Yussef: Sound has been considered to be formless, or an essence that one can experience through the experience of emotion. As a composer, do you ever question this idea? Do you see sound as a solid form of expression or do you also consider it to be formless?
Sabina: It depends on how we define form! What is the definition of form?
Yussef: I believe the forms in music are what stimulate emotion in the listener. Why do you think different music provokes different emotions? I think emotions also have a form. It’s beautiful to see the combination of musical form and emotional form. I think they work in parallel. They can be enhanced or contradicted based on the perceptual sensitivity of the listener or composer.
Sabina: Do you think vision has a form? Does smell have a form? I don’t know if sound has a form or is formless. I think it could be both. It depends on the perspective of the listening.
Yussef: Because our main sense of perception is regarded as sight, do you think vision distracts us from seeing the spatial form of music?
Sabina: It can depend on many factors, such as age, gender, species.
Yussef: I once went for a walk in the desert. It was the type of walk that one prepares for with an enthusiasm for the experience of listening to silence. Normally we consider the desert to be a silent place, but this is not true. There was a spatial musical gradient or form that I heard in the silence. Similar to the movement of air brushing against the sand. This sound required a certain type of very attentive listening. Have you had any experiences like this, where you were required to listen deeply? From your perspective, what is the difference between listening and hearing environmental sound?
Sabina: When I am staying in my studio alone, or some places where I can be alone, and usually in the night, I hear this kind of spatial silence. Sometimes, if the place is too quiet, I feel like my ears hurt more than when I’m in noisy places. I think listening is picking up certain sounds I am looking for, or what I know already. When I’m listening, I can find some kind of information, or pattern, based on my experiences and knowledge. However, environmental sound is not really heard by ears unless we pay direct attention to it.
Yussef: This is very interesting. Can you explain what it feels like when your ears hurt while listening in silence? What is that sensation like?
Sabina: Maybe my ears are too used to listening to noises in urban life. I remember that when I stayed in a temple on a mountain: it was too quiet because usually monks go to bed at around 9 pm. In the night, I couldn’t hear anything that I usually listen to in the city and I felt like my ears hurt from the silence. Maybe the wavelengths in the mountains were very low, like infrasound, and what I hear everyday is tuned in the wavelength higher than 60~100hz?
Yussef: Some yogis say that there is no such thing as silence. Being that even the breath of inhalation has a rhythm, or tone, and therefore we can never experience a complete silence? Do you agree with this?
Sabina: I don’t understand what you mean. Can you explain more about this?
Yussef: In my opinion I believe that internally there is always the music of the mind and body that the human listens to. Something like the sounds of digestion, thoughts, and the musical forms of emotional movements. When we breathe in and exhale out, just listen to the rhythm. Sometimes when I’m observing myself, I can feel the music of this rhythm, similar to dance. For example, when you have an insight or a creative idea and you begin to »move« or »dance« toward it mentally, I believe the mind and body are then dancing or making music together. It’s like being in a creative flow. The mind is the conductor, and the body becomes the violin that makes the sound that produces the music that the world will experience. This is internal music. A form of living music that every person makes all the time. One of the most beautiful things in life is to find internal musical harmony with others. When we say a relationship is positive and beautiful, I believe we are really saying that the music in which we are both creating internally is in harmony. When we say a relationship is negative I believe what we are saying is that our internal music is disharmonic. What do you think about this from your perspective?
Sabina: Hmm … I have read a paper about Chinese medicine and acupuncture. It says that every organ has a different sound/frequency. For example, the liver sounds like »Do.« The heart sounds like »Mi.« And they use this in the process of finding the cure. I don’t agree with this 100 percent, but in Korean, we say that the body (human and non-human) is a small universe (소우주). It means, the whole universe is in our body. Our body is like a miniature of our universe. Somehow I agree with this. In a scientific view, an example would be an internet network system similar to a human’s neural network. Indeed, the human body makes sound even if I want it to. Our heart beats all the time, regularly or irregularly; otherwise, it’s death. So I think all life forms have their own movements, and moving things makes sound regardless of its size, how big or small. If I can hear my internal sound deeply and truly, I would be a Buddha who can understand our universe from the other world, to this world, and beyond.
Yussef: Beautifully stated, »So I think all life forms have their own movements, and moving things makes sound regardless of their size, how big or small.« What about nonliving or non-moving? There seems to be an aspect of sound that also exists, or comes into existence, in stillness or non-movement. I agree with your statement above, but would like to also speak about sound from a frozen or nonmoving perspective. An example of this would be color? Even if a wall is static, and not moving, its color gives it a certain sound in its stillness. What do you think about this?
Sabina: When you feel the color of the wall making sound, isn’t it totally based on your personal experience? Or mind, imagination, patterns stimulating your brain? If you can think of music from a color, it can be synesthesia. Non-living objects also make sound through wind, rain, or human, along with many other factors. But if you think about what the non-living objects consist of, from a very microscopic level, for instance, there are many small creatures that live on the surface of a rock such as bacteria and moss. If you look into them even more, from a nanoscopic level such as atoms, electrons, particles, etc, everything is constantly moving.