Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Peter Warshall "Two billion years of animal sounds" (melopoeia)

Peter Warshall "Two billion years of animal sounds"(June 16, 1999)

"A Peter Warshall lecture discussing animals sounds and the nature of music and speech. Warshall plays various animal sounds, talks about how sounds are created and the abilities of the human ear to hear sounds. He discusses a variety of related topics, including the evolution of vowels and consonants, sacred sounds and semantics." (Click here for source in the Naropa Archives.)

This is a 20 point homework assignment.
  1. Listen to the lecture and take notes. Write down what you think might be interesting, important, etc. There may be things to which you do not "get" the reference or allusion and there may be things that spur your own thoughts. Write them down. Pay attention to your mind and document it.
  2. Prompt A: Post your reaction to something specific and thought provoking in the Warshall lecture (though this is not a minimum, your post should be at least a couple hundred words.) Feel free to ask questions in this section as well, since everyone will be reading these posts.
  3. Prompt B: You should also respond by elaborating on another comment in the stream (about the same length--a couple hundred words as a minimum.)
You will be graded on the Malden High School Open Response Rubric.

Due Monday, November 10th @ noon. Since this is a discussion and your voice is important to the communal dialogue, late posts will lose 2 points a day. Budget your time accordingly, especially is you need the school computers to complete assignment.


Mary N. said...

I have to begin out saying that I enjoyed this lecture much more than I did the previous one; it was much less talking and much less obscured. Part of the reason why I particularly liked this lecture was due to the sounds Peter Warshall employed in demonstrating his points. Instead of informing his listeners of the differences and the evolution of noises through words only, he played clips of sounds transforming throughout time to really support his ideas. Also, Warshall was really comedic; he made jokes about the differences in bodies, males and females, etc, which really connected with his listeners on a personal level. What Warshall also does is that he asks his listeners to imitate sounds along with him to show them what noises require just the lips, the teeth, the throat, and the combination. He engages them and keeps their attention to the lecture.

The first phrase that I wrote down in my notes was, “Poets who do not study music are defective.” Now, I found this really interesting. Poems usually contain some sort of meter, some sort of pattern, whether they contain certain syllables per line or they utilize a rhyme scheme. In addition, tone also adds to the “music” of a poem. It appears as though Warshall was pointing out that poets who did not study music usually did not produce effective poems that attracted readers, as they usually could not employ tone and meter to create a “beat” for their pieces. A monotone piece sounds incredibly dull and boring. If we think back to “Miss Brill” (not a poem, I know), but it’s musical references and it’s musical sounds made the story that much more appealing to its readers. Now for a poem: Red Shift by Berrigan. As a class, we agreed that there was a shift in tone, from a rather melancholy one to an angry, almost aggressive, tone. If there hadn’t been a shift in the poem, we would not have been able to truly understand the different layers and the different aspects of the poem. Just as Mr. Gallagher stated in class, a whole entire explication could be done focusing solely on tone.

Another point Warshall made was that the manipulation of noises made it possible for noises to be beautiful and to be heard. This makes me wonder whether anything is considered “true.” Since our ears can only hear certain lows and certain highs, how do we know that the noises we hear are in their truest forms? For example, we can only hear the ugly sounds of a fly buzzing around our ears. What if there were more beneath that ugly buzzing? The sounds of thunders scare some of us. Yet, what if the low, boom pitch is paired with a high beautiful one, but much too high for our ears to listen to?

In society, humans are very concerned with the body image. We blame the media for presenting the extraordinarily thin women and the “perfectly” muscular men as the ideal body, in which we all feel the need to attain. As far as I know, no one I talked to had dated this back to nature. No one ever says, “It’s natural for humans to be self-conscious about their bodies.” I always figured it was due to the media. However, after listening to Warshall’s lecture, I came to a conclusion that self-consciousness was a direct result of nature. Recall back to the frogs mating. Only if frog A’s grunt is lower than that of frog B could Frog A take the partner of Frog B. The grunt’s pitch completely depends on the size of the frog’s body. So if nature intends for Frog B to have the lower voice, than it loses its appeal to female frogs, and it loses all of its mating partners as lower grunts challenge it. This is a probable reason as to why men feel the need to build up their muscles. To relate to women: in the natural world, female animals have a higher pitch to respond to the male animals’ mating calls. The smaller the body, the higher the pitch. Thus, we women want to be thin!

Warshall ends his lecture by advising everybody to take caution in listening to their electronic players. He stated that the basic sound of the human mind (60 cycles per second) is due to the electronic existences in human life, which explains why humans lose hearing listening to their ipods,mp3s, and etc at an early age. I thought this was really clever of him to slip in; nobody listened to the cautious words to turn down the volume because they will lose their hearing. After having played a series of sounds with different cycles per second, Warshall effectively demonstrated that the older people could not hear certain lows and certain highs, which affirmed his caution even more.


Kayla P said...

