...ticking clock w/crows. many crows. birds peeping beneath fridge gurgle. clicking computer keys and clicking of tiles from El’s game. the construction noise seems to’ve stopped. quail. hum of computer and scritch on paper. last night i heard coyotes again. some calls echoing for a split second, hanging. the dogs then started in. i thought that the coyote calls sounded mournful at first, then, realising how mind tries to fit things into boxes i abandoned that thought and another leapt to fill the gap. now the calls sounded mocking. by turns joyous, playful, ominous...are they communicating anything at all? or rather, is there intent in their sounding?
outside to get the mail. concentration of whistlings & chirps & clicks ahead and just to the left, in the thick branches along our property line. in front and on the left side of my head there is a steady clicking, high up, and single occasional tweets to my right. i walk through these sounds. it seems quite difficult not to assign some ideas to sounds heard. listening in the dark precipitates trying to discern cause and location of a sound. its origin. barring recognition of a sound, the mind may conjure fear, listing the things it could possibly be. eventually, it will give up if a cause cannot be assigned. it’s just one of those sounds, like the house croaking.
listening closer this morning i hear that the clock doesn’t so much tick as it rhythmically crunches. the sound has me trying to picture the clock mechanism in my mind, which task i abandon and try to concentrate on the sound. far off peeping. that odd ringing of “no sound”. the roar of the heater. the house warms up, creaking.
i wonder to what extent the history of western musics is an outline of people’s deteriorating ability to listen. listening to the animist orchestra CD, i opened El’s new book “they have a word for it”, and at the top of the page was written “wei wu-wei: conscious non-action, the act of not doing. the introduction of this book is titled “hearing is believing”... to turn noise into music, listen....
july 19 2001
standing in the kitchen making coffee, thinking again about the inability of words to convey sounds (w/o naming things). how to distinguish between the scrape of plastic on glass and the rubbing together of metal wires? i hear repeating bird notes receding, a far off garbage truck. quail call, chirps...
what is that sound? is it a note? a slur? a fermata?
is it a noise? does it bother you?
does it please you?
do you take this sound personally?
(the idea to place microphones down the barrels of the cannons at fort casey to record their resonant frequencies, excited by wind and water).
can you take a sound?
or just listen? or not?
why interpret? is it less dangerous? scary? impersonal?
do you know its source? why must you know? (are being and mind seperate?)
are you concentrating? on listening? if not, what are you concentrating on?
are you bored? are you interested?
structure is all about.
those interruptions are really just a part of what’s happening...
(the drive itself was music).
i had set up a sound installation in my yard, consisting of pick-ups and amplifiers attached to bamboo and a wire fence. while i was sitting and listening, Clem came out to investigate. i explained what i was doing and we both sat listening for awhile. he said, “i know that rhythm”.
remember having a conversation with Rob Lewis about sound, which lasted several days. this was years and years ago. at the end of the conversation Rob said “you should read John Cage’s book ‘Silence’”. after several moments he added, “on second thought, you probably don’t have to”.
during the final performance at anomalous records, Eric Lanzillotta directed my attention to a group of audience members seated on the big couch. “they look too comfortable”, he said, “let’s go move them”.
last night a sound, like colliding metal moving down the street, maybe a car disfiguring? voices as i move inside.
(Isaac also said something about the “definite spiritual aspect” of the orchestra. having these words ascribed seems almost scripted, like i know what people are going to say.) the sound of brass screws turning in my palm. generator, compressor, acetaline torch...pounding, sawing, cutting...children’s voices, adult voices sounding authoritative...the whale vertabrae...scraping tree branches on the side of the truck.
sept. 3 still...
chorus of quail w/wind totem this morning. after waking the past few mornings to crowds of human voices, a welcome change.
radio stations interferring with each other, fridge, fan, paper crackling...words about pain and medical procedures (my mother’s hip replacement...)
ideas: lead splitting particles....slurping, splashing sounds from the radio. phone number...”who’s first?”
on a small piece of styrofoam on our table are various objects, (small ceramic tiles, small stones, walnut shells, etc), including a smooth stone set inside a cockle shell. whenever the table is rocked, by someone walking by, nudging the table, sitting down; the stone and shell rock together, a slight, short, ceramic-like sound. for the longest time i could not discern the origin of it. vibration from across the room can set it in motion. or writing on the table top. it rocks every time Eleanor walks by. (crunching clock, airplane)...
