Patterns of Life

I have heard there are still a few sections in Africa where musical instruments (drums, bells, horns, etc) are communication devices. The tone and pitch of the instrument has specific meaning. The instrument is a communication tool because it can transmit sound much longer distances than the human voice.

The universe we live in is full of sound punctuated with deep silence. Our sense of hearing brings this universe into our minds, touches our hearts, and speaks to our souls. When we find things to share with others, we communicate using sound visuals or both. We cry, sing, laugh, talk, and we remain silent. Our friends and relationships come from our interpretation and reaction to the meanings and nuances conveyed in sound.  We speak to convey a message; we listen to comprehend others.  A remarkable term ‘absurd’ is part of our language.  We use it to describe something that is implausible.  In fact, the word ‘absurd’ comes from the Latin term ‘surdus’, meaning deaf.

Consider how the newborn baby responds to sound. Shortly after birth they learn that pitch, tone, and rhythm has meaning. They know their mother by the rhythm of her heart beat, by the tone of her voice, by her touch. We talk, sing, and hum to babies. This singing, talking, and rhymes are all preliminary actions necessary to help babies learn to communicate. Babies quickly learn to replicate the tones and pitch that manipulate our actions. Babies gradually gain confidence in using aural tools to convey abstract concepts. I have heard that researchers discovered a link between exposure to rhythm and the ability of children to listen and respond. Babies quickly learn to coo, laugh, cry, and babble and they assign meaning to each of the sounds. We learn to interpret the meaning of their sounds.

To hear, the baby’s ear transforms vibrations into electrochemical signals for their brains. The eardrum sends the vibrations to the middle ear. The middle ear holds the smallest bones in the body, the auditory ossicles—the malleus, incus, and stapes. The baby’s ossicles transmit sound to the inner ear, the cochlea. Here, the sound vibrates the cochlear fluid, and depending upon frequency, specialized hair cells. These hair cells transmit electrochemical impulses to the brain.  This process starts very early in their life.

“Music is the hardest kind of art. It does not hang up on a wall and wait to be stared at by observers. It’s communication. It’s hours and hours being put into a work of art that may only last, in reality, for a few moments…but if done well, and truly appreciated, it lasts in our hearts forever. That’s art.  Speaking with your heart to the hearts of others.” ~Mr. Dan Romano

I think the way babies interpret sound is the similar to how we interpret the meaning of instrumental music. When you listen closely to a song that has no lyric, what do you hear, where do your thoughts drift to, why?

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