This lecture touched on many great points, but among some of my favorites were the ones regarding differences in male and female hearing or noises they make. The two that fascinated me the most were the points about the mosquitoes and about females hearing a higher pitch. In his explanation of the mosquitoes Warshall said that female mosquitoes are the ones who make the buzzing noise, which is their way of searching out males. Male mosquitoes, on the other hand, are the ones who bite. They are looking for food for their babies. I thought that was really interesting just because it shows the difference in survival techniques, which even in the same species, sounds and actions differ in order to sustain life. The second point I found fascinating was when he pointed out why females can hear a higher pitch than males. Females, the caretakers, were ever alert for their babies’ cries, and over time began to develop the means to hear such a high pitch. I was able to relate this to myself because I cannot hear high pitches. It’s a long story, but basically I can’t hear birds and microwaves, etc. I also work at a daycare and we have some kids who like to yell. I’ll hear the beginning of the scream, but then when it gets to its highest pitch, I’ll only be able to see their mouths, opened wide. Then, as it decreases, I’ll hear it once again. Warshall said at one point that humans who cannot hear a certain frequency can sometimes feel the sound in their bodies. I know this is true, because if something is super loud that I can’t hear, I’ll feel a sharp pain, even without the sound. Getting back to my original point about the females’ hearing changing over the years, I was yet again amazed at what evolution can do.
Mary, I love what you said about the beauty of noises, and us not knowing. I always wondered the same thing myself. Just like we can’t see the whole color spectrum, we can’t hear everything there is to hear. I think each person hears something slightly different too. Underneath the high pitched noises I can’t hear, that most others can, I hear the low, hollow noises that most miss. So those other noises are there, we just can’t hear them all.
I think your conclusion about body image was spot on. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but it makes complete sense. We recognize people by their voices. Though an unkind assumption, I’ve heard many people guess the sexuality of another by their voices. “Oh, his voice is so high, he must be gay.” Our voices, something we cannot control, say so much about us, or lead people to believe they know us, just because of the way we sound. The other day I was in an elevator, talking to my cousin, when all of a sudden, we heard someone call his name. It was an old friend he had known in high school, and though she hadn’t seen him, she had recognized his voice, and immediately knew it was him. I thought that was amazing.
This lecture was much better than the one before it. It felt shorter than the other one, even thought it was actually longer. Amazing!

Andy V. said...

Like Mary, I also enjoyed this lecture much more. Warshall brings the listener slowly into his way of thought and introduces everything he knows. He starts off right from the beginning with the introduction to the evolution of sounds. Then he introduced to the journey that sound went through to become what we know today. All the while he gives us examples with little recordings of certain sounds.
He first introduces us to white noise. He said that white noise is the basis of all sounds. White noise is the sound of random partials of motion. Warshall showed us that before there were any organisms on Earth, there were just random sounds of the environment. Harmonics were soon made by creations who wanted to make their own songs. By creating sounds and playing them out in a certain way, a message is given, which brings us to words we use. Humans have created communication with use of sounds. We eventually reached the point where we lost the origins of sounds by the use of electronics. Warshall observations open my eyes to the background of the sounds I hear everyday.
It is amazing that Warshall was able to look so deeply to the evolution of sounds. His lecture really enforces the quote “Poets who will not study music are defective.” Without the ability of understanding sounds, the poem would miss its whole point. This reminds in the moment in class when Mario realized the uselessness of analyzing a poem, when some poem could be only created just for the sound of it. A prime example of this is the poem “If I Told Him: A Completed Portrait of Picasso.” The poem focuses on making the chaotic sounds similar to the chaotic look of a Picasso painting.
Warshall’s lecture was very interesting and looked deeply into a certain subject that doesn’t receive as much thought as it should. The development of white noise to the sounds we use to communicate stretches from the beginning of the Earth to what we have today. Sometimes the sounds of things is all we need to bring a message across.

Ashley A said...

From what I understood of Peter Warshall’s lecture, Two Billion Years of Animal Songs, I concluded that the majority of the lecture focuses on how various sounds are incorporated into daily life and how those sounds have evolved over the decades. For instance, Peter noted a time when he went to a concert and the musician opened a door that lead to the outside, listened to the sounds the cars were making and he then proceeded to play the same sounds he heard, using a piano. Peter’s example exemplified the idea that sound is more than just senseless noise, but various vibrations collaborating together to create one divine sound. I also think that if the musician was able to play the same sounds he heard the cars making, it implies that music can be found everywhere and a great piece of work can evolve from the most simplistic noises.

I found it interesting when Warshall defined white noise as sound without harmonics, but yet it holds all the beauty of sound. I took Warshall’s interpretation to mean that white noise is the basis that many sounds were created from and although white noise maybe not be concrete, once they are combined with different sounds, white noise can be taken to another level. Warshall may be leaning toward the idea that anyone and/or anything can create music, and this could connect with the title of the lecture, Two Billion Years of Animal Sounds, because all of these sounds have evolved over the years and they all just build upon one another. Starting from the first animals that roamed the earth to humans, the most basic noises have grown into something completely different and uniquely significant to a particular group of species. If a blue jay makes a certain sound and then a robin makes a similar sound, although both sounds may seem similar because they have evolved from one basic noise, they both have their own unique meaning to that particular species. Peter also made a connection between poetry and music and he saw how some poem have a certain pattern or rhyme scheme and this quality gives poetry a voice in it of itself. Poetry, animal, and human sounds, all have their own unique voices and mean entirely different things to each species, based on the way in which the sounds have grown and changed.

I enjoyed Peter’s comment at the end of the lecture on how sounds and various noises have allowed humans to stay connected with the past while still forging a future. I agree with his statement because change and growth are only effective if someone is able to learn from those who have lived prior to their time. I believe that the only way someone can move forward, is by knowing about their past and the environment they have evolved from. Although humans can still connect with past elements through various noises and sounds, humans have to keep changing and creating their own future.

sodaba said...

I actually like this lecture better than the first one.

