Tag Archives: The Third Ear

Songs for the Deaf

Heart strings be stilled, and bring on the noise
that dulls into senseless, hard men hopeful boys;
Just pound on the floor, if you must have a beat,
and perhaps you’ll vibrate the tips of your feet.

We must find other, quiet joys
To fill up the void where the Music once played,
for our audience fidgets and acts quite dismayed
if we take up their space with a moment in time
of anything that might be unique, or sublime,
suggesting the beauty arrayed
In a brief pause of breath, when the talking has ceased,
and like seeds from a flower, our thoughts are released
in the atmosphere, freed from these cages of sound
that we build to protect us from life, all around
(it seems like that to me, at least)
Yet praise of the average demeans genius in man;
we crave mediocre sounds, all we can stand
are the songs that we know, ones we all know by rote
so that even the tone-deaf can find all the notes,
and our Music sounds hollow and canned.
What good is it to sing out from deep in your soul,
if the listener’s ears are beyond your control?

If you must shake the walls, and the floors, and the chair,
soon there will be only a harsh rhythm there,
while the soft melodies that roll
Gently off the tongue, on the faintest of sighs
will be carried off; and then, we’ll all act surprised
when our lives have no meaning, and seem flat and dull,
empty of beauty, and no longer full
of anything apathy has not compromised.

21 FEB 2003

I seem to be fascinated, as of late, by the myth of Odysseus, particularly with his interaction (or adamant lack thereof) with the Sirens. In the book The Third Ear: On Listening to the World, one of the ideas put forward is that the Sirens, having no audience for their song, simply gave up singing (and since their singing was their purpose, they then retreated under their rocks and died). This is advanced as the plight of those who would appeal to the ear, a much more honest organ of interpretation than the eye. In our vision-based culture, where we seek to penetrate outward into the world, rather than listen, and bring the world into us, the hypertrophy of the sense of hearing in favor of seeing causes all sorts of maladjustments and (to use a vision-based word) misperceptions.

“I see,” said the blind;
“I hear,” said the deaf;
“You’re a liar,” said the dumb
— punchline from a joke my grandmother used to tell

Share This:

On Perception and Plausibility …

I’ve been thinking about the differences between my friends who are optically-oriented versus those who are aurally-inclined, and the variations in perception (a visual word) that result from that dichotomy. As a Musician, I have found that more often than not, I process the world based on what it sounds like, rather than what it looks like. A lot of other Musicians (at least the ones that tend towards inclusive, more positive works) also seem to be aurally inclined, whereas many artists tend to the visual (which seems to make some sense to me). In his book The Third Ear: On Listening to the World (which I have learned is unfortunately out of print), Joachim-Ernst Berendt talks about the differences between a world in which the truth as conveyed by the ear and one in which the primary information gathering device is the eye. One of the things that his research has found is that most of the words in our language (English) that relate to deception, misperception, illusion and doubt are eye-related words (words that find their etymological origin in vision metaphors), whereas there are few, if any, that are ear-based. In other words, the eye may lie, but the ear is much more unlikely to do so. He also indicates that the mechanisms for information-gathering are quite different – the eye takes us out into the world, while the ear brings the world into us. Another fascinating aspect is that the spectrum of light that we can actually see is a much smaller percentage of the whole than the audible range of sound that we can process. And so on.

Anyway, I thought I would take a poll of those who happen upon this entry to see what the consensus is.

Share This: