Composer Performer/Cultural Activist
The Nerve project
A collaboration between Composers Stewart Lane and Sound Artist Susan Brown on sound and transformation
The healing properties of sound and its ability to generate heightened states of being and elevated perceptions have been known and practiced across cultures for millennia. Throughout time, the canon of wisdom linked to the understanding of the properties of sound and its capabilities has ebbed and flowed. In some epochs,
the wisdom has been jealously guarded by a select few, in others it is openly shared. In our own time, investigation into the properties and power of sound and music
is enjoying a resurgence, although still generally regarded as fringe science.
Music perhaps embodies one of the easiest representations of vibration and resonance that we can understand. Efven though its power to affect us remains largely a mystery. Vibration is at the very heart and essence of atomic structure. Despite appearances, all matter at the level of atoms and molecules constantly moves and vibrates. Human vibration or resonance is affected by many things, including how we think, what we think and how we react to those thoughts. Much of what we think has been influenced by our early experiences in life. These early experiences have a deep impact, both positively and negatively, on how we see ourselves. This affects our resonance or vibration, which in turn influences the people, events and opportunities we attract in life. The most powerful way to work with your own resonance is to find your inner balance and, in
the complex, fast moving world of our times, music can really help. Ancient wisdoms and beliefs were founded on this notion of balance. It was the system used for eons universally across cultures and still exists in many forms such as acupuncture and yoga.
Sound and the Four Humours:
Ancient beliefs held that the human body was filled with four basic substances, called ‘humours’, which are in balance when a person is healthy. It was thought that disease resulted when the humours were not in balance. The four humours were believed to constantly shift according to diet, mood and activity; when an individual was suffering from a surplus or imbalance of one humour, then his or her personality and physical health would be affected. This theory was closely related to the theory of the four elements: earth, fire, water and air; earth predominantly present in the black bile, fire in the yellow bile, water in the phlegm, and all four elements present in the blood.
Those with too much blood were sanguine (cheerfully optimistic, hopeful, or confident). Those with too much phlegm were phlegmatic (not easily excited to action or display of emotion; apathetic; sluggish. self-possessed, calm, or composed) Those with too much yellow bile were choleric (A person who is choleric is a doer. They have a lot of ambition, energy, and passion, and try to instil it in others) and those with too much black bile were melancholic (sadness or depression of the spirits; gloom). Well-being was seen as largely the domain and responsibility of each individual to seek balance within themselves. Medics, such as they were, could assist by determining where an imbalance might be and suggesting a remedy to correct it. In this way, it was believed, the body would then be restored to a position where it could right itself. Modern acupuncture and similar holistic therapies work along similar lines to this day.
Composer Stewart Lane and Sound Artist Susan brown responded to this question of
balance and imbalance, resonance, sonorities, plangencies and vibration by producing
‘sonic reactions’ to the Four Humours. Lane chose a String quartet as his medium of investigation.
'Nerve’ is in four unconnected movements, using the sonic/ acoustic properties of the format to
pose a dialogue between each instrument exploring the nature of each humour.
1st Movement Phlegm (Cold and moist)
2nd Movement Choler (Hot and Dry)
3rd Movement Melancholy (Warm and dry)
4th Movement Sanguine (Hot and moist)
Susan responded to these compositions via a process of editing, or ‘dismemberment’ and re-imagining through
electro-acoustic sensatory reciprocations.