Silence is not a background, sound is the default, choose your sound.

Recently I’ve been into what’s often called psych drone folk, among other things, I’ll post more about that later if I can dig up online examples. From chasing down one of the artists, Loren Chasse, I’ve found and have been listening to Giant Ear, from the New York Society for Acoustic Ecology. That’s led me to two thoughts, and here they are.

1. Silence is not a background.
2. Sound is the default.
3. Choose your sound.

You may be thinking, that surely looks like three thoughts. But the second is an amplification of the first. A lot of music, if you listen to it, seems to assume silence as default. In other words, if there’s nothing going on, there should be silence. Similarly, sound, because we’re thinking of noises like cellphones, machines, Etc. is considered an intrusion on silence.

But think about this for a minute. Try to picture a place where you might go to get away from it all, to get some piece and quiet. Where is that? The woods? The beach? The mountains? The desert? All of these places are filled with sound. I haven’t personally been to a desert, but I’ve been to all three of the other environments. There are animals, birds, wind, water, and various other environmental features making sounds all the time.

So you should be able to guess where the two thoughts come from. If there’s sound everywhere, yes even in caves, then sound is the default. Silence is not the generic background we assume it to be. There is sound everywhere. Think of a cave, somewhere isolated from all external sources of sound. There might be water dripping. If not, at the very least your own presence causes sound, either by movement, or simply from your body, breathing and so forth. Thus, silence is an illusion. Actually this is likely true, since we now know stars and other celestial objects produce vibrations, they simply occur beyond the limits of our sense of hearing.

It then follows, if there is no such thing as silence, you should work on thinking consciously of choosing your sound. Choose, if you can, a sonic environment that works for you. This involves, of course, paying attention to how sound affects you, something we often fail to do in our largely visual culture. So this is sort of a call to action for that.

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Anybody got a hacksaw?

I know, you’re wondering why I’m asking this. Surely I can just go to the hardware store and get my own. Yes, but totally irrelevant to our purpose, which is:

Looking up the lyrics doesn’t help much, trust me. The important things you need to know are:

1. Somebody is going to get killed.

2. Cutty Ranks wants you to fetch him a hacksaw, so he can cut out some tongues.

Some people object to this song, because it doesn’t rock enough. That’s true, you sort of want something about killing people and cutting out tongues to have a certain amount of force behind it, but you know what? I think it might have been intentional. “Fuck that noise”, Cutty Ranks seems to be saying, “I’ve got a synthesizer and that’s just fine”! Plus, I mean, come on, seriously, it’s reggae. Keyboards are pretty much reggae’s thing. He also gets points for being aggressive enough to cut through the likely constant fog of weed to remember that he not only actually wants to kill people, but cut out their tongues with a hacksaw.

But here’s the real question. Why the hell did they fade it out? Cutty should be allowed to sing about killing people and cutting out their tongues with a hacksaw all he wants, because in the first place, it’s totally fucking awesome. But if that’s not enough, there’s a second reason. When I said “allowed to” back there, what I really meant is, Jesus, who had the balls to stop him? This song pretty much says, you’d better be moving in some fashion, screaming along … OR … ELSE! I mean, you did hear about the hacksaw, right? And the killing?

I’m just saying, maybe fading this guy out isn’t really the best decision you could be making here. Because unlike pussy death metal singers, yes this includes you too Norwegian black metal, I don’t care if you’ve burnt down a church and murdered some band members, Cutty sounds like he’s got the wherewithal to back it up, lyrically or otherwise, if it comes down to it.

I guess what I’m saying is, I’m not really sure what the criteria for Cutty’s good side are, but you best get right with this song, in case that happens to be all or part of it. That’s right, get right with Cutty Ranks. Hey look, I know, you’ve been working on that get right with God thing, and that’s noble and everything, sure. But did Yahweh ever threaten to remove vitally important speech organs with a blunt cutting tool? Because let’s be honest here, the hacksaw isn’t really the sharpest saw in the shed.

Oh sure, there’s your eternal damnation and hellfire, back in the good old days he’d destroy your city or burn up your priests if you happened to be of another religion, but let’s face it, ever since Jesus came along, he’s mellowed considerably. Plus, who knows if that whole hell thing is really gonna happen? Hey maybe he’s just getting older, you know? He’s been around a long time. He’s gotten past “I’m old and totally pissed off at everything in the world and damn it you kids get off my lawn!”, and now maybe he’s into that totally mellow stage. You know, where you’re like, “gramma, gramma, they just put a guy on the moon!”, and gramma’s like, “yes dear, that’s nice. Would you … umm … like some cookies dear?”

So I’m just saying, the threat there isn’t really immediate, or maybe even probable. Cutty Ranks is, I assume, still alive and running loose in the world, no I didn’t bother to look it up, that’s like, research and shit. So it’s just a lot more immediate, as far as concerns go. I know, you’re thinking, Khomus buddy, how probable is it that I’ll meet Cutty Ranks, really? Go back and listen to that song again. It’s almost four minutes of nothing but killing, funerals, severed limbs, and tongues being cut out with hacksaws, with the occasional nod to, oh yeah, I’m awesome!, thrown in for good measure. Do you really want to take that kind of chance?