Investigation: Is Sneezing Music? – Noisey

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Listen. It’s January. The news is slow. I am doing what I can with very limited resources. So anyway: the BBC reports that some guy in Leicester hospitalized himself holding in a sneeze and, as a keen and interested music journalist who always has one finger on the pulse and many brain cells on Music: The Concept, I am compelled to ask: is sneezing music?

I am wondering because: a) sneezing is, in part, a sound, and therefore might be music; and b) because I am responsible, and if it turns out that holding in a sneeze can cause a music-related injury, I would never forgive myself for not warning our audience here at Noisey. (If it turns out that a sneeze is not music, I would like to rescind this comment and am hereby stating that I do not care). So, I am going to use the widely recognised scientific technique ‘process of elimination’ to establish whether sneezing is indeed music, and bring you the Real Answers you deserve.

Is a sneeze percussion?
The Cambridge English Dictionary defines ‘percussion’ as “musical instruments that you play by hitting them with your hand or an object such as a stick.” Sneezes have nothing to do with sticks.

Sneezes are not percussion.

Is a sneeze brass?
According to this website I found that explains how brass instruments work, “Modern brass instruments produce sound through a metal mouthpiece. The mouthpiece is similar on most brass instruments, usually varying only in size. Sound is produced by placing the lips on the mouthpiece and blowing while vibrating the lips. The larger the mouthpiece, the lower the sound of the instrument.”

Thank you, method-behind-the-music.com. Now, I have done my research on sneezing in the last few minutes, and I have learned that playing a brass instrument and sneezing are not too different. Both involve expelling air in order to make a sound, and in the same way that the size of a brass instrument’s mouthpiece affects the pitch of the notes that emerge from it, Erich Voigt, otolaryngologist in the Department of Otolaryngology at New York’s NYU Langone Medical Centre told Refinery29 last year that “The size and shape of the neck and head then cause the sound to resonate and make a unique sound.” Look into the face of science.

Sneezing might be brass.

Is sneezing a synth?
Try and tell this guy it’s not:

Sneezing might be a synth.

Is sneezing strings?
Some people vocalize their sneezes, which means that the vocal cords get involved with the sneeze action. Thus, sneezing might be strings.

Sneezes might be strings.

Is sneezing singing?
Obviously because they both (sort of) come out of your mouth, sneezing is quite close to singing. Obviously.

Sneezing might be singing.

Is sneezing music?
My final argument is an abstract one. Sneezing is spontaneous. You usually don’t know when it is going to happen; it’s a natural phenomenon. Some might say that the best music—the most beautiful and creative music—can be described in the same way. Moreover, very loud music can damage your ears, and so can holding in a sneeze.

Sneezing is probably music. Please take care when doing it, so as not to sustain a music-related injury.

You can thank Lauren for her important work on Twitter.



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