“Poets who don’t study music are defective”, I find this statement fascinating. Poetry is what makes music, and naturally considering and understanding music should be essential for poets. Music inspires ordinary people, so it should definitely be inspirational to those who work to create something so close it.

White noises- I think he says that before there were any creatures on earth, there were only white noises, I don’t get what he means by that? Is there some other profound meaning to it than just that?

I found the “truth and beauty theme” rather interesting about the frog and his choice between getting the girl or getting eaten: weird and difficult decision to make, but the frog overcomes it and evolves into making a better mating call.

At the start of the lecture he says he’s going to say some things that would upset some scientists, so does that mean that the sounds he’s letting us hear and the music that he’s playing about the earth’s beginnings aren’t real, and he’s just assuming?

Mary N. said...

Responding to peers:

First, I would like to address this to Andy: Andy, I loved how you connected the whole evolution theme with sounds and the world. You related the transition of sounds from white noise to electronic 60 cycles per second to the Earth before organisms and to the Earth after organisms. This, also, too opened my eyes (mainly due to you for highlighting this part of the lecture) to the idea that, although, sounds were originally part of the natural world, organisms have manipulated for their own purposes and their own benefits. Just as humans have exploited the Earth’s natural resources to ease their lives and cause harms to the lives of other organisms around them, we too have exploited sounds by manipulating it to please our ears; this is a harder concept to grasp, though, than the concept of wasting away land and resources. For example, light pollution is absolutely real. The over usage of lights makes it difficult for astronomers to view the celestial bodies outside of Earth and makes it extremely challenging for organisms migrating from place to place among other harmful results. However, humans think it is more logical to be reducing land pollution than light pollution, since the idea of light pollution is more abstract, more intangible to them.
You also stated that, “We eventually reached the point where we lost the origins of sounds by the use of electronics." This is a great line, as it really shows that we, as a society, didn’t enhance sounds but rather, we lost the origins of sounds ever since we tried manipulating it. True, there are sounds out there (manipulated to create music) are beautiful to our ears. But the sounds lost their naturalness…they became esthetic.

Sodaba: I thought you analyzed the idea that poets need to study music in order to be effective perfectly. You wrote how music inspired ordinary people every day, which is completely true. The rhythm of a song will cause a person to feel a certain emotion, whether it be happy, sad, or inspired. I never connected this musical inspiration to poems before. But like you stated, poets should be inspirational as they produce words others will read. Just as music reaches other people’s ears, poems will as well and they should have the same effect….
And to explain your question on white noise: White noise is basically the noise of nature. It’s described as particles with random chaotic motions that collide with one another. It produces the sounds of thunder, lightning, earthquakes, etc. Upon answering this question of you, it made me realize that white noise is basically the scary sounds that foreshadow a terrorizing scene in a movie. Usually thunder, lightning, and earthquakes lead to devastation and horrors in movies and literature. Perhaps this is why all organisms feel a need to manipulate white noise to produce a more beautiful sound.

Mary N. said...

P.S. To add on to my previous comment: Humans always feel the need to adjust nature in order to fit their own comfort and style. Just as we developed technology to make our life easier, we manipulated white noise into beautiful music to please our ears.

Stephen said...

Hi All!
I was really struck by the concept of "white noise" and its constrast with how certain plants, people, and things simply "pick out" sounds to use. This reminds me of the phonograph, where sound is transcribe onto a medium and where a needle is used to "read" the sound. Every second ot the music is therefore a unique noise on the sound register, and a song/record simply a collection of these noises on the sound register, bound together into a coherent package. I've never thought of sound this way before, even though I watched a computer record someone singing at my church just today with a series of "bleeps" not unlike those found at a hospital room heartbeat moniter. The higher the pitch, and the louder, the greater the spike. I found this really interesting.

Listening while the lecturer played specific sounds (tornado, earthquake, booming sand dunes),I forget the exact purpose of why the lecturer played. However, I wrote down on my paper the words "sounds can convey images." Seems like a "duh.." moment for all of you, but listening to the tornado sounds and the earthquake sounds, I had images all over my head. I even felt a little panicked, although it quickly passed, because the tornado sounds kept getting louder...and louder. We humans have learned to associate certain sounds with ideas and emotions.

Another point of the lecture that ties in with the idea that humans associate sound with ideas is the lecturer's statement that (and I paraphrase) "sound was always there (white noise) but we humans had to figure out ways to create sound. Essentially, he grouped humans and animals together, showing that humans and animals create sound for a purpose, using the same methods- oscillation of sound, differences and nuances in tone and inflection to convey ideas (with obviously differing languages between humans and birds).

One thing that was buried in the back of my mind and which surfaced after he mentioned it was the idea that humans are "limited" to a specific part of the sound register. Many animals can hear better than we do. My church plugs sonic machines into electric sockets to scare away mice with a sound that we can't hear. It's kinda cool to think that there is an entire aspect of the world, another layer that is all around us, but that we can't hear. He ties in humans with the overall scheme of the animal world, showing us that soundwise, humans actually learn from animals (humans tried to imitate animals long, long time ago), and that humans were part of the same continuity of poetics in sounds.

And finally, stylistically, the lecturer was engaging and fun. He cracked jokes and made some remarks we can call "suggestive."

Vanessa G. said...


With the title alone, I wasn't sure that I could elaborate on this lecture as much as I would like to--required to actually. But, I'll certainly try.

