I felt an ominous sensation looming in my imagination as I began reading Helmreich’s ethnography on oceanographers. The deep dark abyss Helmreich ventured into, riding inside a small deep-dive submarine, seemed terrifying to me. I wouldn’t worry about sea creatures but I would constantly be worried about the ‘what if’ in case the vessel’s technology failed. This was the first instance sound played a reassuring role in this ethnography, I imagined during the descent the steady rhythmic ping sound of the submarines sonar system, ensuring there were no nearby obstacles to collide with during what is otherwise a plunge into complete darkness. I particular enjoyed Bruce’s (one of the oceanographers on board the sub) sentiment that the noises indicate to him the sub is somewhere rather than nowhere, supported in a web of sounds. This indicated to me the reality of the situation and how important sound is in this context. There was also a call from the ship above the surface down to the submarine during its descent, and even though it only detailed some trivial business aspects about a grant, it dawned on me that this was the only means of communication with the surface world left miles above. It was also interesting to note the difference sound waves or vibrations act in water and air and the methods necessary to decipher meaning from the strange echo like sounds into a human understanding of their origin.
Schwartz wrote about a much broader world of sound we are incorporated into, and really made me become more aware of the excessive sound around us. Even as I write this I am now acutely aware of the constant crashing and banging sounds emanating from the new subdivision under construction essentially in my backyard, that until recently was dismissed from my immediate thought. Schwartz compares the difference in blocking out excess light in our world to diluting excess sound and likens quiet to a desired commodity. I am immediately reminded of the “peace of mind” that comes with relaxing quiet. I was also interested to read the comparison Schwartz draws of sound through the ages where no matter what context there was always an influx of sound in any society whether our bustling city streets today or the busy marketplace’s of ancient Rome, Schwartz paints a picture of an overload of sound, or noise pollution as an unavoidable circumstance of civilization. Lastly I would like to mention a shift in spirituality and noise explained in the article. Schwartz writes about the gonging of church bells as a celebration of religiousness, but as the excess noise of industrialization and city became more commonplace a shift to a silent spirituality where one could almost meditate and reflect became more important, and the church bells were silenced. I was reminded of this concept of silent reflection in my own childhood where much against my will I had to go on religious retreats in elementary school where silence was embraced as a means of spiritual connectivity. I never felt the likes of this however, and would use the quiet time to let my imagination run wild about the much more interesting and fulfilling things I could be doing in the snow covered forest we were sitting on benches “praying” in.
The sound bytes accompanying this weeks readings I found very relatable to the readings, the first song I listened to Taximan, had rhythmic beeping and electronic backing music that reminded me very much of the rhythmic pinging and static sounds I would expect from the deep-dive submarine. The video link to the Gamelatron reminded me of the spiritual essence of sound and music hit on in the Schwartz article, only in this context a new means to produce and develop the music was being used in the form of robotics. This represented to me a bridging of the new technology and “sounds of industry” and the old fashioned music of religiosity such as the chiming of church bells. If the noise of industrialization is what silenced the church bells in the first place it is very artistic and thought provoking to see industrialization and mechanical modernity be the very thing chiming them once again.