Saturday, September 18, 2010
I was out about town today doing some field recordings. I was focusing on public transportation, conversing passers-by, skateboarding, and water, especially public fountains. (There are vague plans to make a piece incorporating such bits of acoustical realia.) One of the most fascinating things about many continuous or repetitious sounds is that when listening, even idly, we all start grouping events into rhythmic, indeed metric, patterns, finding stress accents in stimulus that is essentially undifferentiated, vague, or random. This phenomenon, usefully, has a name, pareidolia, and is familiar with visual as with auditory sensations, whether finding poodles in cloud formations or rhythmic grooves in streetcar clatter. Pareidolia definitely has a downside, in that it can provide the stuff to feed some serious misapprehensions about the world (it may well be the root of half the conspiracy theories floating around), but the upside, as a composer, is obvious, as we're actually in the business of turning misapprehensions about the sounding world into musical surprises.