Deep, eternal, resonant.
by Dave Skipper
(part of the Western Veil Nebula, NGC6960, one of the largest, brightest features in the x-ray sky)
“One picture is worth a thousand words.”
Isn’t that just so true? What we see – from landscapes or details in the natural world to human painting, photography, and other forms of visual art – speaks to us with a simplicity and depth and immediacy. And so it is too with what we hear – again encompassing both natural and man-made sounds, noises, music. Art (I use the word in its broadest sense) is unique in the way it expresses, in the way it communicates, in the way it simply is.
To attempt to describe any art adequately and comprehensively in words would take a lot of time and a lot of words, and even then would fail to do justice to the art itself. Words can never be a replacement for art, whether a painting, a photo, a culinary dish, a sculpture, a dance, a symphony, or a noise music performance.
But does that mean that those thousand words are a waste, pointless, not to be written? No, words can have the power to complement our experience of art, to enhance our appreciation and understanding of art. Words do have that potential, though often enough they are indeed a needless exercise. Sometimes it would have been better to let the art speak for itself.
In this article I want to explain what kinds of word I am thinking of as I write this blog, and why I think these words matter.
The word on noise is… deep
“I was lost for words.”
A great noise performance is breathtaking. It has the capacity to electrify the senses, invigorate the mind, and move the soul in its own special way. Maybe you’re not quite sure what just happened, but somehow it gave you a glimpse of infinity. “You had to be there!” – we all know that feeling after a great experience. You can’t replace or replicate the experience, but you want to convey its effect and so you try to describe it nonetheless.
I am continuing to grow in the knowledge and process of this truth: noise can help us grapple with and see insights into the very nature of reality: God, humanity, time, the universe, truth itself. Any meaningful interaction with art is, or should be, a deep experience. To ponder and even to dissect these experiences requires a depth of words to match it. It may take a thousand words (or one hundred thousand words) to do that, but it can be worth the effort.
Looking at it the other way around, I am also growing in the knowledge and process of the converse truth: the Bible can deepen our appreciation and understanding of noise music in its nature, function, and power. The Bible is not just an ancient curiosity. It is the deepest word there is. It is thrilling and relevant. The connections between the Bible and noise music are not mere coincidences. The very fabric of space and time – it’s origin and purpose – combined with our relationship to the cosmos – and our place within it – are involved here.
I don’t always want to remain lost for words as I explore sound and immerse myself in noise: I want to seek out and explore those words.
The word on noise is deep.
The word on noise is… eternal
Our life on this planet is like a breath, transitory: we’re born, we live, we die, we’re forgotten. Like the brief beauty of the sakura, before long you and I and everyone we know will fall to the ground and decay. From dust we came, and to dust we will return.
But that’s not all there is to it. Not everything is destined to decay. Some things are indestructible and incorruptible. One of those things is the word of God. The Bible puts it like this:
The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures for ever.
(from the Bible – Isaiah 40:8)
What is the word of God? It is four things: it is his creative word, his sustaining word, his written word, and his living word.
- 1- The word of God is his creative word.
By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.
(from the Bible – Psalm 33:6)
The entire universe has its origin in the creative word of God: he spoke everything into existence. Therefore all natural noises are created by God, every noise-maker is created by God, and every potential noise there can ever be finds its context and origin within the possibilities that God has placed in the universe.
- 2- The word of God is his sustaining word.
The Son [Jesus] is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.
(from the Bible – Hebrews 1:3)
If Jesus were to withhold his sustaining word for one moment, the universe would simply cease to exist. It doesn’t run on its own inherent power or on the immutability of physics equations. If God’s creative word implies that the world is infused with his personal stamp, then his sustaining word verifies that every atom, every subatomic particle, relies moment by moment on his deliberate presence and involvement. Therefore noise is only possible with God’s sustaining presence. This inescapably imbues all noise and noise-making with value.
- 3- The word of God is his written word. This is the Bible.
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
(from the Bible – 2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Scripture here is another word for the written word of God, breathed and inspired into the human authors of the Bible. It is the essential foundation and source for living and thinking: for ‘every good work’. This includes (alongside the rest of life) the ‘good work’ of making noise music that delights God! And as this blog project will show, the Bible has a lot to say about noise, both directly and indirectly.
- 4- The word of God is his living word. This is Jesus.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
(from the Bible – John 1:1,14)
These words were written about Jesus Christ. Jesus displays, communicates, and makes physically explicit who God is. He is the final and ultimate revelation of God. To understand eternity, history, the universe, and mankind requires that we listen to the Living Word. The Bible describes Jesus as the source, the focal point, and the culmination of all things. Therefore noise in all its forms is ultimately meant to direct us to Jesus and to contribute to the declaration of his glory. How can it do this? In many different ways, which I will endeavour to unpack in the future of this blog.
If my writings about God and noise don’t point to Jesus, and if my writings do not lead me to worship him more deeply, then I am wasting my time because:
The Son [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
(from the Bible – Colossians 1:15-17)
God’s word is eternal. My words are fallible and frail and tentative and meandering. Whatever I have to say is a contributory word, not a final word. The word of God is both the first word and the last word. The four forms that his word takes (creative, sustaining, written, living) are consistent, inter-connected. This theme of is one of the foundations of this blog.
The word on noise is eternal.
The word on noise is… resonant
Resonant frequencies: exaggerated vibrations.
Resonant filters: screeching self-oscillations.
To resonate means unity of vibration. One oscillating object or sound causes a secondary object to vibrate at the same frequency. Resonance can have staggering and even destructive effects! Finding the right sub-bass frequencies can reduce walls to rubble or disturb and loosen human bowels.
I remember experiencing some disorienting bass frequencies at one noise show that made me feel physically sick inside: I almost had to leave, but stuck with it and was rewarded by a scintillating noise performance.
At another gig, a certain bass frequency landed right on the resonant frequency of my nasal hairs! It made my nose very ticklish and itchy, but nothing worse than that!
“I was hanging on his every word.”
In relationships or conversation, to resonate means to deeply identify or agree with someone. It is a powerful experience! Something rushes up inside your core being. “Yes!! I hear you! Me too!” You are eager to hold on to that feeling and to let that person know that you feel this deep affinity. You bubble up inside with excitement, as though you have discovered – or have been given – a precious jewel that has been coloured and fashioned exactly, perfectly, just right for you, even though you couldn’t have imagined its existence before you set eyes on it.
In this way, as I’ve spent time meditating on what the word of God says to the world of noise, I’ve gotten so excited inside. Yes! This makes sense! This is it! The connections are amazing and invigorating and humbling.
“The word on the street.”
Do you know this expression? It refers to a rumour or news that’s right up-to-date, so new it’s not officially confirmed yet. It might be life-changing – or life-saving – information that you don’t want to miss. Everyone wants to know! Haven’t you heard? You want to be a part of this! Get in quick! This is where it’s at!
Well, this street is called Noise…
The word on noise is resonant.
But if I say, ‘I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.
(from the Bible – Jeremiah 20:9)
When it comes to pondering noise in all its fullness and variety, I feel like Jeremiah. I have to speak words about it. I have a burning passion in my bones that I must share. I come to the Bible expecting it to give me truth and guidance for how to approach my life, my music, my whole outlook. I have been positively overwhelmed at how much the Bible actually has to say to the world of noise.
So here we go. I hope that this blog – “The Word On Noise” – will open up trajectories for you and me that are Deep, Eternal, Resonant. Noise can create an intense and majestic sense of WONDER, and I want to grow in experiencing that wonder in ways I never imagined possible.
He who has ears to hear, let him hear!