…All Sounds Are Music


  Just after putting up last post I turned on TV and there was the opening of August Rush.  No foolin’.  What adds to the amazement, given this particular turn of events, is that Sting wrote the music and lyrics for “Synchronicity”.  That’s the term coined by Carl Jung which has been defined as a combination of events that do not obey rules of time, space, and/or causality*.

  The film is the incredible story of the first eleven years in the life of the orphaned musical prodigy to whom you just listened.  He was the product of a chance, but seemingly meant to be, encounter between a classical cellist and an Irish rock musician. 

  Here’s a transcription of the opening lines: 

Can you hear it? 
The music. 
I can hear it everywhere. 
In the wind… 
… in the air… 
… in the light. 
It’s all around us. 
All you have to do is open yourself up. 
All you have to do… 
… is listen. 

  Several things interest me about those words.  First of all, they relate truth.  Music is sound and sound is vibration and as Daniel Levitin wrote in his This Is Your Brain On Music:  “… it would be difficult to imagine an advanced species that had no ability whatsoever to sense vibrating objects”.  Earthbound or otherworldly.  The science is quite convincing.

  In humans, music is wired into a brain more tightly than the perception of color.  If a particular note, say an A at 440 Hz, is played into an ear, certain neurons would fire at exactly that frequency.  Electrodes attached to those neurons would send out a 440Hz signal.  Nothing similar happens with vision and color.

  Secondly, the essential concept buried deep in that soliloquy goes way back.  All the way to Pythagoras.  It’s called ‘music of the spheres’ or ‘harmony of the spheres’.  It states that “heavenly bodies, being large bodies in motion must produce music… It is hidden from our ears only because it is always present…”**

  Thirdly, in between came American radical musician/composer John Cage whose work “4’33’’” debuted on August 29, 1952.  It consisted of him sitting before his piano for four and one half minutes without making a sound.  “There is no such thing as silence” he said.  “You could hear the wind stirring outside during the first movement.  During the second, raindrops began pattering the roof”.

  In a recent profile of Cage in the New Yorker*** scholar Kyle Gann calls the “4’33’’” “an act of framing, of enclosing environmental and unintended sounds in a moment of attention in order to open the mind to the fact that all sounds are music.”

  Below you will see the prodigy during his first encounter with a guitar in which he doesn’t exactly play it, but he’s not just sitting there either.   And it certainly is music.

*Critical Dictionary of Jungian Analysis

**Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy

***The New Yorker October 4, 2010

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