A Didgeridoo; a droning wind instrument developed by Indigenous Austrailians

The Drones are coming!  The Drones are coming!  The video below called “Dronology 101: Tongue in Cheek – Drool on Desk” is the first attack.

 As you know my recent posts have been about the general topic of mindful listening.  One thread of this exploration will entail playing with the nature of “drones” and how they relate to mindful listening. What kind of drones am I talking about? The dictionary provides a number of definitions for this term, some of which I’ve listed below.

 1. an unmanned aircraft that can navigate autonomously.

2. a low monotonous sound; hum or buzz

3.  to speak in a monotonous tone

4. to proceed in a dull, monotonous manner.

5.  a continuous low tone produced by a musical instrument like bagpipes.

6.  a genre of music using drone like instruments.

7.  the male of  the honeybee, stingless and making no honey.

8. a person who lives on the labor of others; a drudge.

 Well, the answer is that I will most likely end up touching on all of these forms of drones.  However, my investigation will always focus on musical droning. 

Drone music is a minimalist style, that emphasizes the use of sustained or repeated sound, notes, or tone-clusters-called drones.  It is typically characterized by lengthy audio programs with relatively slight harmonic variations.  Some examples of ethnic or spiritual music which contains drones includes bagpipe traditions, didgeridoo music in Australia, South Indian classical music, Japanese Gagaku tradition, and medieval European chants.  Today, drone music is primarily created using digital processes; check out the online station, The Drone Zone at Soma FM.

The fact that this form of music, both traditional and contemporary, is seen as having a spiritual or consciousness- altering effect makes me wonder whether it can help induce what I have been calling “mindful listening”.  This is of interest to me because typically, any sound that is unvarying can certainly induce boredom or sleepiness. Is it, I wonder, possible to produce art that has elements of this repetitiveness and monotony and still provide opportunities for the audience to attend mindfully?  At this point I am not sure of the answer and so future posts will play with this question.  As always, your comments will help with my investigation.

 It seems appropriate to begin with the short music video which I have titled “Dronology 101- Tongue in Cheek – Drool on Desk.  Let me know what your experience of this piece was like in the Reply Box. Be sure to turn up your volume and for better results use stereo speakers or headphones.

 In case you were wondering about the phrase “Drool on Desk”, check out the wonderful film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. 

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  1. 1) It didn’t make me sleepy because I’m drinking my morning coffee. 2) It reminds me of the movie “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” When the good guys fall asleep, the invading pods which are growing beside them begin to replicate another copy of that person. The reaction of the audience is to say, “Don’t fall asleep—you’ll be replicated.” The movie would be nothing without the creepy music. 3) Sleep is healing. So your body is telling your brain, “Go to sleep, you’ll feel better. And that’s much better than this boring lecture.” But reality is telling you, if you fall asleep, your grade in this class will drop like a rock. 4) I’m narrow minded about minimal music. I have listened to Steve Reich’s marimba piece all the way through a couple times, but I think it’s too long and I don’t want to get into a trance. I’m crazy enough without getting into a trance. If I ever really got into a trance I’d be dangerous!.

  2. Well, watching people (and animals) fall asleep made me want to fall asleep. Now the scientist in me asks, was it the visual that made me want to fall asleep, or the music? I personally like music that use drones as part of, but not all of, the composition. Perhaps the drone provides a anchor (zero point?) for the rest of the musical activity. In other words, maybe the other musical activity, regardless, provides enough of a contrast to the drone to keep me awake and interested. I.e., it’s perhaps “relative”? Is this response making you sleepy yet? 🙂

  3. BTW: one more thought. I’m probably old-fashioned, but I still think music a piece of music needs variety in order to keep the listener engaged (and awake!). Composers of the past went to great lengths to provide variations of thematic material, modulated to new keys, and a favorite of mine, tension and release in the course of the piece. Without it, I think we loose interest. Meditative music usually doesn’t include any of these elements, but I think they strive to NOT engage the listener, as it is just another “thought” that, as I understand it, the person meditating is attempting to vanquish. In this case, my guess is that the music acts as a transitioning agent, from conscious thought, to more abstract (aural) activity, and then to the desired “no thought” level