Life’s Soundtrack

Life is always going at an alarming pace. Time escapes the mind as we go through our everyday tasks and sometimes we reach a point where simplicity is non-existence. In the interactive essay, “Window” by Katherine Norman in 2012, the author pays homage to John Cage, a composer who was well known for his composition, 4’33”.  John Cage was born in 1912 and used a unique technique on the way music was composed especially in this piece below. It wasn’t filled with instruments, sound effects, or vocals it was the silence that drove this particular piece. The only sound that was emitted throughout the piece was the sound of the individual beep. It was an appreciation of silence and what it stood for. The natural sounds that can’t be created or replicated but instead is just recognized in a higher extent.

The performance was replicated by William Marx in the video below. I was surprised by this performance because not knowing anything about the composer only from what was personified in the interactive essay, I guess I expected more noise. Only hearing a singular beep and the opening/closing of the piano was somewhat perplexing. The idea that someone paid to sit there and listen to a person breathe, move oh so slightly, the sound of a tongue going across the lips was what took my breath away. I had a better understanding of the composer in the way that he took something that didn’t need the extra fill in or complexity. It was complex in the way that it was measured out silence and that is far more complicated than a large orchestrated symphony. 

In the essay, the author took images out of the window of her home and did it over the course of a year. The essay was broken up into months and each month had a particular passage that would describe either the view outside the window or instances of what was happening when looking out the window. The sounds that was created by the author were noises that would be heard outside of the window. The sound of the wind, rain, children laughing, birds chirping the everyday noises that escape the mind with the noise of our own thoughts.

The essay itself has a function that over time, the images of the window would morph into different window image. It was this illusion that time was being manipulated and that you were sitting by the window letting the day go by. There is this toggle function on the right side of the screen that allowed the essay to shift in a way that either the image would go completely blue or fade more into the original image revealing the passage that was displayed on that particular month. The theme of listening comes to mind when I think about this message. The author took an everyday view, one that is part of life’s background and recorded all of its sounds and narrative that the window had to offer. This piece is extraordinary that by taking something that doesn’t need to be created is already in itself unique with its own value. After hearing John Cage composition, the essay makes value as with silence has its own value. Silence is a sound, a sound that can be heard when there is no longer a noise replacing it. People would believe that there is nothing when in actuality there is something there in its place. 

While reading this essay, I would like to think that it would be appropriate to sit by the window, open it up, turn up the volume and allow the essay to take an appreciation of the noise that life can create. Whether that be a conversation between a son and mother, the sound of a car honking, a thunderstorm lurking in the distance. The piece takes it all in and this is a reminder that in life we have to stop for a moment and listen to it all. Listen to life’s personal soundtrack. 

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