Pieces of Sound

I hum to myself a lot. All these pieces of sound that rattle inside my head, like this non-stop radio station playing my favorite and non-favorite tunes, they sort of simmer and then overflow. Not complete songs, mind you, those only play when I am really bored, and I haven’t been bored in a long while now. What I hum are just fragments of tunes, sonic branches that come and go as they please.

It’s a harmless habit that inches more towards annoying  if you are the person sitting next to me in office. Somewhat creepy if I am doing it in the bus and you’re sitting next to me, so I don’t.

It could be worse. There was this time in college when I absentmindedly whistled in class. I did not do it on purpose, I swear, but the subject and the lecture were boring and the tunes, they wouldn’t just stop. I do not blame the lecturer for thinking someone was trying to disrupt his class. He took it in his stride initially – would just stop and look around trying to read the faces of the students sitting in the general direction of where the sound came from. It sort of helped that I do not pucker my lips when I whistle.

I consciously stopped doing that. It was stupid. But some of my classmates felt more mischievous than I did, and began using it as a  thing to disrupt the class. The next time it happened, the lecturer threw a fit and refused to take any more classes until the culprit came to his room and apologized. Nobody did, and finally I went and confessed to having done it before. He was remarkably nice about it, I remember, just asked me not to do it again and came back to take classes from the next day. I am not sure he believed me saying that I had not done it that time.

The other major class disruption had to do with the bassline of ‘Urvasi’, back in school. It’s possible for an impressionable fifteen-year old to come up with a way to generate something similar to the sound of a synth-bass from the back of his throat. It’s also completely possible for said fifteen-year-old to figure out that others cannot localize the source of a sound produced that way, especially if one keep a straight face. Someday, when I am back in Guwahati, I want to confess to Rana-sir that I was the guy messing with his Advanced Mathematics class, and not someone playing Kaadhalan from the road, and that it was not necessary to shut all the windows every day before class to block that sound. This was done totally on purpose, oh man, I was a total douchebag.

On the plus side, I do hum in tune. It’s loathsome to be in tune when the song in question is Mika’s ‘Grace Kelly’, but I manage.

On the hum-list right now:

  • The first few lines of Zeb & Haniya’s Chup, especially the main trumpet line.
  • Random lines from the Rock Star album. The lines translate to “All that I wish to say/is ruined/by the words I employ”. I also try to hum parts of the first song of the album, called ‘Phir Se Ud Chalaa’, which is devilishly tough to transcribe on a single vocal line, let me tell you.
  • The main bass-groove in the Attack the Block OST.
  • The opening to ‘Tom’s Diner’ by Suzanne Vega.

It’s interesting – well, maybe just to myself, but that’s the whole point of this blog, isn’t it? – that some of these tracks just come out of nowhere. The Rock Star tracks are fairly obvious. ‘Chup’ comes from my recent rediscovery of the Zeb/Haniya album thanks to the Dewarists episode that I talked about a few days ago. Attack the Block, when I began humming it and realized what I was doing, became a mystery to me, until I realized that the bass-line is somewhat similar to a loop that plays in Monsters Ate My Condo. (Which is this awesome iPad game that I am playing at the moment, and it has gotten me interested enough to miss my bus-stop a few times)

Funny things happen. ‘Sahara’, from the Sivaji OST began playing in my head when I was reading Richard Starkings’ Elephantmen, because Sahara is the name of one of the characters in the series. That morphed into an upbeat rendition of the ending of Dil Se, which I’ve mentioned earlier as the inspiration behind the main melody of Sahara, and suddenly became a mashup of the opening melody to ‘Tom’s Diner’ and Fallulah’s Bridges’.

That’s not just it. The guitar and trumpet line from ‘Chup’ are trying very hard to remind me of ‘Mrs Robinson’, and I have no idea why. ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ floats in every now and then too.

It gets awkward sometimes. Especially when I’m humming something and someone asks me what the tune is, and I realize that I have to backtrack, in my head, to figure out what it was. That takes time. And makes me appear completely stupid.

The worst it gets is when I pause and realize that I am in the middle of a tune that I should not really be humming. ‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s’, for example, the song by Deep Blue Something. Or ‘Two of Us’ by the Beatles. That’s when I shake myself out of it and change channels, in my head. Some pieces of sound do not belong there anymore.


2 thoughts on “Pieces of Sound

  1. Amulya says:

    I find it odd when I ask people, “what song’s in your head?” And they say, nothing. How’s that possible?

    Also, do you get extremely annoyed when someone else is humming, and they either:
    a. screw up tempo, get rhythm wrong
    b. get the notes and eventually, tune wrong?

    And sometimes, when arrangements from songs/artists are very close to others/their own (eg. happens a lot with unplugged versions of Mohit Chauhan numbers), do you also make a segue from tune to tune? And sometimes, make a fine mess?

    And finally – have you ever arranged playlists to that logic? (it’s hard, but awesome to do.)

    • >How’s that possible?
      It’s like dreams, I guess. Most people do not remember after they wake up, and they say they do not dream.

      >Also, do you get extremely annoyed when >someone else is humming, and they either:
      >a. screw up tempo, get rhythm wrong
      >b. get the notes and eventually, tune wrong?
      Ha, totally. I run away. But sometimes the tunes stick in *my* head, which is also awesome in a way.

      >do you also make a segue from tune to tune? >And sometimes, make a fine mess?
      All the time. My proudest moment was seguing from Dil Hai Mera Deewana to Jumma Chumma AND IT MADE SENSE!

      >And finally – have you ever arranged >playlists to that logic? (it’s hard, but >awesome to do.)
      Ha, no. I just go with the flow, which is to say that I refuse to get logical with this habit. Except when the should-not-hum tunes come up.

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