I found this lecture to be a little more engaging and relative than "Where's Hell". He kept my attention going with the use of his sound recordings. The first thing that came into my mind was where did he get all of these sounds? But no matter.

I was actually able to agree with Warshall when he mentioned how the study of music is important to poets. This was my first bullet note. I'm pretty sure that almost all of poetry have some type of rhythm. Without rhythm, a poem just sounds boring and readers would just be reading it straight--not sure if I'm making sense...it's a bit hard to explain. For example, a poem can have an AA BB CC pattern--this pattern in itself is a type of rhythm--and this rhythm moves like a beat--and music has a beat! Hope I made it a little more clear? Basically, in order for GOOD poetry to be written, it needs "music".

Another point I would like to address is how he describe white noise--fearsome, awesome, and divine. This was an enormous exaggeration to me because usually, these type of words describe some type of higher power, godly even. But, I changed my mind, especially when he says how people thought that the white noise were from the gods. I compared this higher power to the evolution of sound. His whole lecture is based on how sound has changed and affected the planet. Sound has such a dominating role that it should be described as fearsome, awesome, and divine. Until this lecture, I never realized how sound had such an impact on Earth. From the beginning of time to the present.

I also wondered how sounds become a type of seduction and are intimate. But, it slowly became self-explanatory when he reached the subject of male and female--the time of mating. I found it interesting how much sound is put into this type of relation within the animal and human species. This might sound a bit clique, but the way an animal, like the frog example in Warshall's lecture, and a human try to attract a mate are similar. As society puts it, the man who has "more game" into courting a woman usually gets the her. The same way goes for the frog. The lowest and loudest grunt attracts the female frog's attention and he gets her. This is evidence enough to prove that sound alone has an effect on how we all (humans and animals) communicate with one another. One problem I experienced in this lecture was how at the end he states two poetic goals: 1) to take evolutionary history of assertive low pitches and to reverse the sound 2.) to stress high pitches and to turn that into beautiful sounds. What did he mean by this?

Ashley A said...

I too think that Mary introduced an interesting topic of what “true” sounds really are and how people are supposed to know which sounds are in there “truest” form. Although I don’t think there is a specific answer, I feel that since this question is so open-ended that it adds to the intensity and mystery that music and various sounds can create. I think that Warshall challenges his listeners to go beyond the words of a song or the major theme of a piece of music and to really break it down into the most basic sounds and even though there may not be a sure way to know whether or not the sounds are in their truest forms, the beauty of music and poetry is that there are many elements that are left up to the listeners or the readers to interpret. I also feel that such an open range of interpretations adds to the depth of the composer because it exemplifies the composers’ talents and their ability to create something that numerous people view in their own special ways.

Another point that Mary brought up that I found interesting was her connection between society’s view on body images and how that connects to nature and species’ interactions. Although it seems unfair that the bigger frog eventually gets to mate with the other frog, at the same time, I feel that this situation relates to survival of the fittest and how during the earlier periods of life, an animal had to be strong if he wanted to survive, so animals really did not have a choice. So, somewhat disagree with Mary at this point because I don’t necessarily blame nature for the way society views body image because animals had no choice other than to become the strongest of their kind if they wanted to survive the longest. With that, I instead blame society on the way body images are viewed and the way in which people have manipulated the idea behind having a physically strong body and changed it from the idea of being a method of survival into a way of determining whether or not someone is physically attractive.

The idea that sounds and music open up another world of ideas connects in way with Stevens’ thought that there is a whole other world of sounds that humans are unable to hear. That idea is quite intriguing because it introduces another spectrum of ideas about sounds. I then wonder why humans can hear certain sounds and not others and of those sounds we can’t hear, obviously what do they sound like. I also wonder if it will ever be possible for humans to create a device that will allow people to hear these unknown sounds. But then again, if humans don’t know what these sounds really are, how do we know that we aren’t really hearing these sounds and just simply have no idea what we are actually listening to.

Vanessa G. said...

Hello again APES!

Anyhow, I agree with Kayla about Mary's point of the beauty of noises. I also made a point like this in my blog. I mentioned how music is essential when it comes to poetry, just as Warshall stated. I also see the point Kayla made when she says how we can't see the color spectrum, but we know it's there, just like sound. Sound has such an incredible impact on us that some of us don't take the time to notice it, because it's not physically there, we can't see it, we can only hear it. The fact that we are so used to hearing sound makes it such a familiarity that it just becomes a part of our lives, from when we are born as our first baby's cry to when we die, and the mourning of those around us.
Another point I just wanted to throw in was one Kayla made about how we all hear different noises. I totally agree because even Warshall goes to say that sound is counterfeit and also dishonest. At first, I couldn't quite put this idea together because it didn't make sense to me. But, young and old, hear noises that one another might not be able to. Also, sound is interpreted in different ways, too, which also makes it more dishonest than we might take it to be. Ashley points out how the musician opened the doors and played the sound he heard coming from the streets. Others might have thought he was a lunatic for attempting such a thing. It's all a matter of interpretation.

I also agree with Sodoba's analysis on how poetry is what makes music. The only thing is that I think they both make each other because poetry is music, but music is also poetry. One cannot be without the other: Music is nothing without poetry, but poetry is nothing without music, as I have mentioned in my previous post about Warshall's statement on how without music, poetry is defective.

