a new kind of water

may 11, 2008.

While we were sound walking in the Amsterdam Forest early march, on the occasion of the opening of her "Mythical Beasts" installation, Yvonne used a DV handycam for ears. As she didn't leave the lens cap on, the sounds that Yvonne thus recorded ( * ) came with a series of images, a series that could roughly be divided into four separate parts, each representing one of four classical elements: air, earth, water, fire ... ( ** )

Apart from the children's voices that I added and use as a bridge to connect one element with a next (a sample taken from the collection of other recordings of our soundwalk) the _hears_ that you hear are the sounds as they came with the _sees_ that you see, without alterations. The sequence of images + sounds, I edited, though only ever so slightly ...
The power of such 'tiny edits' to make a 'purpose' apparent - explicit - never ceases to amaze me ...
Two short parts in the clip - you see its uTube embedded above - are playing backwards. If you pay attention, you'll easily spot them (even though in the case of the first of the two this will be probably due to the sound, rather than because of any apparent 'reversed action' occurring within the images ( *** ) ). The second time reversed sequence occurs at the very end of the clip: a police car with flashing blue lights comes rushing along the forest path; it disappears, then re-appears as it comes rushing back. In reverse gear? Of course you will have guessed that this is not really reverse gear, but rather the time reversal of the prior sequence. But - and this fascinates me - there is nothing essentially inherent in the images themselves that will support this view ...
Unless, well ... you might observe that the reverse gear warning light seems to be off.
But apart from that detail, any trained driver would be capable to perform the 'reverse drive' as we see it. So it is a legitimate drive. However, if the resolution of the film would have been better, and had we been able to see the driver inside the car, it would have been immediately obvious that this is a film sequence played backwards. Why? Because we would notice that the driver is looking in the 'wrong' direction ... A moving agent that is herself controlling the movement (is steering) will almost always be looking in the direction of the movement. Which corresponds to the direction of the arrow of time as we (necessarily) know it: the moving and steering agent's attention is directed along time's arrows. If we reverse the action, we will immediately recognize that the agent is looking in the direction of her past ...

You will find that the soundwalk video clip nicely complements the (thirty-six and a half minutes) audio-only piece that I built from the recordings made during the walk.
That piece was called "Daar gaan we weer !" (available on CDr or cassette in a limited (subscription only) edition).
"Daar gaan we weer !"
is a 'goal-less' - that is: doel-loos, not to be confounded with: zin-loos, 'sense-less' - audio post-narrative, constructed from and around a linear series of short commentaries which during the walk were spoken (in dutch) and recorded by one of our fellow sound walkers. ( **** )

In the soundwalk movie I especially like the water part. One main reason for liking it is that it is so concrete and so very abstract at the same time. With its images of waves and the dark undulating reflections of reed stems on the water surface, it makes a wonderfully quiet reference to sounds and sounding ... (Isn't that sóó much better, indeed ?)

The images will remind you of a certain type of electronically generated images - that also, but from a different source, visualize interference and vibration.

I'm happy to often find these days that when dealing with sound material which in some way or other needs to be organized (that I would 'want or need to compose with'), given an idea, given some sort of coordinating image (which might e.g. be [nothing but] a title), the different sounds tend to naturally seek and find their own, their proper place within, almost by themselves. As long as the material has a certain coherence, given this bit of a semantic push, the sounds tend to line up and organize themselves.
Even if there's a lot of them.
So indeed then it has to be like the Duchess said to Alice, somewhere in Wonderland: "Take care of the sense, and the sounds will take care of themselves ..." ( ***** )

I found a truly enchanting visualization of this idea of 'self-organization', where everything is just - quite literally :-) - falling into place, in one of Rébus's recent additions to his continuously expanding collection of u-Tubes.

It is called The Music Box :

See how that red and that blue toy guitar pick their perfect places all by themselves, somewhere in the middle of the clip? That's about what I mean ... a joy to see ... (and hear!) ...


It's been near to a month ago now that on a funny sunny friday afternoon (it was april 12th, 2008) we met up with Rébus on the very middle of the passerelle Simone de Beauvoir ...on the bridge Not under the bridge, but on it ... Rébus had been talking to us for quite some time already about the passerelle as a fine spot for some antiNoise, but somehow a Brigade had not yet made it up there. Till this friday in april, on the occasion of Jodi Rose's visit to Paris.
Jodi had come over to prepare for her contribution to the upcoming Malaupixel festival. Our world's (well, probably any world's) bridges are Jodi's fetish. They have her traveling all over. Jodi will go anyway to hear and record them - to catch the 'songs' that emanate from the tense and vibring cables that suspend them. Cables that are both a bridge's nerves and its muscles. Fierce steel-woven cords, that, as if in want of the touch of any passing Apollonian's hands, from afar arise from its surface like the strings of a giant - Dionysian - harp ... That friday afternoon Jodi joined us in an improvised attempt, as imagined by Rébus, to have the - stringwise - relatively modest passerelle reveal - and us revel in - its tones ... There also were beer and sandwiches, and we met Perri Lynch, an artist from Seattle visiting Paris.

And all of this not under, all of this happening on the bridge ...

