sounds that should be music

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freezing rain falling on a glass roof

     In college, I took a life drawing class that began each session with a study. Together we looked at sculptures, books, chairs, or naked bodies, seeking to learn the secret to their likeness, to recreate the physical world around us. In the same way that visual artists draw upon texture, lighting, and shape, sound artists find inspiration in the uncultivated noise of everyday life.

     In the early 18th century, Vivaldi composed his Four Seasons concerti, in which violins create a narrative of nature by imitating various birdcalls, the anxious swarming of insects before a storm, and torrential waves of rain and hail. For her 2001 album Vespertine, the Icelandic artist Björk constructed percussive lines from microbeats— sounds recorded from everyday occurrences and arranged rhythmically. The soundscape of Iceland is unique; her songs incorporate everything from shuffling cards and footsteps on snow to the barely perceptible shifting of glaciers, time-lapsed and amplified.

     What interests me most about compositions invoking sounds of nature is that even the most observant listener can overlook the likeness. It is possible to find beautiful even that which we don't fully understand. Maybe the listener is already in awe before realizing that the snare drums are not drums, but drops of water, huge and half-frozen, colliding with a glass roof. Or maybe the drums are just drums.