This was the first assignment for my Pedagogy of Sound class this semester.  It is an ear cleaning (taking time to concentrate on the sounds around you) and a review of a video by Julian Treasure.


Ear Cleaning

This is an activity that I actually do on a regular basis, and one that I even play as a game with my children. It is a lot of fun for me. I’ve never called it “ear cleaning,” though; it was just something I picked up from watching the old film “Kung Fu” in high school.

This was the applicable scene. It’s probably my favorite from the film.

I did the activity multiple times.

  • The first was on my front porch during a rain storm. I could initially hear the rain as it came in waves on the roof of the porch, followed by the rustling of the wind through the trees. As I fell a layer deeper, I could hear the splash of drops in the puddle at the bottom of the drain spout. As I fell more and more into the sound, I almost stopped as it became more and moer overwhelming. Fortunately, the pleasant disruption of occasional thunder acted as a “reset button” by giving me something to focus my attention on momentarily.
  • The second time I played it as a game with my 4-year-old daughter, right before bedtime. We closed our eyes together and started listening. As I heard things, I would ask her if she could hear them, too. I heard the tick-tock of the clock. As I feel deeper into it, I could hear my own breath. When I asked her if she could hear her own breath, too, I heard her accentuate her breathing with a great sigh and whisper “yes.” I could hear her hands moving, and the slight sounds of my wife putting dishes away. Finally, I heard a whisper, “Daddy, I don’t want to play this anymore. I’m going to sleep.”
  • The third time was a few minutes ago. I could hear the fans on my computer. As I worked a layer deeper, I could hear my own breath, with the occassional sound of my stomach digesting the Reese’s Pieces ate earlier. In time I could hear my breathing, and the blankets rustling as my wife rolled over in bed.

Typically, when I do this activity, it always ends in the same way: keeping track of so many sounds became too chaotic to handle, and I have to quit.

It’s still fun, though.

Julian Treasure’s Videos

I really like his use of sounds during the talk. The thing that I am likely to remember the most from these lectures include…

  1. …the statement that he made about how birdsong has been generally associated with “safety” from generation to generation.
  2. …his commentary about the effects of music. I’ve time-stamped various portions of my life with the music that I have listened to, a phenomenon that I blogged about a while ago.
  3. …the terminology; I want to further research the differentiation between reductive and expansive listening.
  4. …his explanation of schizophonia; it’s the story of my life! Ever since high school, I’ve listened to talk shows or music while walking/driving/etc. My life has been a voluntary barrage of information.

That said, I think the density of these talks and the language he chose to use were somewhat problematic. When a statement like “birdsong is good for you” is made without justification or evidence, even if it is true, it eats into the efficacy of the argument. That’s an unusual statement about reality; it should have scientific backing. Both discussions possessed it to some degree, but I think the second discussion REALLY felt like a pitch surrounded by mysticism and not fact.

Nonetheless, the talks were enjoyable.