The art of sound

Camille Norment. Triplight. 2008. Microphone cage, stand, light, electronics, dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist

One of my favorite sounds is quiet.

But, honestly, I tend to hear everything, yet can hardly tell you what so and so said about an hour ago. I get distracted by the hum of the a/c, the click of someone’s tongue when they’re talking, the ever present cell phone tunes and beeps, the way my friend laughs without taking a breath or that one bird in the tree that sings the same way every morning on my way out the door, when a loved one’s voice begins to  sound only  like droning.

I was a musician when I was younger. I learned to train my ears to hear not only what I was playing, but to listen to fellow players next to me. It was never just about what I was doing. It was about how all of us worked together. This created the art of sound. And, to this day, I can’t NOT hear every player around me unless I am intentional about tuning out, rather than tuning in to the world around me.

It’s so lovely when we have reached a place in our maturity, where we are aware of the things around us. No longer so self-absorbed that all we do is hear ourselves, our thoughts, our fill-in-the-blank.

I think because of the storminess in my soul off and on, I’ve been more acutely aware at times of every piece of thing around me. When I get to the point where everything is noise again – I go to my favorite sound: quiet. But, up to that point, I get impatient, anxious, distracted, and crave food for no reason at all.

On exhibit right now at the Museum of Modern Art in New York is Soundings: A Contemporary Score.

Part of the description includes something I relish reading:

“While these artists approach sound from a variety of disciplinary angles—the visual arts, architecture, performance, computer programming, and music—they share an interest in working with, rather than against or independent of, material realities and environments.”

With discipline, these remarkably talented people have learned to work with their environments. If I can find a way to translate that to my own life, I really believe I’d know what Paul meant in Philippians 4:11 when he said he had learned in whatever state he was in to be content.

I’m not sure that working with my environment would mean contentment, but I can see how embracing where I am would produce a creative work in me that I would never know had I not embraced.

I invite you to take a stroll through Soundings, and see if your mind isn’t challenged to see things a little different. The art is unique and I can’t help but wonder about each artists’ story.


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