Category Archives: poetry

Silence in the Conservatory

This week I participated in the Music & Silence workshop convened by the Science Museum and Nottingham University at the Royal College of Music. As part of the workshop, I was asked to respond to the previous events of the day. During my response, I played a recording I had made that morning of 4’33” of the sound inside the anechoic chamber that we visited at London South Bank University; I also composed the following poem in response to a live reading performance by Salomé Voegelin and Daniela Cascella. They read a series of text fragments from various sources they had strewn on the ground before them. My poem is made up of quotations of their improvised reading selections, in the reverse order of which they were heard during the reading. Fragments of fragments – an echoing. Continue reading

Towards a Poetics of Museum Sound

i. Collections

An urge,
an unheard whisper in the ear,
a yearning for that
complete set,
that rarity that only we –
the privileged, the possessors –
can call our own
and control who sees it or hears it.

ii. Objects

This multitude of things
material or intangible
mute or loquacious
produced by culture
assumed authentic
obtained through
– excavation
– plunder
– exchange
selected by a few
desired by many
seen or unseen
with aural auras
untouchable
yet somehow accessible
if deemed worthy.


iii. Galleries

The display of our wares
our triumphs
our tragedies
icons of history
or forgotten pasts
within discursive configurations
spaces resonating with
meaning
history
passion
mortality
time –
the nexus of echoes
past and present:
the active sounds of history.

iv. Memory

What is it about that
sound
that makes me think of childhood?
Why does this image
transport me back to that thing I read
back when I was a student?
Which story about
my family
deserves to be recorded?
When did they decide
these are the things
that we should remember?

v. Contemplation

This silence
that is not silent
these echoes
these objects
installed and instilled with
their own preciousness
encourage one’s mind to ponder
and wander
across time: backwards and forwards
waves of sound, waves of history
upon which our thoughts might float.

vi. Engagement

We visit these places
not just to learn,
but to teach
not just to see,
but to be seen
not just to listen,
but to be heard.


Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Untitled 13

/

A breeze, not yet brumal
sprinkled across our fingers like the leaves of an unfinished book
as we stared at massing clouds:

wispy tortoises
fuzzy elephants
nebulous rabbits

the nearly imperceptible glissade of an impossible bestiary
backed by a soundtrack of airplanes, helicopters,
and psithurism.

//

The sun was rising
but our ears ignored cycles
of rise and fall, off and on;
the auricular is always there even when the luminous is not.

///

Beneath the trees, a curious scent of pepper
brushed against suppressed fire
as if the petioles of the forest’s offspring would spark
when we stepped on them;
they popped like
microscopic
firecrackers
in any case.

Within waterless eddies of that frosty wind
they danced around our feet
in imperfect circles
begging us to join them
if only we would listen.


Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Untitled 12

To watch a vision form
out of emptiness and scratches
to hear the paper struggle, then yield
as the graphite bites into it
to feel the resistance of the pencil to the hand
that seeks to control it.

The translation of image to image
of thought to form
of impulse to structure;
the recording of actions
that produce an artifact of gestures
and ideas
and intuition.


Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Untitled 10

The Active
Sounds
of History:

whispering

the stabilizing hum of an HVAC system
camera phone synthesized shutter sounds
“no flash photography, please”

whispering

the piercing cry of a bored and hungry child
footsteps squeaking on a polished stone floor
cryptic words and numbers wrapped in walkie-talkie crackle

whispering

the hissing, whining, and clicking of a heavy door
stifling a cough
“no touching”

a hush

then, whispering


Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.