To Hear Sound for the Very First Time

To Hear Sound for the Very First Time

"In some of my research on cochlear implants, I learned that when they are turned on for the first time, patients often say the sound is kind of 'digital' or 'mechanical' sounding, which is entirely normal. I guess the ears and brain eventually normalize the signal and things begin to sound more natural. I thought that was entirely fascinating, so I made it a part of my song."

~ Ryan O'Neal, from "HearingI & How It Was Made"

Cinematic Attention for a High-Def Life

Cinematic Attention for a High-Def Life

Any perception you can observe directly in real time can be used to train a variety of attention-related skills.

I like to make a game out of turning ordinary activities into opportunities for practice.

There are a number of exercises I use when watching a film — whether it’s one I enjoy, dislike, or have seen before.  

A Stillness of Voice and Body

A Stillness of Voice and Body

"This is something you do find in Quaker meetings, actually, and in Buddhist meetings as well. The whole herd, and that may be 50 animals, will suddenly be still, completely still. And it's not just a stillness of voice, it's a stillness of body."

~ Katy Payne

Respites in the Demands of Sensation

Respites in the Demands of Sensation

I swoon and recoil at the tresses blowing
in an arbor without glow
or flame. These are reprieves. Respites
in the demands of sensation
and flow. Know this: you can you can
you can you can you can.

~ Margot Schilpp

Welded Together So Tightly in Your Mind

Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis speaking with Anne Strainchamps about "Music and Memory," from To the Best of Our Knowledge, March 30, 2014:

"Music is not really like a language. It's one of those metaphors that's really out there.

As I was growing up, I went to Interloken Arts Camp. Over the big stage there, they have it emblazoned in large letters: MUSIC IS THE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE!

But maybe there are some things going on in music that aren't really the same as what's going on in language. 

I'll give you some examples. 

When we think back to what happened in a story somebody told us, we tend to remember the gist of what happened not the specific words they used to tell the story to us. But if we try to remember back to a song we listened to or a piece we really enjoyed, there's something about the actual, specific, sequence of notes that is still very present and verbatim in our memory. And in fact, really gripping.

There's a great example that Mark DeBellis uses in a book he wrote, where he asks—If you think about The Star Spangled Banner, and you think about the word Oh and the word you. Where those sung on the same pitch?

To answer that question, what you have to do is go back in and sing through the tune. You can't just duck in and get one little snippet. They're all welded together so tightly in your mind that one note seems to kind of inevitably spill out of the preceding one. 

That tight connection from note to note is really an effect that is created through repitition." 

~ Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis, from "Music and Memory," To the Best of Our Knowledge, March 30, 2014. 

See also:

Atomic Components of Narrative Elements

Attentional Fitness Strategies for Hearing Out

Margulis, E. H. (2014). On repeat: How music plays the mind. New York: Oxford University Press. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/851068495 

Quantum States of Time

Dawn of Midi live at Cafe 939 (Berklee School of Music) October 21st, 2013

Excerpt from "Dawn of Midi," Radiolab, August 29, 2013: 

"If you just let it do what it's doing and have none of the usual expectations of resolution—or of that usual arc—it's not going to tell you a story, it's going to keep you company. That's what's happening here. What it's trying to do is to get you into a different state of mind—like a different state of time—that experience of time that is non-narrative—where you're sort of existing in time, not is sort of a regular story way where everything leads to the next thing—beginning, middle, and end—something else.

What I often talk about is that you have quantum states of time. What I take it to mean is something very ancient in a way...What you have are these vertical stacks of rhythms, like almost multiple time flows existing simultaneously—in the same moment.

And if you listen in to this music...and try to pick out, Okay.What's the base doing? What's the drums doing? What's the piano doing? You will hear that they're actually almost not fitting together, like they're playing different beats, pulling at each other in some sense.

If I listen in and try to pick out all the lines, I get lost in the intricacies of their rhythms. If I listen out, I can just nod my head to it for forty-five minutes...And that's just interesting to me, the way the patterns on the interior just kind of mess with your ear because they all seem to be on their own cycle, but then when you pull out and just listen to the whole thing together, you're like, Oh yeah, I can nod my head to this. 

Deconstruct the Message Behind the Words

"A later response, and much more useful, would be to try and deconstruct the message behind the words, so when the voices warned me not to leave the house, then I would thank them for drawing my attention to how unsafe I felt -- because if I was aware of it, then I could do something positive about it -- but go on to reassure both them and myself that we were safe and didn't need to feel frightened anymore. I would set boundaries for the voices, and try to interact with them in a way that was assertive yet respectful, establishing a slow process of communication and collaboration in which we could learn to work together and support one another.

Throughout all of this, what I would ultimately realize was that each voice was closely related to aspects of myself, and that each of them carried overwhelming emotions that I'd never had an opportunity to process or resolve, memories of sexual trauma and abuse, of anger, shame, guilt, low self-worth. The voices took the place of this pain and gave words to it, and possibly one of the greatest revelations was when I realized that the most hostile and aggressive voices actually represented the parts of me that had been hurt most profoundly, and as such, it was these voices that needed to be shown the greatest compassion and care."

~ Eleanor Longden 

See also: 

Periods of Incomprehension

Excerpt from "How Learning a Foreign Language Reignited My Imagination," by Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic Monthly, May 22, 2013:

"I started studying French in the summer of 2011, in the throes of a mid-30s crisis. I wanted to be young again. Once, imagination was crucial to me. The books filled with trains, the toy tracks and trestles—they were among my few escapes from a world bounded by my parents’ will. In those days, I could look at a map of some foreign place and tell you a story about how the people there looked, how they lived, what they ate for dinner, and the exotic beauty of the neighborhood girls.

