Column: A World of Music

By Richard Hannamann
A World of Music
To recap (and slightly expand): sound is vibration traveling through a medium and music can be described as sound in a combinatory variety of frequency and rhythm produced by intent as an expression of sentient experience.
It’s kind of a nifty definition because it is non-anthropomorphic – it applies just as well to Klingon opera as to Mozart. But it may be, as all definitions are, somewhat limited.
We speak of “songbirds” and “the songs of birds”, or the “music of the stream”, and other similar references to “music” which don’t quite fit the definition.
Dogs “sing” in response to music we make and many other animals seem to respond to the music we make. My cat certainly seems to respond with great affection to the sound of my playing the recorder.
One study on penguins was fun: when classical music was played, the penguins gathered closer to the sound source seemingly swaying in time but when hard rock was played they backed off seemingly less than thrilled with the noise.
Whale song and bird song are communicative as is music and though we believe these songs are for practical purposes one has to wonder if there is something more to this.
We tend to describe the world around us in terms of our own interaction with that world, but in doing so are we missing something larger that has nothing to do with little ol’ us?
Quite possibly the existential approach is more a matter of overweening sentience and limited imagination than anything else.
We don’t really know the degree of sentience to which other animals are endowed. But we do know that they respond to auditory experience and some seem to do so for other than simply practical purpose.
We sing, our dog sings with us. Could it be that the music we make as a response to and reflection of our auditory experience of the world is not really that much different?
If that is true then the music we make may not be entirely of our own making – to which we may not care to admit thinking that our music is much more complex than the “lower” animals. A little hubris can go a long way.
If sound is vibration traveling through a medium and if music is sound in a combinatory variety of frequency and rhythm, then the world around us is filled with a music which is as greatly more complex to us as ours is to our dog.
The sound of the tree falling in the forest, the sound of grass growing (lie on your back of a summer’s day, empty your mind of all other thought, open your ears, and just listen for a bit), the sound of the jackhammer, the sound of wheels on pavement – these are all a part of the greater music of the world in which we live.
We need only open our ears, our minds, and our imaginations to begin to hear it.
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