Do we see in sound the reverberations of the past

Can we hear murmur of the air, sound of the sea, noise of the earth, vastness of the sky? We have seen sound in Shabdo, a Bengali film. The film is about a foley artist Tarak Dutta. Tarak creates the film's ambient sounds in the studio. His methods of creating sound are unique. For example, crushing a paper he creates the subtle noise of flickering flames. He is so obsessed with the sound that is used in movies that he slowly loses grip of words and dialogues. He becomes the victim of his own obsession and that impacts his personal life.

When we think of sound the first thing that comes to mind is music. Music brings back so many memories. Music has the power to control our emotions. Rhythmic sound coordinates the behaviour of people and their thinking. We ‘feel’ music. We interact with music. We ‘conduct’, dance, and change facial expressions while listening to music. A performer’s body language makes a difference in our listening. Music improves our mood. Our ancestors had far more music in their lives. The difference between us and our ancestors is that then everyone joined in the music making. Now we love to sit quietly in passive listening mode. We are consumers of music. Our affinity for music is different. For a singer music is altogether a different experience than for a listener.

Music is good for social bonding, coalition building and generally for reducing interpersonal tensions. Music is both culturally biased and genetically determined. Even babies in the womb respond to music. The right hemisphere of the human brain has been traditionally identified as the seat of music appreciation. Studies reveal that both sides of the brain are necessary for complete perception of rhythm. Though there is a connection, it is not clear which part of the brain predominantly ‘feels’ music and which part ‘hears’ it. Not one particular ‘music centre’ but the whole auditory system (consisting of tens of millions of neurons) is needed to make sense of the music.

Experts say music was a cultural invention, like cave painting or writing, which we humans invented to make our lives easier and more pleasant. Some believe that music has a biological connection. Some say “music is auditory cheesecake”. They believe if music vanishes from our life, our lifestyle would be virtually unchanged. Every culture has music. Choirs, symphonies, ensembles and bands suggest that it is a group activity. Music, it seems, could reveal deeper biological connections between people than characteristics, such as language, that change rapidly when one culture meets another. Every culture has lullabies, and one doesn’t need to understand the language to know that it is a lullaby. People sing to their infants the same way: at a high pitch, in a slow tempo and in a distinctive tone.

Why does music evoke emotion? Studies reveal that music can affect our visual images. Music influences the emotional ratings of the faces. Happy music makes happy faces seem even happier, while sad music exaggerates the melancholy of a frown. Music is both nature and nurture. In the making of Rahul Dev Burman, can we ignore the contributions of enchanting musical environs of Kolkata, the musical support of Basu Chakravarti and Manohari Singh? Can we ignore in RDB the music genes of Sachin Dev Burman?