2013: The year in retrospective. Part XIV
Sound composer, writer.
Editor at The Field Reporter.
Les Sons I’ve learned in 2013
Words, images and sounds Maria Papadomanolaki
Part A: London
2013. London, a city, experienced back in 2007-8, revisited through a reiterative process of walking alone and in the company of others. Around train platforms and arcades, overground stations and hospitals in Hackney and warehouse buildings near the Olympic Park. Indecipherable spaces filled with a certain amount of impermanence. Pass-through landscapes, exile-zones that people tend to discard after usage or neutralise in the name of comfort and everyday routine. This is of course not the London I had in mind back in the days but a new kind of London that I found I resonated more with after my return from New York. On the flipside of clarity I looked for a more intuitive and permutable pattern of listening at the heart of these spaces. One that searches for a certain amount of empathy, that follows the voices of others as much as of my own in a process of “becoming”, be that of assuming a meaning (about the outside as much as the inside) or other. Living in a city often calls for that level of empathy and ability to walk along messy lines and fragments, constantly, as opposed to listening/gazing (still) to the horizon.
Part B: Some thoughts on the importance of un-planning
Year 2013 further opened up further my understanding of gradually embracing a trajectory and sincerely improvising with its coincidences. In terms of recording that could possibly mean to not choose a destination with an aim to find an x or z sound or ambience, but perhaps to perpetually get there. We tend to engage with things, spaces and motions that matter the most to us and usually for a good reason or question even. As long as we are aware or in search of that one reason/question, the rest will unfold one way or the other, regardless of plans. “From the sound of it” is the result of such an un-planned walk.
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Un-plan a walk by means of absorbing the atmosphere of a place, by (possibly) not extracting it but by adding your voice to it. To me un-planning also means to resolve hurdles along the way and move forward, an important ingredient for coping with the urban whilst enjoying its beauty and hidden poetry. The summer of 2013 found me recording bridges, rivers and grasshoppers in South London in one instant and being stuck in a hospital ward the next. As simple as that. Not planned at all. To celebrate the importance of “un-planning” I share with you an impromptu recoding of a heart monitor I did. Nothing new or special other than it’s my heartbeat that I try to improvise with via the machine.
Part C: Tobačna or conversation as listening
In November 2013, I spent 15 days in an old tobacco factory in Ljubljana that is currently in limbo; a pass-through territory divided in municipal offices, private one-man companies, student restaurants and a construction site frozen in time.
During my stay in the city, I chose to restrain myself by focusing on this one space. My walks where at times accompanied by locals who, as everybody else in the city, have a fleeting relation with the area. Over and over, the tobacco city, as it is called, chirurgically dissected into different parts, is covered by a long line of fences that turn it into a resonant body letting the voice travel through its skin.
Tobačna is a stranger from the past in a city that wants to look at the future. Nonetheless, in such an “empty” and “tarkovskian” zone, the most beautiful conversations have been had that unveiled a meaningful and rather metaphorical side of Tobacna. By confronting this space, we managed to conversely “listen” to it and to engage with its dystopian magic.
Part D: Still
The last day of 2013 I returned to a place in my hometown that I try to visit on that similar occasion every year. The empty beach, the tree create a perfect setting to stand “still”, no thoughts, no inner-voices, just the wintery landscape and a sea that looks soft and frightening. The sound, the light, the wind, the temperature, the colours narrate its story as it transitions from day to night. Here nature equals abandon and a different type of conversation is being established, more like a mutual listening experience informed by each other’s presence. Seeking to listen to the voice(s) of life.
[Maria Papadomanolaki; photo Lina Velandia]
* ‘From The Sound Of’ by MARIA PAPADOMANOLAKI
from release ‘[STR 005] WLD 2013 – Machine’
(Sonic Terrain 2013)