Sound and the Subconscious

The book opens to explore the affects of sound and acoustics on how we feel - how sound perception moves us emotionally and psychologically, often without our being fully aware of it:

"...Silence can make us feel small, and the larger the silence, the smaller we can feel. It is perhaps this one axiomatic fact that is at cause for the generation of much of the noise we subject ourselves to. Teenage boys wearing taps on their shoes, drivers honking their horns as they drive through tunnels, young men revving their engines, and defense engineers blowing up ever larger explosives - all contain manifestations of the same desire to feel and hear their personal power against their huge silence. Their generation of this noise allows the noisemakers to feel subjectively empowered while creating a subconscious aural territory for them - almost always to the annoyance of those within the sphere of their auditory influence..."

"...Though we may question the content or meaning of sound, we rarely question its dimension. It is this paradigm that sets sound in a special, hidden role as an affector of our consciousness. Ivan Illiych has written that no real extreme political dynamism had occurred for centuries on the small Dalmatian island where he grew up until someone arrived with a loudspeaker. This device permitted an individual to have power of persuasion over the community based not on his wisdom or experience, but rather solely on his ability to usurp the community sound space. Hitler himself remarked in his "Manual of German Radio" that without the loudspeaker, they would have never conquered Germany..."

"...Some of these sounds are so imbedded in our psyche that we may always have a deep emotional reaction to them; the various sounds of the elements, fires, waterfalls, rain, streams, winds and storms, rocks falling, and earthquakes may always move us to our core. Other sonic artifacts of our civilization have been so deeply planted in our emotional mythology that they will still move us even when they are no longer part of our common experience. While we are strongly compelled by the sounds of fingernails scraping on blackboards, we can only speculate as to why; sounds such as the chugging of a steam engine, the clop and grind of a horse drawn cart or the baleful moan of a steam locomotive whistle -once common elements of our culture but no longer evident - will still cause us to drift into the mythical landscapes of our imagination.

"These poetic sounds are obvious illustrations of how deeply we can be moved by auditory environments. What we usually don't consider are the common sounds which make up the background pitch of our surroundings; the hum of the refrigerator, the distant roar of a freeway, the electric clock on our night table or the slow leak of the toilet. These can be subtle sounds, but they still bear information about where we are..."

"...Desmond Morris, in his book "The Naked Ape" notes that human mothers, regardless of their "leading" hand tend to hold their babies so that the child's head is over her left breast - and her heart. He speculates that this creates an important affirmation of the living bond between mother and child; a continuation of the sound that prevailed for the human fetus from it's twelfth week of development - the point where hearing nerve endings appear in the embryonic inner ear.

"It is interesting to note here that middle ear becomes vital and functioning in the seventh week of development, enabling the fetus to establish equilibrium and to balance itself within the womb; before the ear facilitates perception of the "outer" world, it is the organ which anchors placement within the pre-natal human's dark, amniotic world..."