Go on, you can say it: On making your own music
For some reason you are driven to hum, strum or drum, however terrible that sounds, you might even do it. Then you curb yourself because someone, could it be you yourself, told you now is not the time nor the place; or because someone is laughing at you for the sounds you make. You feel self-conscious, even small. They send you back to the grid, you fit yourself back in, silenced.
Image courtsey : Satya Gummuluri
Who told you that you sound bad? That you are making noise? Who discouraged you from whispering something because you felt like it?
Music is put into boxes. There are blocks of scheduled time which and only which are deemed suitable for listening, learning, practising or playing. Machines put blocks together while you obey commands and silently write algorithms that are declared as the latest hits. There are boxes of genres, of commercial viability, box offices that show you your place in hierarchies of celebrity; there are rooms you will never enter, platforms you will be kept away from. You are trained to receive only that what is sent your way within a narrow spectrum band. Passive listeners are blessed with longevity. Your data goes into boxes online, so you can be told what music you must buy after a box has calculated that you fit a particular categorical enclosure. You give it all away willingly or obliviously to fill the coffers of others. You go along perfectly naturally, there are lines laid out in grids that you can follow along quite easily by design, and that helps when you’ve forgotten (or indeed when it never occurred to you in the first place that you could explore) how to use your own instruments, your voice.
Structures are useful of course, scaffolding gives support to clinging growth. Scarce few might choose to stumble along with nothing to hold on to. Moreover, the beat, melody, words you discover as you search might be pronounced unacceptable by the state itself, by laws made by rulers shepherded by philosopher guides or convenient godmen with an incentive to preserve the cube of the republic— paternalistic figures whose skeletal binaries of good and bad couched in verbose esoterica come at you as declarations of true knowledge in an ideal state that you sponsor through your own consumption of what is sent your way within established order. The state rejects innovation, it guards against the destabilisation of its structures through your seeking of licence to say what you have not said before. Imagine if you were to stop listening altogether and speak when you like!
Practice vocalising. It doesn’t have to be out loud, hum something. Make sounds exactly when the desire bubbles up. You may be tempted to do this only at appropriate times using instruments approved by the machinery to make the right noises, but you need to supersede this instinct. If it makes it any easier, call yourself and hear your own response. Check in with yourself to see if you’re still around somewhere. Do all of this especially when you are in your office box, meeting with your most important client.
You feel like singing? Sing. Make your music.
(Satya Gummuluri is originally from Bombay, based in southern Germany. Trained in engineering and music, she works with writing, research, music/sound, plus editorial, translation and feminist activism.)