listen: to the waking eye dreaming the sound of the city park: green grass fixed in the retina, the eye lysergic and hallucinating sonority. to our music through mobile phones, seeking zones of empty bandwidth and filling them, like the ring ring of bells, marking territory, driving out evil. to church bells as represented by a PA system and audio player hidden in the belfry. The sound is the same as the sound of real bells. Both just shimmering air. to the city listening to us, spaces responding to our footsteps, spaces fearful of our reverberant loneliness. in a bush in the middle of Elephant and Castle roundabout, penetrated by growling combustion engines. (“I was lying the grass/I could hear the highway breathing”) without obligation to hear. In the purgatory of resonance. The ungraspable depth charge roar of the Tube carriage. to ourselves being listened to, eavesdropped, CCTV marks our lips, silently mouthing our inner-worlds, phone-hacked to pieces. as music: the city becoming an orchestra (never a pop group), We are Luigi Russolo – aural flaneur – each sound prescribed and pre-determined, evidence of the hand of a creator. in topologies, hearing all points in space and time in the same space and time, listening as interior and exterior at once, the sonorous mobius strip. to our auditory imaginations: co-present polyphonies of screaming doubt, half-remembered melodies, reactionary exclamations and the drone of our mothers. without obligation to hear again, so promising nothing like understanding: “We have listened, we have learned, and we are improving our plans for the NHS.” to our listening-self listening; the sound artist, active, reflexive, engaged, glorious, smug as an early morning jogger. to sounds as the dreams of objects: daemons that haunt the silent, material world: the babbles and the murmurs of lucid sleep, the seethe and the drag of flaccid nightmares. to the speaking voice: forcing us headlong towards meaning, leapfrogging the purr of the r and the flat blade of the s, the open gorge of the ahhh and the deep funnel of the oooo. to our own selves as ventriloquised by technology, the smart phone’s impersonation of my partner’s voice, my own breath as heard by satellites. as if my breath through the phone speaker is from another body, phonospectral perversion actively, nodding in agreement, making encouraging noises, echoing the blah blah blah blah of bus suspension and the wah wah wah of . as ear-witnesses, evidence of a hearing world. I am listening to you, you listening to me listening to you, listening to me, listening to you, listening to me (fade) to the city as a living archive, sonified data, constructing moments from pieces, thumbing through resonance with greasy earlobes. To noise-reduction, noise-masking, noise-cancelling, high signal to noise ratios, anoeric, hearing the raging emptiness of high-fidelity. Silence. “But we can’t stop. Even in silence our minds roar.”
Hearing comes before words. The child listens and recognises before it can speak.
But there is another way in which hearing comes before words. It is hearing which establishes our place in the surrounding world; we can explain that world with words, but words can never undo the fact that we are surrounded by sound. The relation between what we hear and what we know is never settled. On a beach we hear the roar of the ocean. We know the moon pulls the tides. Yet the knowledge, the explanation, never quite fits the sound.
The way we hear things is affected by what we know or what we believe. In the Middle Ages when men believed in the reality of God the sound of bells must have meant something different to what it means today. Nevertheless their idea of God owed a lot to the resonant, all-pervading chime of the bell; to the seeping and omnipresent quality of the peal.
Multiple tape players and listening devices from the Sound and Performance collaboration at Tate Modern on September 2nd (devised with Louisa Martin and ATOI and featuring ARCO and the Roundhouse Experimental Choir).
Myself and Will Shutes from Test Centre recently visited a potter at Goldsmith’s College with the objective of proving, or disapproving, theory that clay can capture sound. Here’s a recording of our investigation, broadcast on Resonance FM as part of Test Centre’s weekly programme.
Recently recorded Tom McCarthy and Stewart Home for two forthcoming Test Centre long-players. The Stewart LP will feature a live set voiced through a Fender practice amp. Tom’s contains recordings from Remainder and C and maybe include a hard-to-play C side.
Some images of my installation Scribble made for the ongoing Open Studio project at Tate Modern. The piece amplifies and spatialises the sounds of scribbles made by visitors on score manuscript.
I recently worked with poet Surya Turner and the intergenerational arts organisation Magic Me on a sound piece all about Whitechapel High Street. We interviewed folk at the Bell Foundry, the East London Mosque, Stepney Jewish Care, the Bow Police Stables, Bow Bus Garage, Osmani School, St Agnes RC School and St Catherine’s Church, and I turned it into a 15 minute piece that runs for the duration of the number 205 bus run from Aldgate to Bow.
Some photos and videos from the module I run at the Central School of Speech and Drama. We spent a day at Cecil Sharp House devising multiple installations using all kinds of amps, speakers and sound-generating devices.
And here are some images taken by Panayiotis Lambis of the student’s final works (yes, PHOTOS of SOUND):