Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Compendium To Silence

.breanna., flickr

Chapter 1: Anacrusis to Bar 1 Beat 1

The genealogy of sound can presumably be traced back all the way to the rumblings that accompanied the initial heating of gas that caused the Big Bang. But as this theoretical work is very speculative, this account picks things up not quite so long ago. We open this chornicle to a bookmarked page at a time when voyage sounded like the pat of your feet along dirt tracks and grass mounds. The world being inhabited by bearded men wearing loincloths and speaking in articulate grunts and hand-gestures. Women who bewitched with intense eyes and meaty thighs. Colors were more noticeable since there were less of them. Sound was an entirely different construct then. Close your eyes: traffic, and all that comes with it. Honking. Motorbikes. Populace. People laughing from across the street. Footsteps from the neighbors above. Telecommunications. Radios, televisions. Car stereos. The incessant numbingness of ipods in peoples ears.

There was a time when the world had a fundamentally different soundscape. A different voice; one that still exists, trapped in fossils... but also having been delegated to a dark room in someone else's house as old people often are. Once upon a time, man awoke to his own panting. The sound of his hands moving was readily audible. Nature surrounding him; a subtle, delicate language had room to speak. On his walk into the woods, this man would listen to his body hum. The sounds of his muscles flexing and contracting with each step would tell him things. Communicate secret messages from bones and Golgi apparatuses. The dust between his toes would squirm at first, but eventually, once the feet had understood the patterns, unlocked the codes, would speak a Morse code of sorts. The world was no less silent... only that it was filled with stranger, odder noises.

Rustling of leaves was massive. You could hear individual leaves detach. As it neared Autumn, people would be kept awake at night listening to it. A green rain. You could hear trees take their considered steps, see their muscular roots creep out from the ground in infinitely patient attempts to hold hands. Children would sometimes be seen to look with extreme concentration into the yard, where perhaps the gentle tremor of a butterfly had caught their attention. Alterations in the directions of wind could cause reeds to tap against the soil, a rainless rain. A dry emulation.

In those times, music was confined to the hands and arms and feet and chests of men and women. To hear such a thing, someone would have to literally create it from scratch. At first from stamping and moving and howling. For funeral dirges the women would line up and maintain perfect soundlessness. They could will their heartbeats to stop for a few hours while the men sat and mourned. Their beards could be heart slowly grating against their skin as they grew out. Other than that, music was the sound of the body. Fundamentally, music and dance were manufactured together. When mom and dad made love in the next room, the children would look to one another and think: oh, mom and daddy are dancing and singing without us again!

An experimental musician named Byot once undertook an arduous journey where she travelled to the farthest corners of her little world and collected the sounds of things into little clay vases. She would later open the lids in a performance for family and friends one at a time and the room would be able to hear the echoes of faraway streams lamenting lost hands and fingertips they passed along the way (first movement- first urn); the bitter sands that cut Byot's face as they swarmed around her, howling of their lost civilization (second movement- second urn); a gentle bark sitting cross-legged and recounting the color transitions from hour to hour of the grass that grew from beneath her lungs to out besides her roots (third movement- third urn). It continued like this. The Jasmine petals sang a song and the room was overcome by the scent of it. One urn told the mellifluous tale of a white rock grown smooth and luminary because of the waves of the sea. The rock told its tale set to the beat of the waves:
(he spoke.
in comings
and goings,
of days
and black,
of seeing
far stars,
blue clouds)
The ocean itself was represented by urn 20. It told a hushed tale of reaching out nightly to grasp the moon. Of missing. Of growing, fingernail by fingernail closer. Of touching its own black face where the moon would leave kissmarks. The aria was long, but sweet. Most of the audience wept gently.

For a while in our history... the line between sound and music, and nature and man was wind. Much of what we knew of as music, was the sound of our breathing... of our scratching foreheads. Of our making love. Much of what we knew of as silence, were grasshoppers in the dusk. An ascetic named Hulle spent decades studying clouds. In the years before his death he could, from merely analyzing the sound of the wind, predict the vector movement of, and shapes of clouds. He could delineate the precise color of the sky, and how hospitable it was about the clouds it held up by its invisible strings. Such was that race's mastery of silence. Their empathy of it.

Three days before her death, the old lady Geilou, sat her grandchildren by her feet and had them all hold hands in a circle. Her eyesight had failed, and she had never learned to speak, but through the joined fingertips was able to convince all nine of her grandchildren's hearts to beat in time with hers. She used this method as a symbol of her love for them. Needless to say, the gesture was perfectly understood. The practice was carried on by her whole lineage for generations to come. Moments before her death, Geilou took her husband's ear and placed it on her chest as she lay. To her husband's ear she told, in beats and rests, slowly slowing (ritardando), the entire history of her love for him. How she had first noticed him when he had sat as a child besides a haystack and listened to the diffraction of sound inside the spiny ball. She spoke of how she had memorized every sound they had made together when they made love the 1, 546 times they had made love, and she told him three jokes she remembered a seagull had once croaked to her. The story was said in slower and slower beats, and finally, ended. Only that, her husband, having now learned incredible patience through his earnest love of her, and his commitment to her story, continued to rest by her chest, listening to the silences after the last beat, smiling in memory of all the things that came next. Living in two worlds at once. Some years later, he fell asleep there. He closed his eyes, and saw a young woman sitting by a haystack listening to pink wind. And as ghosts they started again.


capone said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
a penny for the old guy said...

it's nice to be here :)