Everything Has a Sound

Brian picEvery subject taught in a classroom is musical. Yes, music is not just stringed instruments, or woodwinds, or percussion. Unless student textbooks are all blank pages, words abound—ones that possess sound, and even rhythm. Thankfully, the information age cannot change that; it might unduly dry out the words but not eliminate them. The notion that information alone is an academic ideal is certainly not a healthy one because even when reading scientific prose, a reader can enjoy the neat, clean, clear sound of good sentences. This is equally true in social science, math, and history. No discipline is without its unique sounds, for even mathematical and scientific notations that use formulas have arrangement and design. wwmathms2

Occasionally when watching science or nature shows on television, it is obvious that the presenter’s love for the subject matter avoids overly technical language that would drive away viewers, but an element of style still enhances the words chosen in order to convey the beauty and awe of the subject. I recently watched an episode on elephants, and the biologists infused their narrative with efforts to bring the facts alive. Many a student has said of an instructor that a subject “came alive.” It’s this that makes knowledge worth the effort to gain it.

simile_elephantGranted, if a student is dead and chooses to remain dead, thunder and lightning will not help; and music might play on while an audience sleeps through it. Most listeners, however, can gain an appreciation for any subject’s type of words—not only their dictionary meaning, but also their arrangement, clarity, and precision. The point is not only the facts of the subject matter, but also hearing the music of the words used to convey it, regardless of the discipline. If a text avoids pretense and affectation, the language, no matter how simple or complex, will have a sound to it. It’s the sound of someone loving something with words.