Song of Creation


"In the beginning was the word..." and so begins one of many accounts of The Creation wherein the fabric of the cosmos is woven by the voice of God. All world peoples from the Aborigines of Australia to the Zulu of Zimbabwe describe the beginning of the universe through sound. Even our most advanced theories of the birth of the universe start with a Big Bang...

It seems that sound is the most appropriate divine affector; invisible yet tangible, transparent but forceful. The sound we make can effect incredible changes on our environment without our having to touch it. Sound can keep people and other creatures at a distance, or lure them closer. With it we can assure ourselves of the dimensions, texture and density of our physical boundaries, and we can let other people and animals know how large we are and how much territory we occupy.

The second chapter will reveal how we intentionally modify our auditory environment to establish where and who we are. This strategy is not isolated to our species; birds develop subtle inflections and accents to their songs in order to expand their sphere of influence and intrude on the territory of others; crickets and cicadas establish a strong presence as a community while cooperatively obscuring the locations of their community members to predators; dolphins, orcas and porpoises devise elaborate, high speed hunting and play strategies woven together by a vast range of sound signals. In exploring these and other examples of intentional uses of sound, we can build a deeper appreciation of our own auditory perception:

"...Albert Speer, the architect for the Third Reich employed many psychological "tricks" on the subconscious to propel the Reich into mythical proportions and dimensions. His use of heavy felt banners emblazoned with the swastika did more than impress the eye when they were unfurled at the arrival of der Frer. A reverberant hall with the loud anxious din of the crowd would suddenly become calmed with the hush of the sound absorptive panels as they covered the reflective walls beneath. Feeling calm, safe and secure, the audience could open their hearts to the message of the Third Reich..."

"...The sound of these instruments could be quite un-nerving - very much akin to the pipe and drum corps of the Scottish Highlanders with the immense drone of their bagpipes driven by the ripping pulse of a battalion of field snare drums. The practice was used to frighten the foe and encourage the advancing army. In the Highlander military strategy, the front line infantry were the musicians - perhaps pacifists as many musicians seem to be - leading the riflemen, swordsmen and grenadiers into battle. Their sound both pumping up the courage of their own ranks while scaring the bejeezus out of their enemy. It would be interesting to find out how many battles were diffused in retreat due to the sounds of the pipes and drums. As a musician, I would hope that many were, because the Highlander use of this military strategy included the principal that no shots were fired until the last musician fell into silence. A tragic waste of talent and about as counterproductive as killing all of the cooks before dinner is prepared. There is no accounting for the military mind..."

"...A remarkable, if not unusual use of sound for tactical purposes is employed by the Snapping or Pistol Shrimp which stun their prey by the loud report produced by a snapping of their large pincer. The energy level of this snap is in excess of 140 dB within striking range, equivalent to the noise produced at the muzzle of a 30 caliber rifle. This noise subdues their prey allowing the shrimp to feast without further effort. These creatures exist throughout the world and are so prevalent that if you submerge a hydrophone in almost any living coastal water worldwide it sounds as if you are submerging it in a sea of champagne..."