Individual contemplation versus universal solidarity. 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 the who, the what and the how of my actions and thoughts. And these affect the natural order of things and, at the same time, make energetic connections with others, and determine my understanding of the external world from a formal perspective.
I recently finished reading “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 manages to create beautiful analogies between the being (thinking, doing, existing) and music to explain individuality. Our essence is understood as wave patterns, and 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 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 that those of us 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 individuals 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 they disappear. “Consciousness cannot go through the same state twice,” says Bergson.
Likewise, our regions of resonance are constantly developing. Our consciousness must rise so that we can be able to affirm our individuality. It is like learning for the first time. It is understood as any primitive process. Our level of consciousness will limit our ability to acknowledge it. 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 consciousness as an instrument made up of circuits that are capable of controlling volume, dissonance, and balancing according to the circumstances that your vital instrument needs. The entropy is reforming in itself. Today you receive this 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 own wave patterns. Although unique, their shape and sound coexist with a wide diversity of catalysts.
Now, let’s apply this argument to learned patterns and concepts (we are capable of unlearning them, of rewiring our brain), to our relationships with others, to our tastes and interests. I find it fascinating to think in terms of infinity. Likewise, as malleable beings, we can also control and modify the way certain stimuli affect us. Let’s use the example of a modular and the electrical impulse that can be modified by envelopes, filters, and wave controllers. What you and I perceive of this process is dependent on our levels of consciousness, our moods, external elements, even the level of distortion that our ears can produce.
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. Tones ‘dance’ in the immediate space of their body, around them like a sonic wrap, cascade inside ears, and out to space in front of their eyes. These virtual tones are a natural and very real physical aspect of auditory perception, similar to the fusing of two images resulting in a three-dimensional image in binocular perception. ”
It’s like metaphysical, neurological, spiritual and multilayered processes of connection with otherness, with the other. As well as feeling déjà vu (the sensation of having lived something or meeting someone from another life, from the “beyond”). A tuned instrument, an energetically stable being, an ear that interacts with the sounds of the environment, will be able to receive and reproduce equally harmonic stimuli.
In one of the final chapters, Daphne states: ”Could individuality be seen as the equal and opposite force that balances entropy? Could the world be an endless pulsation of energy that forms in individuality, then being disseminated by entropy, only to be refined into a new identity?”
“If individuality has been fully developed, it will be of great significance. It will have 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.”
Who are these tuned circuits for you? Your partner, your ideas, your community? For several months my region of resonance has continued to vibrate at its own pace, leaving behind many processes, factors and relationships where I no longer manage to have harmony. Now, they only generate feedback and noise. Even the box that contains my vital instrument is suffocating, discouraging. I think I am in the middle of a process of entropy dissemination. Perhaps the discomfort should translate, as Daphne puts it, into this “endless pulsation of energy” refining 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 own 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.