I also had the same question as Sodoba did, but just in a different sense. What did he mean by white noises? To understand it a bit more, I broke down the two words. I may be thinking too hard, so bare with me. White is the absence of color, right? So, white noises are the absence of noise. That doesn't make much sense to me. The only back up I can put into this thought is how it may have been called "white noises" because noise, which is also sound, has evolved over time. Just as most of us have mentioned, we have altered sound to meet the standards of what the world considers "good music". Sound has been nothing, in the literal sense, before. It went from volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, termites marching to their hill, to tribal music (which still exists), to the most popular genres on Earth. So my question is, can we still call sound that we hear today white noise?

But now that I think about it, I think we still can because white noise is a collision of noise, of vibes, that create sounds. The fact that we use drums and other instruments--including our voices, is in a sense, white noise. Wow, I just confused myself...(well, to us, we may have considered it white noise because it hasn't met our standards of what we usually hear). Just as Steven paraphrased, "sound was always there (white noise) but we humans had to figure out ways to create sound". I'm not sure if this helps my point?

Jenny L said...

After listening to Warshall’s lecture, I realized that I have never really paid attention to the many different sounds that existed all around us, or rather all the sounds that have been present but are neglected to be heard. Warshall in many ways takes us through the journey of the evolution of sound by associating it with the evolution of man. It begins with the vibes. He explains that through the evolution of vibes into white noise, and many other manipulations of the noise, we hear the variety of sounds that exist all around us. It is fascinating to think that such variety of sounds derives from the same white noise. I find his theory to be very interesting and though I’m unsure of its scientific accuracy, it seems very plausible that sound has in fact evolved in that manner. His lecture invokes this thought in which I question whether silence truly exists. Since particles are always in constant motion, sound is therefore always created. Warshall’s lecture makes one question the unanswerable. He plays the sounds of thunder, tornadoes, and earthquakes and I noticed that though all three are different, they all possess similarities in their sounds. Warshall, subtly makes listeners recognize a connection that exists amongst all sounds. It even opens up the possibility that if words are formed through the manipulation of noise, animals can one day speak words by properly adjusting and manipulating sounds. Though such an idea may be farfetched, Warshall shows that through evolution of sounds it may in fact be possible.

In many ways, making our own unique sound contributes to our own individual identity. Warshall states that “All creatures have the power to play with the sound stream.” This ability to influence can directly be related to one’s ability to influence the world with the sounds one makes. Warshall makes listeners see that rather than just viewing the word “sound” in its traditional sense, it can be substituted with one’s ability to influence. The different voices we all have, whether external or internal contribute to our own individual identities. Warshall is not simply talking about his theory on the evolution of sound in his lecture but rather the evolution of man through sound as well.

It seems to me that the underlying message of Warshall’s lecture is not only the importance of sounds, but its’ contribution to communication. Whether it is communication of emotions or words, sounds form the basis of it. It is incredible to think that we are all in fact “shaping air.” Thinking from a modern perspective, the sounds of sirens indicate emergency or trouble, the sounds of birds chirping may signal the onset of spring, and the jingle of bells may symbolize Christmas. All the associations made with sounds vary from individual to individual. This property of sound, to sound essentially the same, but vary so differently in each individual’s ears may be the reason for the different views everyone may have. Everyone has not only a different perspective from the visual aspect but also from the audible aspect as well.

Lastly, I find his observation that as humans we try to bring sounds indoors and ultimately into ourselves to be quite intriguing. What do you guys think will be the consequences of such actions? By imitating and isolating sounds through the use of technology, will this be positive or negative? Overall, like many have stated I enjoyed this lecture more because it is more interactive. I really think that Warshall did a great job in using sounds to give audiences an actual experience rather than just communicating through a boring lecture.

Mels1619 said...

Hi guys, to start off I would like to say that I enjoyed this lecture a lot. I liked the way Warshall used the sounds and incorporated them into the lecture. This made the lecture more entertaining. Warshall not only played sounds but made sounds himself which made a good connection with the audience.

I found interesting the topic of white noise. Warshall explains how "before creatures, earth sounds cape was filled with white noises" and these white noises either had no harmonics in them or all harmonics in it. Warshall is tying to say that there is either a sound or no sound at all. White noise is the beginning of the sound that we humans create now a days.

I also found interesting how Warshall played a few sounds that were directly used for the audience not to hear them and others for the audience to hear them. His point was to tell the audience what we sometimes do not hear the right sounds, low or high tunes, different people could hear different things. It is amazing how if you actually think about it, you could connect the dots and find Warshall's point to be true. And then start to wonder (like Mary did) if what we hear is true or not? Maybe we are creating it.

Warshall's purpose was to take our closed-minds into this new world of sound. He introduced us to this topic that we might of never thought about. He definitely achieves his purpose, the readers or I, at the end, was touched with his ideas and perspectives of this topic of sound.

Stephen said...

Hi everyone!
Responding to peers:

I liked how Mary and Kayla brought up the impact of sound when talking about mating. Citing the humorous example of the lecturer talking about frogs, and how a frog's croak, depending on whether it was higher or lower (which determined size)could get one frog the lady and the other frog out. I liked how both of you connected this to humanity. While humans don't switch partners solely because of the sound of a person's voice (at least I think they don't), humans do have a measure of judgement with respect to voice. As Kayla mentioned, men with higher pitched voices are sometimes assumed gay, and as Mary implies, deeper voices (which signify bulkier men)signify desirability. In the end, it seems to me, the animals are representative of humans when we take out societal and cultural factors, leaving only instinct.

