Acoustic Experiment

“Walk two steps forward,” said Guru Baba. “That’s it. Maybe one step more. Okay, half a step back. How does that feel?”

Sami didn’t know what to say. It felt the same wherever he stood in the field. He had a view of Mt Alba at the end of the Valley and forests, rivers and cliffs on both sides. The guy standing opposite him about twelve feet away, Shama – was that his name? – would have a similar view, but seeing as he was facing west, it would be Mt Negra instead.

“Okay, you have both played flutes before?” said Guru Baba.

Sami protested. “Guru Baba, I told you…”

“Yes, I know that,” said Guru Baba. “I don’t mean professionally, I just mean can you get a sound out of them? Not orchestral flutes, just bamboo flutes. Here, take one each. No. Wait! Don’t move! I’ll bring them to you. Okay.”

Sami had been Guru Baba’s assistant for almost a year now, ever since the world famous holy man had made Lucerne his home. Guru Baba had been kept super busy by his constant stream of visitors and the demands of his many charitable projects. He rarely found time to get out of the village to pursue his personal projects. Today they had sneaked away for an “acoustic experiment”, though Guru Baba had yet to explain what this consisted of. That was his way – always mysterious. And they’d also picked up this rough-looking guy called Shama. Who knew why?

“Sami, can you please start with a steady tone?” Sami blew too hard initially, creating a rasp, but then produced the requested steady tone, which wavered within reason.

“Very good. Shama, can you please try to match his tone?” Shama did the same – a rasp, and then a steady-enough tone.

“Very good too. Now play continuously while I walk around. Yes, of course you can breathe, who doesn’t? But keep playing as steadily as possible.”

Guru Baba walked around them. At first it was a tight circle barely including them both, but he gradually widened his range till the circle was fifty feet across. He walked this steady perimeter four times, and on the fifth circuit began halting, stopping and starting, like a DVD getting stuck on the same scratch, again and again. He produced a can of orange construction paint from beneath his saffron robe, and marked places that he halted, about every fifteen feet. Sami stopped playing to ask something, but was shouted at and told to continue. Guru Baba continued walking, marking and remarking with orange paint.

After half an hour, the circle of markings was complete. Guru Baba said, “Sami, you wished to ask something.”

“Erm, yes. Why are you making those spots?”

“Music is multisensory. You can hear it, but you can also see and feel it. In all cultures oral traditions came first. Writing came later. The internet came even after that. It wasn’t always there you know.” He smiled to himself. “The past was not silent and neither is the present. We have so much to re-learn about the acoustics of structures and spaces. We must unlock them!”

Shama didn’t say anything, but Sami needed to know more. He asked Guru Baba a series of questions that made him smile, walk over, and take the flute from Sami’s hand. He said, “Now you walk and see.”

Guru Baba and Shama played steady tones as Sami circled. At first he heard just the sounds of the flutes together, but after some circuits, he sensed invisible bumps along his path. The interference patterns created by the two flutes acquired substance. Ancient music was inspired by naturally occurring patterns and rhythms, and was used to tune human emotions and states of awareness. Music attracted mates, communicated messages, and strengthened bonds. It enhanced early man’s chances of survival, and may provide hope for modern man also.

Sami walked round and around with his eyes shut. He saw and felt everything.


2 Responses to “Acoustic Experiment”

  1. great story! i bet that’s how stonehenge and other stone circles were built

  2. Shanti1 Says:

    I’m gonna try it myself. How do you know the spots though? Kind of like sweet spots in theatres I guess

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