fridge off...crickets chirp a shuffle rhythm, reminds me of hiphop music, (those flinty high-hats), but then stops. (becoming excited about a book, i pick it up and open it. a cursory reading deadens my interest. it is the possibilities that interest..)
how to listen, when bad music keeps playing in my mind? (memory? what natural mechanism could be responsible for this? and what could its function be?) sound totem and chimes inside...big chime...i think i hear them all...kettle pops. chimes. paper movement, breathing...wind in shade bamboo...build-up of wind, kettle pops again at the same instant Eleanor puts her coffee cup down on the table...paper scrape, belch, belch swallowing air, kettle rumbling, gurgling, pops again, grows quiet, chimes, whistle... the big chimes have developed a buzz, especially in the two slowest notes, due to weathering (strips of wood separating), and bee holes...(tires sqeal in the distance...sip...wind slows down, pencil scritch, paper shuffle...nails on tabletop drummed...wind in treetops mixed w/motors).
crow and marching band...
watching shadow patterns on the walls, thinking of making films of them. dave and i talked about this on the phone the other night, one of the things that is life, it’s there for noticing. or not. and cares not one way or the other. it may not be art, being as it isn’t based on some human will or pathology, but there it is and i’m noticing it. (an installation that consists of a bare white room with large windows to allow the sun in, so that people can watch the path of light on the walls). took photographs of the shadows of window plants on the wall...5 minutes ago? now they’re gone, just a faint glow on the wall. and playing guitar while a derek bailey CD is on, i can only hear parts of it due to my sitting under the air conditioner. correspondences happen without my intent, because i can’t quite hear everything. my attention pulled this way and that, not worrying about trying to “say something”, to “make something”.
recording in the small canyon that cuts through duff flat...water, wind and airplanes. i guess the planes are flying again...(when i left the house today, soemeone had a generator or something running. what a painful sound...) saw a white “velvet ant” and a large orangey spider hanging in the center of its web, holding on to a shriveled black beetle. a pile of tiny vertebrae...birds, flies...at one point i heard a sort of rustling sound, thought perhaps rain was beginning to fall (it wasn’t) or maybe water was going to come rushing down canyon (nope). the train? as i was climbing out of the canyon i heard music, a continuous singing line with intervallic leaps up and down...the train w/brakes on, coming into the clarkdale station.
crows, telephone, pencil slap, table rock...crow far and near...the “rawk” is close and in the distance cackle, (but that’s not really the word for it)...two parts “wut-wah”, changing pitch slightly, repeating. groups of twos. now the fridge partially blocks it. writing while listening is difficult, because i have to keep switching my attention between three things: listening, thinking what to write, and writing. a waltz of attention. the explosions we heard a few weeks ago may have been blasting on the road to sedona.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LISTENING AND HEARING?
night - crickets, cars, dogs...the sound totem in the wind...shell and stone as El walks across the room. page tirning, shell...scrape of mug on table, sip, clunk...breath (through nose)...crickets continuing...sip, clunk...far-off traffic...“what’re you writing?” (dogs)...“words”...“about sound, what i’m hearing”...fingernails on ceramic: tattoo, swallow, sniff...chimes, cricket shuffle,...traffic hiss, no, swoosh, no...what IS the word for that sound? the clock...pencil rolls off the table and hits my guitar, clang...
water. dripping. rain for first time in months and now it feels like winter. in bed, wondering what quality of sound distinguishes water. on tape, if the mics have not been positioned correctly for recording, water is a clicking, almost metallic sound. what causes the “notes”, the different pitches i discern while laying in bed listening? at the table, water is a drummer, then a whole company of drummers, as it meets the metal air conditioner box outside. different drips and drops happening at differing rates, a handful of rhythms & tempos superimposed on one another. listening as it slowly abates, eleanor makes toast, the fridge starts... ...i’ll listen around...keep my ears peeled...couldn’t believe my ears.
clanking creaking roaring road machinery along the highway to Sedona. someone is playing bagpipe music, coming in my window from somewhere west...fading in and out...(a kilt in the desert wouldn’t be a very good idea...) stove clicking & creaking as it’s thermostadt regulates medium heat, food bubbling in its pan, fridge humming - a dog, a car,...footsteps on gravel...dogs (low/high, low/high, high high high low - bagpipes - (put a bunch of rocking rattling stuff on the table and shake it)...
The Broken Plain
Born 1959 Agana, Guam. Spent formative years wondering and building small shrines for no apparent reason. Played drums and/or guitar in various dance bands before giving it up to concentrate on listening and trying not to think about it. field recordist, improvisor, instrument builder, player of desert detritus.