I also noticed the lecturer's assumption that music and poetry are connected. I totally agree with Sodaba's comment that music inspires poetry. Poetry is lyrical, especially if you read it out. It certainly has beats and rhythms.

Jenny L said...

Hey Stephen,

I think you addressed the effect this lecture takes on its listeners quite well. You stated that it helped you to think of something that was “in the back of [your] mind and which surfaced after he mentioned it.” In Warshall’s lecture, I believe that one of his purposes was to take what one would consider ordinary and even insignificant and to make one think in more profound terms about it. Being surrounded by sounds for “2 billion years” it is hardly surprising that many have neglected to give a closer look to its origins and its changes over the years. This aspect that the lecture provides makes it particularly interesting. He brought up many new perspectives in approaching the idea of the evolution of sound and like you I found his concept on “white noise” to be very original. The idea that all sounds derive from this white noise shows that all sounds are connected, all from the same origins and yet so different.

In your post, I also really liked how you formed a connection between sound and the world universally. Though we may all reside in this world, there is, like you say “an entire aspect of the world, another layer that is all around us, but we can’t hear.” There is so much going on right next to our ears yet we can not pick up on the sound waves. I can’t help but wonder what it would feel like to be able to hear all sounds. By bringing such a point to attention, Warshall sparks one’s curiosity.

You also mentioned how humans learn from animals through the imitation of sound. I find this very ironic as human beings are perceived to be superior to animals. This blurs the distinction between humans and animals. However this is the irony that Warshall shows us through sounds. Like the evolution of man, the evolution of sound evolves from animals as well.

Cynthia R said...


I want to begin by saying that this lecture was pretty interesting. I never thought that the world turning could have a sound. Come to think of it, I never really paid much attention to sounds. I was watching a show today about being deaf and when a person gets surgery to hear. It never occurred to me what it would be like to hear nothing and suddenly be hit with the ability to hear it all. It must scary to have all those sounds come at you (since you are not accustomed to ignoring certain sounds like footsteps, cars passing by, etc)

I found it really interesting to sit there and listen to wind, tornadoes, earthquakes, and other parts of nature. In my mind I had a clear picture of what was happening. Other sounds, however, were more difficult to connect to an image. The sand dunes in Namibia, for example, sounded to foreign to me and I couldn't connect the sounds with an image.

A good technique that Marshal used during his lecture was that he would talk for a little bit, explaining the sounds he chose and then he would play them. He would describe about five things and then play the sounds for those things. This is a good technique since it helps the audience picture what they are hearing or at least have some idea of what they are listening to.

In connection to the title, "Two billion years of animal sounds", I noticed how much closer the sounds got to us (humans) as they went along. Warshall began by playing sounds of the earth (wind, sand, etc). Then he went on to play the sounds of animals (gorillas and bugs) and eventually he played the sounds of humans.

Something I wanted to point out was Warshall's talk of "expressive size symbolism". The way he used frogs to symbolize interactions among animals and how their sounds depend on their size was not only interesting but also comedic.

When Warshall got to the part where he played teh sounds humans cant make I had different reactions. Some of the sounds were painful to listen to and other I couldn't hear at all.

Overall, this was a very interesting lecture. From what I could tell, Warshall kept his audience interested as well as kept me interested. He was not only informaive with the typesof sounds he shared, but he was also entertaining and amusing. I smiled a few times at the small jokes he made.

Although I did enjoy his lecture, I was not entirely sure what Warshall's purpose was. He opened up by saying that one man had said something negative about poets who did not listen to music and thatwas why he thought of this lecture. That,I understood. What I wasn't too sure about, however, was the deeper purpose.

Cynthia R said...


So many great ideas to comment on. I realized that many of us touched upon similar ideas in our responses to the lecture.

Andy and I had similar ideas about the evolution of sounds. The lecture went from whte noise to electronic noise with everything in between.

When Mary mentioned ugly and pretty sounds and what is thr true perception of each sound, I thought about voices. Each one of us thinks we sound one way, but that is because we are making the noise. If we each leave a message on an answering machine or record our voices in another form, we will realize what I really sounds like. (I found out the hard way when I heard my voice on TV...eek).

Another point Mary made was about how humans pay close attention to looks which she connected to how frogs pay attention to sound. In a recent study that I read about, humans also pay close attention to smells. Believe it or not, females pick potential mates based on their smells. In recent years, these senses have been impacted by the cologne and perfume industry which interfere with a woman's natural picking (or in this case, smelling) process. I thought about how both forms of picking parterns were really interesting.

Stephen also touched upon a similar point to one of mine; how sounds are connected to images. All throughout the lecture, I was (without trying) connecting the sounds to various pictures in my mind.

"Lastly, I find his observation that as humans we try to bring sounds indoors and ultimately into ourselves to be quite intriguing. What do you guys think will be the consequences of such actions? By imitating and isolating sounds through the use of technology, will this be positive or negative?" I will try to answer Jenny lam's deep question. Hmmm... Well, to begin, I had never thought of humans as even trying to own or capture certains sounds but it doesn make some sense. I believe that in trying to mimik and recreate these sounds with technology, we will only be losing teh ability to listen to the real ones found in nature. Not usre if taht really answered your question, but I tried.

Tzivia H said...

