David Toop: What is the sound of silence?

3QuarksDaily explores in an interview with sonic curator and author David Toop the "core absurdity" of writing a book about the sounds of silence - those pregnant moments when we're suddenly taken by a work of art or when we scared ourselves silly as children alone in bed at night. Speaking to his experiences, first as a visual artist and later in life as an academic, Toop addresses the dangers of "compartmentalization" while talking about those moments of pause.

This particular passage goes to the heart of why I think the IdeaFestival is important.

In our society, there has tended to be a very strong compartmentalization of different experiences, different cultural forms, different genres. We can talk in a very broad sense and say art is separate from science, for example, or body is separate from mind, or we can talk in a specific sense and say one certain form of dance music is separate from one form of, say, heavy metal. I don't really buy those compartmentalizations. I understand why they exist, how they've come into being and why they're convenient, but it's not the way I think, it's not the way I experience the world, it's not the way I believe things should be. What I hope for my books is that somebody could pick one up and, for example, if they're looking at Ocean of Sound, they find a chapter about Kraftwerk and think, 'Oh, I like Kraftwerk because I like techno music,' and then they're reading about Sun Ra. They've never listened to any jazz in their life. Equally with this book, somebody could say, 'I'm interested in ghost stories' or 'I love Charles Dickens' or whatever, and the next thing they know they're deep into listening to the sound of leaves underfoot.

Comparing those moments of connection or anticipation to something we might hear is a first for me, and reminded me of "being deep into listening" when snow falls down hushed, or when hearing a wooded valley respiring accordion-like when the wind is just so, or when, through backyard telescope, a silent train of light that has sojourned tens of millions of years falls finally, fatally, to my eyes. True, I often wonder who's there.

How do we know that feeling?

Toop's book is "Sinister Resonance: The Mediumship of the Listener."


Hat tip: Jen-Luc Piquant Image: Dominic's pics