Discover your sonic identity to tune in to yourself

Everything we hear every day resonates, vibrates, leaves an imprint, is reflected in us. If we learn the language of sounds, we can tune in to ourselves. A sound designer tells us about it


The word “noise” evokes an unpleasant sensation in our minds. The wail of a siren, the crash of a hammer, the rumble of thunder, the rattle of a train. But even the ringing of a bell, the clinking of a crystal glass, the rustling of a dress against leather are noises. We are all immersed in one soundscape of which we are often unaware but which forms the background of our lives, influences our behavior, affects our emotions and shapes our choices.

Chiara Lujanasound engineer and composer, author of the book Everything is sound (Roi Editions, €21), explains why behind every sound, including the one we produce ourselves, with our movement, our breathing, even from our internal organs, there is a universe full of surprises. So let’s rely on this sound hunter to learn to listen to our own internal music.

Can sound tell who we are?

For sure. We are walking musical instruments in a world that reverberates ceaselessly. And we ourselves act as a sounding board for the noise circulating around us, avoiding or welcoming it. We just don’t realize it. Let’s take a simple example: we may not remember what we ate last night, but it is impossible to forget something song is associated with an important memory. The melody makes the words easier to remember. And it’s no coincidence that in ancient times music played a central role in helping us memorize texts: prayers, liturgies, incantations and entire poems were more easily delivered thanks to their soundtrack, just as chants are still used to teach the alphabet to the children. .

How do we discover our authentic sound?

Learning to listen to each other. Each of us vibrates differently based on our breathing, our heartbeat, the functioning of our internal organs, the way we move in the world, and the way we welcome or reject noise. Everyone has a timbre and a rhythm that marks their personality in the world. At six I spent a lot of time alone at home. I felt so much silence around me. To drive it away, I started making noise from everything: spoons, tables, pots. Each object had a voice. They were my orchestra and I was trying to understand what they were trying to tell me.

When I got tired I heard the silence, but I soon understood the absence of noise does not exist. The frequency of 50 Hz is the sound produced by our refrigerator, the TV plugged into the outlet, the mobile phone charger. It’s a background sound so pervasive that our brains no longer distinguish it. And there a spring was triggered. In an age of visual overload and image supremacy, I wanted to restore sound to its dominant role and turn it into music.

So are sounds able to affect our mood?

Correctly. A number of scholars have mapped the correlation between musical characteristics and emotions. For example, happiness corresponds to fast tempo, large scales, bright timbre and rising tones. Slow tempos, minor scales, opaque tones, low and falling tones are adapted to sadness. Sound feeds our emotions and it begins to do so when we are still in our mother’s womb. We develop the eardrum and inner ear around the fifth week of pregnancy. Long before we see light, we are immersed in the sound environment of the amniotic fluid and react to external noises, soft music or a sudden sound.

This is what communicating through sound means to me get in touch with our primal memories, with that indelible memory associated with the first moments of our existence. The emotions evoked by sounds are neurochemically the same as those evoked by visual stimuli. The ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Response) videos found on YouTube that are now a mass phenomenon are an example of this. They induce pleasant and relaxing sensations, a kind of cerebral orgasm, through certain noises, such as the slapping of a hand on a surface, the whispering of subtle words, and so on. It is no coincidence that they are also used against insomnia.

Does this awareness help us develop musical consciousness?

Here I am. In my masterclasses I promote acivil action for noise where everyone becomes aware of their own sonic imprint and actively participates in the “collective sonata” of the world. There are “good” noises and polluting “noises”. I dream of a society where cell phone ringtones are always on vibrate, cars are silent, and restaurants use sound-absorbing tables and anti-noise dinnerware…

Is our sound footprint capable of influencing relationships with others?

Absolutely. We must integrate and harmonize our noise with that of others. There is no communication without listening to those around us. AND Proper training is contagious. For example, by shaping our voice, we can modify the voice of others. If we speak slowly, our interlocutor will also adjust. If we raise our voices, so will our opponents. In this sense, sound is an essential narrative element, sometimes capable of changing the content of a speech simply by matching timbre and intonation.

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