Wow, I'm posting really late, or is it really early? Anyway, I must concede that this lecture was more engaging and less convaluded than the last one, although I found the topic less interesting. Regardless, I'd like to first note Warshall's discussion on individuality and choices. This idea is prevalent throughout, in a number of different manners of discussion. He begins by saying that poetry evolved as the ability of tongues developed, allowing a wider range of complex sounds. As the tongues developed, organisms explored changes in modulation, harmonics, etc. This idea of individuality was especially prevalent in birds, who did not simply explore loudness or speed of their sounds. The development of the consonants and vowels merely served as another form of choice and expression. As Warshall noted, consonants developed as a "unifying" force, which were neutral to counteract the deep, harsher sounds. Similarly, vowels seem to suggest a form of "desire" or "promise," both of which offer a fuller representation of sound's effect. Warshall makes a very compelling point, connecting poetry to sound. Sound in it's own right is poetry in that choices are being made: conveying a certain emotion, or merely in the technical aspect, choosing volume, speed, color, etc. As Warshall so succintly says, it's the "power to play with sounds" that makes it so essential.

I'd also like to address Warshall's discussion of poetics' goals, for it further connects poetry and sound. He notes at the very end of the lecture, that poetry has become a means of purification for the "evolutionary history" of our sounds. Hearkening back to sounds he played at the beginning of the lecture, sounds of frogs, cicadas- essentially of the rainforest, Warshall maintains that through poetry the aggression of such low sounds have been reduced. While simultaneously, the "fearful high sounds" have been manipulated and developed, thus curbing the initial primordial aspect of it.

If I might comment on Stephen first: You made a very profound comment about the layer of sounds that we as humans can not perceive. You noted that “It's kinda cool to think that there is an entire aspect of the world, another layer that is all around us, but that we can't hear.” From a personal standpoint, I find it almost frustrating being cognizant of it but not being able to explore it. My frustration/surprise at the fact that these sounds exist but can’t be heard by humans merely mirrors our humancentric society; it’s difficult to believe that things occur outside the realm of human understanding. Nevertheless, it’s a very interesting point you make about the relationship between sounds and humans.

To conclude, I’d also like to address Mary’s first comment, specifically her discussion of the quote “Poets who do not study music are defective:” The parallels you built between poetry and music seem quite plausible and address the reason why music should be studied for poetics, especially in terms of tone. To continue this point, music is simply a harmonic manipulation of sounds. Warshall concedes that poetry too is a manipulation of sounds, a refinement of the low aggressive sounds, and the high fearful sounds. Thus studying music’s choices with respect to sound merely mirrors the choices one makes with poetry.


Matt Z! said...

Wow! I must say I really enjoyed this lecture far better than the previous one. This one actually kept me interested and engaged in the discussion.

With that being said, I found some of the most interesting things examined had to do with the "white noise" mentioned near the beginning of the lecture. White noise was defined as the noise created by the "random collisions" of the particles in the air. You never really think about this because it is so quiet, but the truth is there is constantly some kind of noise occurring. Even if it is outside of the normal hearing range of humans, there are tones being emitted by colliding air particles. It's almost as if there is not ever TRUE silence in the earth's atmosphere. Another aspect I found interesting was the fact that "vibes in water move five thousand times faster than in air, and thirteen to fifteen thousand times faster through rock." This is because the closeness of the particles, and it also makes it easier for sounds to travel over larger distances. This is how whales, which emit the sounds that we're all pretty familiar with, can communicate with each other over hundreds of miles. It's pretty amazing to contemplate. Imagine if we, as humans, were somehow a part of the rocks of the earth and had ears that were specialized to hear the vibrations present in the rocks of the earth. We would be able to hear things from all over the world! Also, I found the sound of the vibrating sand dunes to be pretty awesome and breathtaking. I would love to hear that in real life, if possible.

In the animal kingdom, including humans, sounds play an even more amazing role now that the element of communication has been introduced. From a large perspective, it's pretty cool how emotions and messages can be transmitted just by an organism vibrating air particles a certain way. It's interest how frogs create a male dominance hierarchy based on how deep their voices are, called "expressive size symbolism". The deeper the voice, the larger the animal is. Clearly this is not the case with human beings, though.

This leads me to my next topic- the sheer difference between humans and animals in the way they use sound. For instance, there are "no stretched string membrane[s] in nature other than [in] humans" that are used to create sounds. I thought this was interesting, because we also have extremely developed body parts used to manipulate the sounds created by our vocal chords (lips, tongue, teeth, jaw movement, throat muscular movement). It just seems like we actually HAVE the most advanced sound-producing system as well as the most advanced system of communication.

Finally, I thought I would comment on the "hearing test" given during this lecture. I could actually hear the sound produced at 40 cycles/second, but i couldn't hear the noise produced at 18,000 cycles/second. It was pretty weird to know that some of the people who listened to this lecture could hear something that I couldn't.

This leads me in to my response post to Steven...
Steven- It was really weird, I agree, to find out that there "is an entire aspect of the world, another layer that is all around us", yet it is completely hidden to us. I was told by a worker at the Stone Zoo that certain macaws can actually see ultraviolet light. It's so weird to think that some animals have greater powers of perception than we do. As the lecture stated, "dolphins and bats go above the sound levels we can hear, while whales and elephants go blow them." It sure is humbling to know that some animals have powers of perception that go beyond humans not only in sharpness of eyesight and sensitivity to sound, but into entire new octaves of sound and light that are actually invisible to our eyes and inaudible to our ears.

CarlaC said...