For a while we 'played the passerelle', improvising with the amplified vibrations of the bridge's metal poles and gratings. Rébus had these sounds re-sound through a couple of small battery powered amplifiers. It took no more really than a few simple piezo's and - long, slow, tender and patient - moments of feeling her up and embracing, like a post-pop Tommy Walker doing his pinball machine ... "See me, feel me, touch me, steel me" ... It's all there, in Rébus's u-Tube :

Jodi's Singing Bridges project is part of the growing body of work investigating possible musics arising from the manifold of vibrations that we contain, and which surround us, but that are not necessarily (directly) hear-able. I was reminded of the belle soirée with Michael Gendreau, almost four years ago aux Voûtes, who used accelerometers to extract a wonderful drone from the vibrations caused by the evening traffic passing through the rue neuve Tolbiac, some meters over our heads.

The continuous vibrations that reach us from all around, from within and from wihtout, even those arriving here on earth from outerspace, from far away stars, yes, (no kidding !), sometimes dating back to the very beginnings of our universe ... because vibrations are the stuff that sounds are made of, all of these have it in them ... they can be made to sound, can be made to music ...

So beautiful ... Many viewers will surely already have tuned in to Palaoa, that mysterious (for of un-seen origins) 24/7 live-stream of sounds from below the Antarctic Ice, captured with two hydrophones by an autonomous, wind and solar powered observatory located on the Ekström ice shelf. Like Gendreau's accelerometer drone, like the sound of Simone, indeed, like the un-sound of the undulating reflection of the three reed stems in the Soundwalk clip, I never seem to tire of hearing Palaoa. Maybe that is because Palaoa, like the others, in a way is touching eternity. And thus near to silence.

For silence surely is the sound of eternity. ( ****** )

[ Along these lines, there's a recent article in the New Yorker, Letter from Alaska: Song of the Earth, in which Alex Ross draws a penetrating portrait of "The Place Where You Go To Listen", an unending sound-and-light piece composed and installed by the american composer John Luther Adams in the Museum of the North in Alaska since the spring equinox of 2006, and which, in real time, "gives voice to the rhythms of daylight and darkness, the phases of the moon, the seismic vibrations of the earth and the dance of the aurora borealis" ... So here's a must go and see/hear for yourself next time you're ("it's so cold") in Alaska ... ]

notes __ ::
(*) To be precise: Yvonne recorded all, except for a small bit, which was filmed by another soundwalker when Yvonne passed her the handycam for a moment. It's the part which became the opening sequence in the edited version (the sequence in which the plane passes). [ ^ ]
(**) The idea of the four together then of course is the representation of the 'fifth element' ... [ ^ ]
(***) You will find an awful lot of 'reverse movies' on YouTube, so many that one can almost of a 'youtube genre' ... :-) ... Some are well done and sort of interesting, like this - popular indeed - backwards singing movie. If you are interested, you'll easily find many more examples by yourself ... [ ^ ]
(****) " ... ik hoor alleen maar wind alle hondjes lopen ook mee en daar komen nog fietsers langs boep! ik zak in de modder weg bijna we moeten eigenlijk met onze ogen dicht lopen maar dat is nogal gevaarlijk hier dus we doen één oog dicht en in de verte het autoverkeer daar gaan we weer easyjet komt vlak over de bomen van het amsterdamse bos een oranje toestal wat aan het landen is de vogels trekken zich er niets van aan die fluiten gewoon door heb jij al een vogel gehoord? heb jij al een vogel gehoord? nee? ook nog niet? ik heb wel de wind gehoord ik heb wel de wind gehoord we gaan nu door het struweel een herdloper een kraai een kind een blauwe klm vogel wind is er een heel klein beetje zon door de bomen daar komt weer een groene vogel boeing 747 vogel héél laag je ziet wel vogels in de bomen maar je hoort ze niet weer een vogel met een t erop een tjif tjaf boeing een vrolijke hond met stippen en daar komt weer een wandelaar en een herdloper komt hallo een lekkere dikke hond voorbij nog een boeing wéér die t misschien vliegt-ie wel rondjes dat weten we niet jonge jonge we gaan weer door het struweel door de brandnetels snoeren blijven hangen we zijn nu bij het water met wat eenden geen gesnater in het water ik hoor de stad wat komt daar aan? privéjet van de rijken des aarde daar gaan we weer ... " [ ^ ]
(*****) Maybe you saw that one before ?... That must be because it is such a favorite quote of mine, so much so, that over the years I have come to consider it as something of a motto, a flag to carry alongside much of what I am doing, here and elsewhere. It's in 'The Mock Turtle's Story', the ninth chapter of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland ... [ ^ ]
(******) Emmanuel Madan told me how he asked the contributors to the Saskatoon Simulcast what they thought eternity would sound like. All of them answered that they felt that silence were the sound of eternity. I remember that I replied that 'eternity does not sound', which is similar. But then of course both eternity and silence are purely hypothetical. Each is a limit, that lies beyond our experience and that we can only imagine. [ ^ ]

tags: soundwalk, time reversal, time's arrow, semantics, vibrations, silence, water

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