Books read on holiday always seem different from those
read at home. This year, I took David Toop's new book and read it in the
Italian sun. Here are the notes I made towards a review, and my later
David Toop's Sinister Resonance seems
to suggest that sound is always a carrier of narrative, never just itself.
Tangles of silence and sound, non-sound, implied sound (for instance, in
paintings); surprisingly little abstract music here apart from ideas of
Always a concern for careful listening. What about the notion of casual listening? Is this legitimate? Or simply not of
concern to Toop?
Thomas Merton's silence always 'religious'? What about later works when he
writes of zen, of being lost in the moment of silence, way of negation. (The
idea of not being able to know god, which he shared with Robert Lax.)
Robert Lax: careful arrangements? Very akin to Reinhardt's careful placement
of colour (blacks), but also to ideas of repetition & change: a thing is
never and can never be the same.
Lax and Merton both interested in mantras, Reinhardt in mandalas (visual
cf. Negotiating Rapture
catalogue (Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago)
The curious coincidence of also taking David Shield's Dead Language on holiday to read, a book about stuttering and
And the two LRB reviews: one of
Kyle Gann's No Such Thing as Silence: John Cage's 4' 33Ó; the other Jenny Diski's more personal discussion
of The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want: a book about Noise by Garret Keizer.
The contradiction that Toop is using words to write about music. The
narratives he discusses come from language, not sound. We can only create
meaning from music, just as we do from visual art, through language.
Do we impose ideas of resonance
on places and pictures (etc.) because we are
nostalgic/religious/aesthetic/historically-minded? Or do certain images and
architectures create intrinsically resonant images or places?
Cathedrals; famous paintings; ideas of home, childhood & family;
conferred greatness as a socio-cultural imposition of resonance and attributed/seeming memory &
David Toop's book is intriguing, meandering, considered and full of
interesting reading, art and music. It challenges the reader to listen and
see, to live, more attentively and carefully. To be aware of how we hear and
listen, and what we hear and listen.
That in itself is no bad thing, but to have this rich resource to help on the
way is even better.
Main/Robert Hampson? Cezary Gapik? Sound as sound. Noise.
Ambient? background noise, which should perhaps be left as background noise? Muzak?
Via Negative (St John of the Cross, Simone Weil). How can we live with the
Lax: the weight of each word as/for itself. Also playful: cf A Catch of Anti-Letters by Merton & Lax (Sheed & Ward)
Music with purpose (social/religious/ritual), a part of daily/community/communal
life, to effect change. Silence,
perhaps as a response or as a state of mind?
Is this a rearguard action? Something that we want/create to oppose new
ideas/ways if learning? Or because they are things we need that these new
ways don't supply?
'When we read an internet
page the typical movement of our eyes is F-shaped. We scan the first couple
of lines, skitter down the left margin, glance across the first two lines of
a subsequent paragraph or two, scan down the left and then - zip! - we're
off to the next page. "How do readers read the web?" asks one scientist. "They
Users become adept at
making rapid connections betweeen disparate date and mining useful
information from long documents. But they also become less good at other
things: sustained concentration; remembering the information processed; and
[...] less good at the sort of "deep reading" that has been central to our
civilisation since Gutenberg.'
(Sam Leith, 'The Shallows by
Nicholas Carr', in The Sunday Times, 29 August 2010)
Or are we developing new ways of seeing and listening?