To be honest i really enjoyed this lecture, he was pretty hilarious and enticing and always kept my attention. I know this sounds stupid but people always ask this question "would you rather be deaf or blind?" I always said blind because i thought that it would be impossible for me to live with out hearing my mothers voice or my favorite music, or a note played by a voilin at the end of a concierto, or the beautiful melodies and words of abe maria. But after listening to his speech i really thought about that question and i made a text to self connection my grandmother passed away almost two years ago, she lived in chile and i never really had the oppritunity to bond with her as close as i would hoped for and i was so lost when she died i thought that i would never get to know her. Until a box came from chile with when i opened it inside was her favorite dress her favorite necklace and her cd's she was a singer in chile and when i put them in my stereo all i could do was listen to them any oppritunity i got and i felt like the more i listend the more i knew her, those lyrics and guitars will stay in my mind for as long as i live everytime i here a strum on an acoustic guitar i think of her. So when i think of it sounds truly do convey emotions when you hear a the sound of a doorbell after waiting for someone to pick you up or come see you instantly you smile. When you hear the sound of an ambulance your heart always races faster then it normally does. When he said that humans have been attempting to imatate animals for a long time i realized how true that really was. When it was just the cavemen and other animals im sure they saw the ways that animals reacted towards each other they must have realized that they needed to interact to.
All and all hilarious and truly educational speech.

Kristen W. said...

Hey everyone!

Okay I don’t know about all you, but I was completely more into this lecture than the last one. I felt like I understood it more and that Peter Warshall connected with the listeners on a much more personal basis. He showed his knowledge of the subject, but brought it down to a level that everyone could understand. I really liked how he always laughed and completely communicated with the audience. I felt as if it were much more personal rather than just giving a normal lecture.

Right off the bat I was interested in one of the lines he said. He stated, “Poets who do not study music are defective.” I really thought about that quote over and over again in my head. Music is the soul of basically everything. It is the heartbeat of life. Without music, things would just be dull and pretty much pointless. Music is sort of like the tone. Without tone, the poem would fall apart; there would be no meaning behind it. The more tone you add, the better the quality of the poem. The same goes for music.

The subject of the white noises really caught my attention as well. I never would have guessed that by talking about white noises, he meant the original noises of nature. Those noises are hurricanes, earthquakes, and booming sand dunes. When I think of white noises, I think of the soft hush tone of static off a television channel. I wonder if in anyway the noises are similar and come from the same origin. That really stuck out in my mind and I’m curious to see if there is any type of connection between the two.

One last thing I would like to bring up is the ending of the lecture. Warshall talks about the evolution of sounds and what they mean. He talks about how it grew. It first started as ecology sounds, then become indoor sounds, then managed to become in-head sounds. The idea that society today has taken the beautiful sounds of nature and turned them into something in an ipod truly scares me. The fact that sound has changed so much since electricity was created makes me wonder if society knows the true meaning and origin of sound. I feel that this lecture has given me an understanding of just that. I know where it has come from and have a much better knowledge of it. I think that Warshall did an amazing job with this lecture.

Kristen W. said...

Hey Melissa!

I wanted to comment one what you had to say because I found it very interesting. I liked how you started to say that the fact that he made the noises himself was a connection between him and the audience. I agree completely.

I loved the fact that you commented on what Mary said earlier. I was really thinking about that, and thought that sometimes the mind does really make itself believe that there is something there when it really is not. We could force ourselves to believe that the noise is there. He showed that people hear different noises and not everyone is the same.

You talking about how he wants to open our minds. I think he did a great job doing that as well. He talked about a problem in today's society. He mentioned how people have their ipods on too loud. I agree and it made me think about the fact that I never take time to listen to natural sounds. I too have conformed with the rest of society. I really believe you were thinking the same way I was Melissa.

Good Job!

Michaela I. said...

Well, I found this lecture interesting because it featured many sounds that I hadn’t heard before and the lecturer offered insightful commentary. Towards the beginning of the lecture Warshall discusses white noise. He describes white noise as consisting of “widely varying pitches and tones”. He also goes on to say that “within white noise is all the beauty of sound”. These statements relate to the idea of a “soundscape” that Warshall also discusses. It is interesting to think that we all exist within this world of varying sounds and that it is up to us as creatures to create our own songs and music from the sounds that we are given. I guess we could conclude that one of the themes of Warshall’s lecture is creating beauty and structure out of chaos and variety. The idea of “carving out an acoustic niche” struck me because it put limitations on sound which is something that seems limitless. Kind of going off the whole chaos vs. structure thing, Warshall chose to play many animal sounds. I found that many of the sound clips, particularly the animal sounds, had some sort of rhythm. It seems as if he was trying to show that even nature has some kind of structure. Overall I found the lecture informative and it was successful in maintaining my attention which was quite a feat since my attention span is rather short.

To respond to some of you, I agree with what Andy said about the subject of sound not receiving as much thought as it should. This fact makes up most of the lecture’s appeal. Warshall took a topic that most people overlook and dissected it in an eye-opening way. This gave the lecture an informative and attention-grabbing quality. Stephen also brought up some good points. He mentioned in one of his posts that “In the end, it seems to me, the animals are representative of humans when we take out societal and cultural factors, leaving only instinct.” This was an interesting point because it reflected the idea of creating sound from white noise. It is as if humans have created societal/cultural ideas out of instinct and nature. There is a world of instinct and humans have taken pieces and built off of those pieces to create societal ideas. The point made about the pitch of voices indicating the ideal mate is one example of this. Vocal pitch is a natural and from this natural element humans have developed ideas about mates, like whether a man is suitable/desirable based on his voice.