Music 286R Listening, Creativity, and Imagination

Abstract: reunderstanding the wandering mind

The spread of industrial noise was examined in R. Murray Schafer’s essay The Music of the Environment in which he describes sound as an ever-increasing imperialistic force we are becoming deaf to. Given the increase in nonsalient auditory stimuli we are subjected to throughout the day, the occurrence of mind wandering-- which I define as the nonspecific act of self-referential thought-- has increased as well. This can be due to a multitude of factors including but not limited to the amount of nonconsensual noise in our environments. Largely what I am interested in however is the sound environment not of the external world, but the internal mind. What does the mind do in silence?

In the brain, the default mode network is most associated with self-referential thought, from future planning to past reflections, etc. It is always active, hence the name “default mode.” Practicing mindfulness may be able to grant the ability to mediate “self-regulation,” which is the ability to discern and manage thoughts, including self-referential thoughts. Mindfulness is defined as the non-judgemental awareness of the present moment (Kabott-Zinn, 1990). Mindfulness is also able to deactivate the default mode network. 

Increased mind-wandering is associated with decreased working memory (short-term memory) scores on tests of general intelligence, and mood (Mooneyham and Schooler). Given the ever-decreasing attention span of the human population, partially mediated by the large tech industry, the practice of mindfulness has become a valuable asset. I am very interested in the soundscape of the mind in silence. We are never able to be in full silence because we have our thoughts. Just as Schafer notes that we are becoming deaf to the external world, I believe we are also becoming deaf to the internal world. It is therefore the ultimate purpose of this project to grant the listener the tools to recognize the wandering mind and be able to recenter the thoughts in a gentle and non-judgmental manner.


Explanation for the attached media: 
  1.  I want to be able to make a project that teaches these things but also is sonically interesting. I don’t want to have it be a voice on a silent canvas. Although I need to have some of it be silent, an entirely silent piece would not be what this class is about. However, upon doing research, I've found that naturalistic sounds are shown to alter the functional connectivity of the default mode network. This sounds counterproductive to the effect I want to achieve because I want the deactivation of the default mode network.  Even though I want to call attention to the soundscape of the mind, I feel like it would be doing a disservice to Professor Jackson's lecturing to do a silent piece. However, The biggest thing I want from my project is for people to walk out with a new mental tool. I want them to be able to recognize when their mind is wandering and be able to recenter their focus in any given situation. So I will have a silent section at the end. But in the intro and centering practice before the end, I will have some sound. Currently, I am extremely inspired by this sonic meditation, which is grounded in a Himalayan meditation tradition:

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