible sound. She also worked with perception, sound spatialization, creative intelligence, and aural architecture. 

Published by Cherry Adam

Moody experimentalist. Hypersensitive & Noir moments Poetry, Essays & Sound Experimentation Freelance Music Journalist

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