Painting with Sound

You’ve probably played “the hypothetical game” with friends way back when you were kicking it, high school-style. No doubt you were lying out on some cool, freshly cut grass with the stars twinkling overhead, a bottle of illegitimately procured alcohol beside you, and The Cure’s “A Night Like This” reverberating from a car parked nearby, when the person you were with asked:

If you had to lose one sense, which one would it be: taste, smell, touch, sight, or hearing?

This question would always provoke a deep contemplation on what life would be like with part of the sensory spectrum removed. For me, a life without a sense of taste or smell would be disastrous, but a life without the ability to hear would be unbearable.

oldEarsSound was ever-present at home. As a kid, I was brought up enveloped in the routine of music lessons (accordian, organ, piano, school band, etc.), as were my sister and brothers. I remember basking in the cacophony that were the stereo wars my two older brothers waged; punk rock and new wave vs. arena schlock and early 80’s guitar posturing. Upstairs, my father played crooners, 60’s lounge music, and a seemingly neverending stream of classic music to help inspire our piano playing.

No doubt because of this, my favourite art is sound-based. Music (the playing of and listening to) has played a huge role in my life, and to this day if I’m feeling stressed out or melancholy, plucking an acoustic guitar or listening to a choice album always helps. Playing music is what helped define who I felt I was in my late teens and earlier twenties. I won’t allow myself to stoop to rampant cliché (too late), but I don’t know what I would have done without music then. Music doth soothe the savage beast, indeed.

Sound fascinates me. I’m especially fascinated by animals and people with highly attuned senses of hearing, like the blind person who can tell who is approaching by the sound of their walk, or my cats, who ignore the sounds of anyone else opening the main door of our building, but leap to attention when some secret auditory signal tells them that Renée has just opened the door.

The idea of sound, and the act of actually listening to and absorbing the sounds you are hearing, are what opens up the possibilities of existence. This, even more so than seeing, allows you to truly connect with the act of living. Between experiences and memory is sound.

This post was inspired by the discovery this afternoon of The Quiet American’s One-Minute Vacation, which describes itself as:

“Surely you can spare a minute to clean your ears? Take a one-minute vacation from the life you are living.

One-minute vacations are unedited recordings of somewhere, somewhen. Sixty seconds of something else. Sixty seconds to be someone else.”

My answer to that hypothetical question posed so long ago? “Anything, as long as it wasn’t the ability to hear.”

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