Sounding off

by Chris Ash | 1 January 2016

new generations of human beings will always be searching for new sounds

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”
Bob Marley

This article explores a series of distinctions, attempting to discover what provocative music might be. Drawing out and examining each distinction reveals ideas and elements which could be used to guide creative exploration in a workshop context (musical examples and their relative level of controversy can be tailored for each individual age group appropriately).

The first distinction is a simple but important one: we are only interested in information delivered to us via our ears. Many musicians and bands create controversy and provocation by dressing or acting in a certain way: Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, the Goths, the Emos, the Glam Rockers and so on. At this early stage in our exploration it is important for us to be really clear about what is musically provocative, as opposed to what is provocative in other ways. The rule of thumb here is: did it come to us through our ears?

Sound is always there in our experience: a sea of vibrations in which we’re constantly swimming. Human ears can distinguish sound waves at frequencies ranging from 20Hz to 20Khz and at all sorts of amplitudes and combinations. Those waves can grow from the softest, gentlest whisper, to the loudest explosive shout, and the potential for expression within that spectrum is huge. So if you want to provoke a large number of people, using sound is a sure-fire way to get a response. (For more information on the raw power of sound, consult dubstep producer Kode9’s fascinating book Sonic Warfare).

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