Friday, September 26, 2008

Over the course of this seminar, I've come to acknowledge that there is a very blurred line between what we see as noise and define as music, but the more the line is blurred, the more a realize the secret that lies behind distinguishing one from the other. This secret appears to be the difference between hearing and listening.
We hear sounds as noise. An action occurs, vibrations are made and they reach our ear. We heard and interperate the phenomena as noise. However, the vibrations that strike the ear and resonate as music are no different from the vibrations hitting our ear every day of our lives. There's the blurred line. Now, the true difference lies not in interpretation of the vibrations, as one might think, but in the approach to the vibrations ( yes, crazy, but stay with me here). When sounds are simply heard, they are noises, but when they are listened to, when one devotes attention into an active state of listening, those vibrations can become music. One cannot be passive and hear music, as the same principal can be applied in the reverse. If Mozart plays in the background and you only hear it, then it cannot be music at that moment. Sure, you may identify it as a composition by Mozart, but anyone who has tried to take a calculus test with Mozart pounding on the piano in the background can attest to the fact that -at that point, at least- the "music" playing is only noise. To be appreciated as music, Mozart's piece must be actively engaged in, with attention turned to it. In the same way, birdsong, cicadas, or the sound of traffic can be disregarded as noise or given a moment to be listened to. In this way, they have the potential to be music too.
Now, furniture music is interesting because it seems to intentionally take on both functions at once. Its first function is to blend, to be just another humming noise in the room. It blends into the background as, well, furniture, of course. And, though intentionally not invasive or disruptive, it is serving as noise in this respect. However, when there's a lull in the conversation or your partner's left you to go get some cheese and crackers, you've something readily available to turn your attention to and regard as interesting and enjoyable music. It's with this sort of music that the "on" and "off" switches of hearing an listening can be most readily recognized and put to use, and the versatility of furniture music to function on as sound and then as true music, observed.
Sounds are heard, but music is listened to.

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