When you have your own money, your own wheels, and the full ownership of your legs, your need for such imagination, or maybe your opportunity to exercise it, is reduced.

And then I came to a foreign language, where so much can’t be immediately known, and to a small town where English feels like the fourth language.

The signs were a mystery to me. The words I overheard were only the music of the human voice. A kind of silence came over me.

...There is a symmetry in language ads that promise fluency in three weeks and weight-loss ads that promise a new body in roughly the same mere days. But the older I get, the more I treasure the sprawling periods of incomprehension, the not knowing, the lands beyond Google, the places in which you must be immersed to comprehend."

Hearing through the Skin

What we’re doing right now is we’re building a vest for people who are deaf and there's a microphone on the vest and it picks up sounds and it turns it into vibrations on the body.  So it’s little vibratory motors like you find in your cell phone and what's happening is we’re doing digital signal processing on the auditory stream and we’re feeding this into somebody’s body and they will come to be able to hear through their skin.

Now, this sounds crazy, but remember that hearing anyway is just air compression waves getting turned into electrical signals that go into the brain.  So what we’re doing is we’re just feeding that through an atypical sensory channel, it gets turned into electrical signals in the brain.

Be Openness

Excerpt from Instant Enlightenment: Fast, Deep, and Sexy by David Deida:

Go inside yourself as deep as you can. Feel inward, deeper and deeper. Is there an end to how deeply you can feel? If not, keep feeling inwardly until you are certain inward never ends.

All there is inside is a deeper and deeper openness.

Now, feel outwardly as far as you can. Listen to the most distant sounds you can hear, and then listen further, into the openness beyond the furthest sound. Notice the most distant light, and then gaze beyond it, into the endless openness...

Now, simultaneously, feel the openness that goes on and on, both inwardly and outwardly. Really do this, and you will discover that feeling never ends in any direction. The most basic sense of being, of existence, is the openness of feeling in all directions. Being is feeling wide open.

As soon as your feeling stops short of on-and-on, feel whatever you are feeling (a tree or a thought), and feel beyond it. You don't have to stop feeling anything (you can still feel the tree or the thought), but also feel the openness that goes beyond anything. Feel further than you've ever felt before, zillions of miles inwardly, and zillions of miles outwardly, on and on, wide open. 

This is who you are, this wide openness, feeling with no boundaries.

Be openness, feeling on and on, while having sex or during a conversation, and your lover and friends will begin to feel an unbound openness, too. 

Do you have a better way to live your life? The choice is yours. 

Anticipating Circumstances

Excerpt from from The Practicing Mind: Developing Focus and Discipline in Your Life by ~ Thomas M. Sterner:

I have observed my mind many times through listening to my internal dialogue. It goes from one totally unrelated discussion to another. It's reminding me to pay a bill, composing a musical piece, solving a problem, thinking of a sharp-witted comeback I should have made yesterday when someone irritated me, and so forth.

All this is going on while I am taking a shower in the morning. In that moment, my mind is everywhere but where I really am — in the shower. My mind is anticipating circumstances that haven't happened yet and trying to answer questions that haven't even been asked.

We have a name for this: it's called worrying. If you force your mind to stay in the present moment and to stay in the process of what you are doing, I promise you, many of your problems will melt away.

There is a saying: Most of what we worry about never comes to pass.

 Thinking about a situation before you are in it only scatters your energy.

"But," you say, "I have a difficult meeting with someone tomorrow, and I want to have my thoughts together before I get into the situation."

Fine, then take half an hour to sit down in a chair and do nothing else but go through the meeting in your mind and be there completely, doing only that. In the calmness of that detached moment, when you are not emotional, think of what you will say, and anticipate the different combinations of responses the person might make. Decide on your responses and see how they feel to you.

Will these responses have the desired effect? Now you are doing nothing else but what you are doing. You are in the present and in the process. You aren't scattering your energy by trying to act out all this in your head while you are eating your lunch or driving to work. This constant inner dialogue, chattering away, brings with it a sense of urgency and impatience because you want to deal with something that hasn't occurred yet. You want to get it done. 

[Thanks, Pat!]

Quiet Enough for Long Periods of Time

"Sounds from The Great Animal OrchestraWhen you listen to any soundscape, a natural soundscape, you are listening to information that tells you about biology, about resource management , medicine, religion, natural history, architecture, literature, physics, and many, many others.

For instance, people have asked me why you do this. Well, partly because I suffer from a terrible case of ADHD. I've always had this as a kid. And I had it as an adult, and I'm not much into medication. So the only thing that calms me down is going out into the natural world and listening to these creatures.

And being quiet enough for long periods of time and just shutting up and listening to things. I can't rustle my clothes, I can't move around and shuffle my feet around. I've got to sit very quietly for long periods of time, and that's what this has taught me to do. So in terms of healing and a certain kind if medicine, that's one thing the soundscape does.

It also speaks to us about religion. For instance, it's the natural soundscape from which we acquire spirituality. That was the voice of the divine for us for so many years, while we lived closely connected to the natural world."

~ Dr. Bernie Krause, from "The Great Animal Orchestra," To the Best of Our Knowledge, Nov. 11, 2012

Dr. Bernie Krause: The Great Animal Orchestra from California Academy of Sciences on FORA.tv

See also: