Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Begin by breaking all the mirrors in the house, let your arms fall to your side, gaze vacantly at the wall, forget yourself. Sing one single note, listen to it from inside. If you hear (but this will happen much later) something like a landscape overwhelmed with dread, bonfires between the rocks with squatting half-naked silhouettes, I think you'll be well on your way, and the same if you hear a river, boats painted yellow and black are coming down it, if you hear the smell of fresh bread, the shadow of a horse.

Afterwards, buy a manual of voice instruction and a dress jacket, and please, don't sing through your nose and leave poor Schumann at peace. - Julio Cortazar

This day that started with small disasters - lost phones, bad dreams, uncooperative electronics, closed stores - was fully saved by one single trip to the library. In the fall of 2009 I decided to take a class with Christof Migone titled "Audio Art in the Visual Field: Strategies of Diffusion". I dropped the class two weeks later but the textbook became my favourite before-bed reading material. If you know me well enough you're probably aware of the fact that I almost never sing. It's strange because both my parents play instruments and sing, oftentimes together. It's cute. But there are some reasons for it, which I can elaborate on sometime in the future when we sit together face to face. I rarely do it in public or alone, in the shower, no "Happy Birthday", not to my favourite song on the radio... but I do now more than ever before. I sing when I ride my bike home alone late at night, because I feel scared and need to hear something other than the dark island silence. Also, to scare away the coyotes and ghosts!! Because of my weird relationship with my own voice I'm constantly fascinated by other voices and sounds. They're so tactile to me. You can close your eyes when you see something that frightens you but you can't shut your ears. Sounds are inside your head. I think that hearing is more intimate and private than watching. I tend to react to sounds with my entire body.

One of my biggest nightmares (and most of them are completely juvenile and irrational) is hearing a voice in my head that isn't mine. I'm terrified that one of those nights as I ride my bike alone in the dark I will hear a voice through my earphones that wouldn't come from my iPod. It will speak to me and I wouldn't be able to control it or shut it off. I know that the real fear behind it is of a loss of control over my own mind but while I'm comfortable with the idea of visual hallucinations, even imagining the sort of situation described above paralyzes me.

Steven Connor has an article about sound art titled "Ears Have Walls: On Hearing Art" that you should read (HERE). There is a chapter on "Immersion" that describes the capacity of sound to build and break down boundaries (and I read this in both the neg/pos way) because of its spatial nature, and our imagination. It's true, I've become more comfortable with my own voice over the years mostly due to having lots of musicians as friends, for whom that kind of expression is less precious, it's part of their everyday life. But I think that article describes exactly the reason why singing makes me nervous: because it merges the inside with the outside, it is participatory and revealing and I'm not ready to fully break those boundaries yet, it feels too intimate to share. One day. I'm going to tackle singing right after I tackle the English language! (See a few posts below).

Anyway, go to your library and get "Cronopios and Famas" by Julio Cortazar, it will make you feel so good. I spent all of yesterday reading a depressing book by Houellebecq (titled "Whatever", get it?!) and there was a quote that made me cringe, about a "mediocre" life wasted on nothing. It marred my entire day. Someone needs to give Houellebeqc a pep talk or a hug.

If you're in Montreal go to Scott Chandler's opening on Thursday at Les Territoires (CLICK). I've known Scott for many years, first at OCAD and then Concordia. He is incredible. Also go see Olga Chagaoutdinova's exhibition "In The Time Of Sakura" at Trois Points, it's in the same building (CLICK). She saved my life by keeping me sane on many occasions when I was this close to putting my fist through the computer monitor while printing photographs late at night (it was a hard year, what?!)


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love you.