SYMBOLIC: ADVENTURES IN TEXT
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January 31, 2005
111. Seeking the Center of Noise and Rhythm
I'm half asleep on the train this morning, letting Darrin Verhagen's power noise record scour the inside of my skull. Verhagen is an Australian musician whose music has been used at art installations, opera houses, theater pieces, and as musical accompaniment to choreographed dance. (Though I'm not exactly sure how one "dances" to white noise.) His work covers a wide range of styles and sounds, building cinematic landscapes in your brain that are (for me because I aspire to live a synesthetic life) highly textured and multi-hued. My pediatrician pointed out to me a while back that one of the ways that children learn the language of their parents is through its rhythmic aspect. Very early on, children recognize their "home" tongue because of its lilt and its texture. They may not understand the words, but they know when someone is speaking their "language." Everything else is just...noise? No, everything else is just rhythm.
So, other than the fact that I think I've hurt myself with e.p.a's Black Ice, I wonder about how the brain interprets language, how it learns to distinguish and apply meaning to sounds. The brain is a marvelous little engine and it builds an entire system of communication on identifying meaning with sound. We work as a society because we all agree on the same meanings. My son Solomon's first word was "Abumb'da!" which, at the time, had no meaning to me but since I've shared it with co-workers, we have accepted it into our lexicons as "Hey, it's time for coffee. You wanna get a coffee?" [I live in Seattle -- all conversations include coffee.] In fact, as the week wore on, there are varying inflections to "Abumb'da!" that express a wide range of discourse. Language wasn't a means to communicate, it was a tool to communicate more effectively, to more concretely express un-concrete things. We made language so that we could talk about imaginary objects, unreal constructs, and illusionary concepts. We made language for the expression of ideas.
I'm working on a musical project for Opi8 and am using a number of sourced sounds -- dialogue and sound effects from non-English speaking soundtracks -- in an effort to add texture to the pieces. I'm not attempting to communicate through the language (though if you happen to know Polish, French, or Japanese, it'll been our little secret) but rather applying rhythm to the sonic landscape. The application of rhythm makes the difference between the ornate language of, say, K. J. Bishop's The Etched City versus the unremarkable workmanlike prose of Michael Crichton (or any other airport-reading ready novelist).
I'm still circling around the core idea of the BOOK OF LIES, wondering if I haven't made things too difficult with my structure, if I haven't inadvertently made things obscure and overwrought by getting away from the discussion of language and texture. Maybe it needs to be an exploration of magic and rhythm and not so much a heavy-handed pseudo-spy thriller. Maybe.
Posted by Teppo at January 31, 2005 09:07 AM