Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Radio by Chance Operations

Okay, so everyone's going to think I'm the biggest dork in the world, but I've started my own little John Cage ritual. So, I clipped out the radio station listing from the newspaper and use it to determine which radio station I listen to on my ride to and from school each day. I've assigned each station a die configuration and just roll a pair of dice the night before to see what I'll get to listen to. So far, it's been pretty interesting... I've listened to country, hard rock, heavy metal, contemporary christian, not-so-contemporary christian, classical, alternative, some talk radio, and Latino music. To add some more unpredictability to the equation, some stations get better reception than others, especially coming over from Cincinnati to Crestview Hills. This morning, actually, I experienced a bit of a phenomenon while parking. Depending on how far I pulled up into the space, the music I was listening to changed (and, okay, I'll admit it, I played around for a while backing up and pulling in while my radio vacillated between alternative and oldies. The people at soccer practice probably saw my and think I have issues.) Oh, and the varying amounts of static also affect the entire experience.
I also assigned a die configuration to silence, meaning I don't turn on my radio -but as we all know, there's no such thing as silence, especially on the highway. I thought it was very interesting the way Cage talked about the impossibility of silence in his book. He's in the anechoic chamber, the construction of which is supposed to absorb any noise and is as close to silence on Earth as one can get. Cage hears two sounds, one low and one higher pitch, and is told that they're his central nervous system and his pulse. So, he concludes that, so long as there's life,. there can never be silence. It seems, the closer we get to silence, the more, we realize, there is to hear. If the radio is on, I don't notice the humm of my engine, the sounds of the other cars, the clicking of my turn signal -but that doesn't mean they're not there. It's only when I attempt to hear the silence and turn off the radio that I hear all the sounds there really are, rumbling under my consciousness. It's just like when people go to a concert to hear music. They filter out all of the sounds around them because there's music to be heard. I think this is something Cage was pointing out with his piece, 4:33.
I wonder if we could really function in a world that had silence. Surely we would notice its presence, living in a world where there's noise all around us 24/7. Sounds kind of scary to me.

P.S. I can't listen to the red CD in my car anymore. There are moments when I just can't tell if there's something wrong with my engine, or if it's the CD.

1 comment:

James Schack said...

Thats a pretty sweet idea. Very JC of you.