If one is old enough to have dealt with cassette tapes, one should remember the unique sound that would occur when pressing the “fast forward” or “rewind” button while the play button was still pressed. That used to be the way one would be able to “scroll” through a song in order to find the end or the beginning. The sound of normal music would suddenly be sped up by several times and become an almost unintelligible, high pitched chirping sound. One split second of silence and you would know you had reached the pause in between songs.

Having worked for many years as a sound designer and music producer, I have worked on and processed a huge amount of audio material, often manipulating it in creative ways for an artistic outcome. In doing so, I have become aware that there seems to be an underlying similarity between very different sounds once their pitches have been altered dramatically.

In the previous example of the cassette, the sound of a piece of music is shifted up by many octaves (one octave being a doubling of speed) until it almost resembles the chirping of birds. A solo voice would sound even closer to birds or, depending on how many times it has been accelerated, it could sound like insects.

The same thing happens when we slow down sounds. Insects, birds and dolphins may end up sounding like eerie singing voices.

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Ocean waves, wind and breath can all sound alike if placed in the “same range”, so to speak.

These observations foster the idea that the phonosphere of the Earth displays a self-similar texture, a sort of archetypical matrix made of sound patterns that repeat like fractals.

In a previous blog post, I have defined the phonosphere as the totality of sounds emitted on the planet, the same way that atmosphere is the totality of gases and hydrosphere the totality of water. These sound elements may well be the acoustic form of some of the original archetypes that form the structure of this universe.

Archetypes are the “functions” that allow any thought to become manifested and tangible. 

They are primordial building blocks that can be combined in infinite ways. For example, what do a lake, a bottle and a womb have in common? They can all “contain” fluids, therefore the archetypical function of the container is expressed through them.

By noticing how very different sounds are actually very similar once we bridge the gap between the different “speeds”, we open our perception to an underlying, timeless dimension where the phonosphere appears as fractal geometry.

 

The key lies in recognising that there are infinite “time scales” (keeping in mind that, ultimately, a sound is vibration in time, rhythm) and similar events recur on each scale.

 

In order to grasp the idea, a useful analogy is that of the different time scale between animals and plants. To us, plants look almost still because we live in a faster dimension, but whenever we watch footage of plants that has been sped up significantly, suddenly we can see them moving like animals in the way they crawl, test the space around them, bend towards the light, spread their roots to reach out for nutrients, etc.

In such cases, the movements of plants have been sped up to match the time scale of animals, therefore we see the similarity. The same way, when we speed up or slow down recorded sounds of various nature, we appreciate an inherent self-similarity of the phonosphere in which we are constantly immersed and by which we are shaped into being.

 

Copyright 2017/19 - Simone Vitale