Sound is movement: steady, pulsing, repeated.
washing across your body, pushing you from side to side.
I see my foot tap,
I feel my head nod,
the orchestration of your music in my body.
I love to dance. I sway to good music, I walk in time to any beat, I love music that grooves and gives a reason to move my feet. Its creative and cathartic, sexual but publicly permissible, secular but still spiritual.
At least for me.
But I know, trust me I know, that not everyone feels this way.
Some folks gum up, tongue up, tasting a cotton mouth.
Anxiety is always thirsty, but “Cold Beer Always on Tap!”
And so later that night that, with oxygen levels sufficiently depleted, the last to join the dance floor is always the best to lead it.
“Dance is music made visible.”
George Balanchine (famous Russian born Ballet choreographer, who I’d never heard of)
Maybe it doesn’t need the modifier. Maybe dancing is equivalent to making music: dance is music. Do you need to have sound in order for there to be music? I don’t think so and the deaf and hard of hearing community would agree, check out this article. Here’s an experiment you can do right now at your computer to prove it:
Read this aloud at a steady pace, saying the bolded letters louder: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Now squeeze the rhythm in your fist, a harder squeeze for the bolded numbers but only one contraction per number.
Okay, so if you were able to do that you just “played” my piece with your fist. If you did it right it didn’t make any noise at all but you still felt the rhythm in your body and maybe even heard yourself saying the numbers inside your head. Now try it where you don’t say the numbers in your head (or aloud) and just “feel” the pattern in your fist. BAM! Silent music. If you want to take this a step further you can orchestrate the same rhythm onto any muscle of your body. You could even split it so that the bold numbers are played by your fist and the unbolded numbers by doing a kegel squeeze, GET CREATIVE PEOPLE!
Think I’m crazy? Well I think you’re close minded. Here’s the thing, music consists of pitch and rhythm but it doesn’t have to have both of these at once. Some 20th and 21st century art pieces intentionally avoid any discernible rhythms, and there are plenty of works for non-pitched percussion that don’t use melody in the traditional sense. We all know of John Cage’s infamous 4’33,” a piece of continuous silence that draws your attention to the ambient sounds around you (here is a performance by the composer). Now none of these examples are exactly what I had you do; they are all still heard rather than felt. But what they do demonstrate is that the boundaries of what we consider to be music have been pushed to the extremes and I think physical rhythms (what I’m calling things like the fist rhythm) are a lot closer to traditional music than some experiments in the classical world.
Furthermore, I could argue (if I were the arguing type, seeing as I’m not I’ll just tell you) that hearing is really just a heightened version of feeling. After all, the same vibrations that are perceived by our inner ear are hitting our entire body, our mind and our skin are simply not sensitive enough to make anything of it. But when pitches get low enough we do feel it. That’s why that half time dub-step beat drop is so freaking amazing, I mean like omg, amirite? #bass4life. Plus, even when you do hear something, that sound is only happening inside your head; outside it’s just plain old vibrations, fluctuations of pressure in the air around your ears. So you can see that you really don’t ever hear anything, you just feel things in a specific and intense way that is interpreted by your brain. Hearing is just a nickname for that process.
So how does dance fit in? Well, dancing is basically the art form of my fist exercise. When a drummer plays a beat on their set, they are orchestrating a rhythm over the various instruments in the drum set. Likewise, a dancer is orchestrating onto their body. The various muscles and parts of the body become the different instruments. Or you could consider the body in its entirety to be one instrument and the various parts to be the “pitches” of that instrument. Do you see what I’m getting at? The visual beauty of dancing is the bi-product of playing music through the body. It’s a silent music that only the dancer can feel, but it is music none the less.
When you think about music in this way, as rhythm orchestrated through the body, the limits of what can and can’t be dissolve. Practicing yoga, giving a massage, digging in the garden, walking to work, and even doing the dishes are all music making processes. I listed these examples because they tend to naturally occur with a certain rhythm, but really any activity has this potential. After all, the rhythm of our heart beat and of our breath are always present. Being aware of them and executing our lives according to them is only a matter of attention. We are all composers of silent symphonies, we are all dancing to the rhythm of our breath. There is power in that. There is beauty in that. If you can become aware of this music in your body you will surely benefit.
So perk up, you’re improvising the composition of your life right now every time you take a breath, you might as well become aware and enjoy the performance! Thanks for thinking in purple, see you on the dance floor *dancing girl emoji*