Saturday, June 11, 2005

Noisy Old World

Well, I'm back. The trip was a long one. Well, it was only three weeks but we did so much that it seemed longer. I'm too tired to write anything coherent, in fact I'm barely able to type. Jet lag is such a first world problem that I can't complain about it. Or at least I can't complain about it without feeling a twinge of guilt. The vast majority of humanity never gets farther than 50 miles from home in their whole life. Here I am, having just flown back from across the Atlantic having had the opportunity to explore another country and I'm going to whinge about being a little tired? OK, I am but...well...there's the twinge.

[The next morning]

Ah, that's better, nothing like a good sleep in your own bed.

So, on to the music. I spent some time considering the musical nature of transportation. Things in motion have a rhythm almost by default. But where is that rhythm in a plane? It's not like a train clacking over the tracks, the deep throb of a ship or even the swaying of a bus. All there is is a hiss. Very un-musical. But after too many hours in the air, bored of my book, uninterested in the movie and with the LUC asleep, I noticed something. That hiss had harmony.

It was composed of three distinct parts. One very high frequency hiss, another a bit lower, not more than an octave or two and a much lower frequency roar. I'm guessing that they were caused by, from top down, the plane's air pressurizing system forcing air into the cabin, the wind of our passage against the fuselage and the engine noise vibrating the whole plane. My ears aren't good enough to tell what the actual harmonic relationship was, but any two notes sounding at the same time is harmony regardless of their relationship.

The jet age, it's all about speed baby. It's certainly not about comfort or beauty. The clip clop of horse hooves brings a smile to most, it's almost restful. The clickity clack of trains is a well know sound of romance as are those made by big ships These are human sounds, despite their mechanical (or equine) sources. Their frequencies are within the range of human heart beats and that makes them comfortable. The noise of a plane is pure industrial. It's frequencies are so fast that it becomes a hiss and a roar. It's not on a human scale. Despite that, it is musical.

The harmony of an airliner is one unending chord. It speaks of speed and efficiency but it also speaks of life. The environment outside a plane at cruising altitude is deadly. If any of the three sounds were to stop you'd be in a world of trouble. Heartbreaking pictures on the nightly news kinda trouble.

In the end all sound is life, that's what the plane was whispering to me in it's un-aesthetic way. Everything we hear is created by life or in some way necessary for life. Coughs, snores and sniffles. Barks, howls and chirps. The neighbour's lawn mower, a passing car, a distant siren. These are all obvious sounds of life. But so too are storm winds tearing up trees and houses. It's the sound of the world's lungs at work. Thunder on a summer's night promises life giving rain. The roar of a forest fire is the sound of old growth giving way to new.

Life, it's everywhere and it won't shut up: music universal and unending.

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