Noise : Sound : Music :: Weeds : Plants : Garden
Cement mixers growl and trucks beep endlessly as they lay a new driveway next door. If music is organized sound, noise is the sound of chaos. The human brain learns the difference early on. What counts as music varies by culture and once imprinted, rarely changes beyond early adulthood. Sorry, friends, heavy metal is still noise to my ears.
A recent public radio segment featured composers who record and organize sound from the environment, both natural and human-made. Like a wildflower garden or a collage or yard sculpture made from other people’s trash, their artistry depends not on good or bad material but the eye or ear they bring to it. Writers say it’s all grist for the mill.
How many of life’s irritants might feel less irksome if I searched them for elements to compose into artistry? For a moment, when I shift to a different mindset, the machines and voices next door become more interesting than painful. Perhaps with practice I’ll be able to make this shift for longer at a stretch. To bring a different ear and, if not create music, at least ease the noise.
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.