[A lightly edited post from the archive.]
"You can't fake listening - it shows." - Raquel Welsh.
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 goose-pimpled moments in the presence of an idea fully realized, or, for many of us as little children, when we squeezed the covers beneath our chins, braised by the yawns and gaps beneath the bed.
Talking with 3QuarksDaily about his writerly documentation of that momentary - and freighted - calm, Toop asks us to avoid compartmentalization: Please! The quiet may have something to say.
Caught, as we too often are, in a march between the impromptu whistles of modern technology and that calendared bell tolling the next business appointment, this quote 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.
An explicit comparison of those moments of connection or anticipation to something we might hear was a first for me. I was pleasantly reminded of "being deep into listening" when snow falls down hushed, or of experiencing a wooded valley respiring accordion-like when the wind is just so, or looking through backyard telescope on starry night as photons, silently entrained for tens of millions of years, scatter finally - fatally - on my cornea. True, I often wonder who's there.
That feeling? That feeling is life saying hello.
Toop's book is "Sinister Resonance: The Mediumship of the Listener."
Hat tip: Jen-Luc Piquant