Archive for September, 2013

September 30, 2013

Make This Bed With Awe

The Cambridge dictionary defines noisy as:  making a lot of noise. The definition of noise is:  a sound, often a loud, unpleasant sound. The connotation is negative. But what about when color is combined with noise?

Colored noise refers to noise that may contain a wide audible spectrum but shows a greater intensity in a narrow band of frequencies. Different “colors” of noise sound different to human ears. As images, they have a visibly different texture. So each noise requires a specific color.

The color naming of noise began with “white noise” that is produced by combining sounds of all the different frequencies together. If you combined all of the imaginable tones that a human can hear, you would have white noise. The adjective “white” is used because white light is made up of all of the different colors (frequencies) of light combined together. A rainbow would separate white light back into its component colors. Sound

Other noise colors, like “pink”, “red”, “blue”, “brown”, and “violet” were given to noise with other spectral profiles, sometimes in reference to the color of light with similar spectra, but not always.

While fascinated by all of this, I am clearly no scientist and quickly out of my depth regarding the properties attributed to the color of noise.

SpectrumAs a writer, I am interested in the use of one sense to describe another sense. Synesthesia is a neurological condition where the areas of the brain which identify smell, touch, color, taste and sound become linked in some way. In literature, this device is used to mix senses together so that one type of sensory stimulus causes the activation of another sensory stimulus.

Because white noise contains all frequencies, it is often used to mask other sounds. In my mind’s eye, I see a snowfall in the woods where fat white flakes blanket the ground and muffle sound just as they mask color.

My favorite example of synesthesia is from a poem by Emily Dickinson titled:  Ample Make This Bed.

Ample make this bed.
Make this bed with awe;
In it wait till judgment break
Excellent and fair.

Be its mattress straight,
Be its pillow round;
Let no sunrise’ yellow noise
Interrupt this ground.

Sunrise’ yellow noise—what an exquisite description that brings to mind shafts of buttery light spreading warmth, birds heralding the break of day, the earth and its children shaking off the night and beginning the clamor of their tasks.

So, noisy is not always negative, particularly when compared to the silence of the grave.

Do you have other examples?