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20 Questions R. Basbaum Crossroads Windmills Auscultation Digital Cuts


Tisha Mukarji, 2009 / pdf / mp3

Text to be Read Aloud into a Microphone

First, I’d like to say that I don’t particularly like the sound of my voice, or to put it another way, I like the sound of my voice when it is silent, when the voice is heard, the head as resonance chamber. I would prefer that you read my voice, that my voice is given a sound by you, that you take the role of an amplifier. Then you may change the timbre, the volume, the pitch as you please. You can make me sound like your favourite actor, that my voice is more akin to yours…. This is a text to be read aloud by you, but for now I will just begin by reading it.

This is an EarNote on Auscultation, in six parts.

Auscultation is the act of listening to the internal organs, it is a close listening, a microscopic listening. There is a mediate ausculation which uses an instrument such as the stethoscope to enhance the listening and then there is an immediate auscultation.

1. Towards A Definition of Sonic Thinking

At first let us begin with a comment by Marcel Broodthaers “since Duchamp, the artist is the author of a definition.” This echoes with an earlier comment by Joseph Kosuth that art should always be a definition of art.
The destination implied by “towards” is one that is constantly changing, under development, expanding.
And on- wards to- wards, a definition of sonic thinking can only be found by the act of moving, my mimicking the very thing that one is attempting to define. Firstly sound, secondly thinking.
Sound is not static, it is first and foremost vibrations, and secondly it is friction that causes sound to be heard. Friction between one element and another; one object and another producing sound.
In looking at a definition of sound one comes across the pertinent parallel between the sonic and thinking, sound as a verb examines. Sound as a noun is impressions, ideas. Perhaps when one says sonic thinking one is looking at a tautology. If we say that the idea of sonic thinking is tautological then perhaps one can also say that one way that sound examines is through repetition, repeating a note, a thought, at a different moment, a form of tuning.

2. Tuning

Tuning is a specialized and active form of listening, a type of auscultation, the act of listening to the strings and relationships between keys in the piano.
In tuning a piano one begins with a note, in most cases the ‘A’ which in general corresponds to 440hz. Although this is not always the case, the ‘A’ can be several hertz above or below 440. There is the standard and then there are variations. To tune a piano it would be quite impossible to get an adequate or well-tuned piano if one were to tune the individual keys to the hertz that they correspond to, this would result in an uneven and unbalanced sound. The way pianos are tuned are through a system of tuning one key to another in set relationships such as thirds, fifths, octaves, and then to check the tuning by playing other relationships. An intense listening as well as repetitive strikes of the keys enables adequate tuning. A repetition that reveals the beats between the notes, these beats are then listened to and modified in accordance to the other notes. On average a piano has 88 keys, and seven octaves, the tuning goes from one octave to the next. In one tuning there is a multitude of primary relationships, subsets and the overall outcome to be considered. Each tuning for each group is interdependent. One key has the ability to set off the remaining 87 keys.

3. A Repetition

Sonic thinking is a form of thought in the sense that the sonorous within the thinking allows for ideas to take shape. This alludes to a contradiction since sound has no physical or fixed shape, this linguistic contradiction should be used as a template.
If thinking is to be sonic it must be a process of thinking that allows not only contradictions but also non-fixity. Versatile and vibrating thoughts that do not rest to stay put, but rest to allow for a pause, for the occurrence and inclusion of other thoughts, other minds, and other perspectives.
This thinking is not a branch of musicology. Musicology relies in part on an active listening, a listening which is activated by the performance and creation of music. But the active listening ends when what is listened to goes beyond the realm of music.
One form of investigation can be through the use of sonic metaphors, meaning metaphors that have a direct and literal connection to sound such as the following : echo, resonance, vibrato, reverberation, etc.
To listen is to be signalled by and then to follow the resonance or echo in the subject that has been chosen. It is almost a tautological strategy; meaning that I will follow the sound and then produce a work or piece that resembles and then reassembles it, a repetition that is in the end a variation.

4. Silence and Pauses

A second form of investigation is to examine the pauses, the rests, and the silence. Since John Cage, silence has been one that signals a space, a context, a discourse. One recalls his famous statement: “I have nothing to say and I am saying it!” I read this is as speaking a silence, or letting a silence speak. Not to impose a particular discourse but to allow for multiple discourses to appear. Silence speaks volumes, even when the dynamics are quiet!
It is within this silence that the pause allows, it is an invitation.
The pause and rests are written as in a score to denote a silence and may be re-written with different notations. They impose, they may be composed.
Since we are constantly hearing from all directions at once, since hearing never stops, since our ears do not have “earlids” the auditory information that we receive ‘calls for’ a filtering.
This filtering accentuates certain information, fine-tunes it, it can be a mechanical process with use of technology or a subjective one, the choices may be random, or surprising. Filtering can be arbitrary and unconscious but when used consciously it reveals the microscopic details that are inherent in sound.

5. Coda

Thought is analytical, philosophical, emotional, passionate, musical. It is the filtering and area which one chooses to auscult that reveals its character. From one area to the next, sonic thinking is an attempt to capture the volatility of sound and reveal it in a concrete manner through writing, through composition, through discourse. An auscultation that follows the metaphor, listens to allegory, composes the echo, and uses tuning as a tool to follow inspiration.
As I listen to you in fugue, I propose a variation that we can play together, that we can listen to our listening.