A short video discussing the effects that sound has upon health:
Making of Music & Health
Making of ‘Secret Garden’
After my initial research on health music I began to listen to different meditation tracks, specifically yoga tracks. I noticed that most yoga soundtracks were around one hour or longer, designed as background music for an entire yoga class. Therefore the tracks were not as retrained as a normal track designed for radio play. I had the freedom to create a long piece of music. The structure of the music was also more fluid often relying on long recordings on ambient sounds like rain or wind combined with almost random notation like those produced by a wind chime swinging in the breeze. Melodies were present but were not defined by simple looping on four or eight bars like in most western music; instead they kept evolving over long time periods. The freedom of this style of composition appeals to me and enhanced the meditation qualities of the music, allowing the listener to let their mind wonder away from the normal restraints of music. I began to experiment by recording ambient sounds like water running in my garden pond using a Zoom H1 handheld recorder. In order to achieve good results I needed to make sure no other sounds could be heard where possible, like the sound of traffic in the distance. I had to complete a few test recordings before I managed to get the best sound quality with no wind and no distortion. I recorded several ambient sounds including my garden fountain, traffic, café noise, children’s playground, rain, wind, waves, and several machine workshop noises. I also recorded some record player crackle sounds direct through a turntable. Previously during my research I had also recorded the sound of a heartbeat.
My intention was now to combine these sounds together to produce my first Yoga track. To create the first track I used a combination of my ambient recordings and software instruments to create the melodies in Logic. The composition of the piece was relatively free flowing as normal tempo and musical phrasing rules didn’t apply to this genre of music. I tried layering many sounds together but after referring back to existing yoga music I realized less is more and began stripping back the tracks to a maximum of four main sounds to make sure the pieces weren’t too cluttered. Technical issues mainly arose around the reduction of un-wanted background noise on the recordings. For this I needed to cut, crop and fade a lot of the sounds I had recorded. I then EQ’s out a lot of background noise to get ride of sounds like street traffic which were picked up by the zoom recorder, wind was also an issue which needed to be EQ’d out. Some of the sounds were still present so I used the spectral gate plug-in to remove certain frequencies to help clean the sounds. Certain sounds I wanted to use in my tracks were impossible for me to record in London, so for certain sounds like crickets and rain-forest sounds I used samples from the internet. Yoga tracks are mainly about natural sounds so I only used a few additive atmospheric sounds like reverb and small amounts of delay on my sounds. All the recordings and samples were of various volume levels; to balance these I used the mixer and also some compression to glue the sounds together and even them out. I used the Logic multipressor on my final mix-down to further gel the sounds together and I used the online mastering service LANDR to complete the pieces. If I were to repeat the project again I would improve on my work by perhaps using a better hand-held microphone that would give me more control in the field around the volume levels and background noise levels.
Making of Music & Health
Making of ‘Enchantment’
Once I had finalized ‘Secret Garden’ I tested it on both female and male subjects and recorded their heart readings and also interviewed them about how they felt listening to the track. The conclusions were that the most relaxing part of the tracks for the listeners was the natural background sounds, like water and rain along with the melodies. Constructive critisim I received also told me that I should keep the tracks simpler as to keep them less cluttered and more minimal to help the listener drift off into thought. With this in mind I set to work on my second health track. I didn’t feel satisfied using the electronic plug-in sounds of Logic to make my melodies so this time I collaborated with Rehana Browne, a classically trained flautist who studied at the Royal Academy of Music. Together we listened to my first track and the background noises I had compiled for ‘Enchantment.’ I directed Rehana to create a long winding layered melody using two different flutes. I recorded the flute in the LSA studios in Hoxton using the artist’s own microphone and the studios stand and sound shields. We recorded into Logic and took multiple takes. I had to set up the microphone and the headphones of the artist to monitor herself while she played along to the first melody she recorded. She created the melody with my guidance in the key of ‘X’ and using two different flutes to create a lower and higher pitch melody. The recording went very smoothly and the sound was clear and the levels were correct. I then went about editing the result by removing all of the breaths from the recording using the scissor tool and the fade tool. I placed the melodies together with the background sounds of my heartbeat recordings and the waves recording. I used automation to vary the levels during the piece to create more of a journey and reduce the feeling that the sounds were cluttered. As with the ‘secret garden’ track I used a variety of editing techniques including EQ, panning, Reverb, Delay, Compression, Multiband compression and mastering to finalise my track. Once it was finalized I tested it on both male and female subjects to measure their heart reading/reactions.
For my “Music and Health” track I employed Rehana Brown a professional flute player to play a melody over my music in order to create a relaxed and meditative atmosphere. Rehana studied at the Royal Academy of Music.
Together we worked, recording the sound of a flute melody using a microphone and the computer. She worked with two flutes in order to give variation to the sounds, and so that I could create a layered effect afterwards.
Here is a video which I found pertinent to my ‘Hall of Mirrors” project:
All of the voices and different tones made in this video show the power of environmental and ambient noise, the sorts of noises which can be found in 4’33” made by the audience watching it. These sounds would be embraced by Cage were they performed during his silent score. As Cage stated about hearing a possible cough during the performance, “I would simply listen….a cough is as interesting and as audible as any other sound.”
I aim to go to this exhibition as well, which is located in the Wellcome Gallery.
The art of meditation stems from Taoism, Confucianism, Jainism and Buddhism. Its practice is aimed to induce several health benefiting factors such as:
Heart Disease Prevention:
– Meditation reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, lowers blood pressure and psychosocial stress
-Meditation enhances pain management, reducing sensitivity to pain
-Increases thickness of brain regions involved in regulating pain and emotions
-Eases the pain suffered by people experiencing chronic pain
-Meditation helps visual memory
-Aids people experiencing memory loss such as Alzheimer’s
-Meditation reduces depressive symptoms of patients, when practiced in conjunction with mindfulness techniques.
All of this information was taken from:
I wrote an essay on 4’33” entitled ” How does Cage deconstruct the borders between music and noise in 4’33”? ” . On re-reading this I found some interesting parallels between 4’33”, Rauschenberg and the concepts of noise and silence all of which are related to my “Hall of Mirrors” piece. I cited my research of Cage through my reading of Salome Voeglin who discussed how if sounds we hear are deemed as unpleasant, it should be classified as noise, whereas if they are pleasant then it is music.
I also explored Rauschenberg and his relationship with Cage. Both “White Paintings” by Rauschenberg, and “4’33″” invite the viewer to become part of the art itself: Rauschenberg’s piece is minimalistic yet it engages the audience and allows them to project their shadows upon the piece just like the dust from the environment which collects upon the surfaces, while 4’33” similarly allows for the audience to make noises in the concert setting, therefore contributing toward the piece since its format is silent. In a way, the audience of 4’33” become the composers of the piece because of the noises which they make during its performance are projected onto the piece. This concept relates to my exploration of purity in my “Hall of Mirrors” project since when an individua looks into a mirror they become part of the mirror itself since their physical appearance is swallowed up by the mirror, and reflected back upon its viewer.
Cage and Rauschenberg are similar in that they wanted to express purity in their works, both in different ways. Cage’s 4’33” explores purity since it is silent, free of any intentional sounds, and therefore devoid of the composer’s ego and mangagement, which is reflected in the objectivity of mirrors, while “White Paintings” also were desired by the artist to be bereft of expresssive outpourings, existing as blank canvases ready for its viewer to project opinions upon them and to affect them physically.