Closer

In a text submitted for one of the most recent anthologies to be published in the NSU context, Artistic Research: Being There (2018), I described at length a constellation of voices belonging to a few friends and co-creators I happened to be sharing a lodging with during springtime 2015, in Mooste, southeast Estonia.

I remember them as they sounded to me. Their voices together in that place, as a family of consonant sounds. John, soft spoken and quiet even in motion, almost all breath and no tone in his often lingering words. Evelyn, resonant and sharp in her mezzo-soprano harmony of briskness and warmth. Sebastian, a soundscape of crescendos in his open, inviting tone, words following thoughts, climbing and descending, always gathering strength for a higher peak. Luisa, the voice of a listener and a storyteller, with a quick, lithe and rich tone, and a confident hesitation that allows others’ voices to rest with hers. Ming, both tentative and booming, a hyper masculine and well-rounded baritone, at times undercut by breathless reticence. Elsie, their child’s voice vibrating in low shy clarity, reminded me of the subtle presence of a single glass marble rolling, swerving and throwing sparks of light. Kathleen, the voice of a speaker and a witness, combining coloratura of expression with matter-of-factness of punctuation. Myna, her tone paused and deeply rooted, balancing arresting sobriety with an undertone of flashing curiosity.

In the current phase of my anniversary project – Lived Anthologies – I have been thinking about voices a lot, because I am actively searching for speakers for vocal narration. There is so much to consider when thinking about a voice, it brings with it not only the whole body, but also a biographical aura, a cultural context, and the radical lived presence of an acoustic soul.

Soul. Hard to use this notion meaningfully nowadays, if not metaphorically or poetically. The ancient Greeks had a lot to say about the soul. At least one of them, in at least one book, discussed it as a chariot pulled by two horses. One horse was good, the other not so much. The uneven communion which is the human soul therefore would move much like a sinewave. Sometimes going up towards heaven, other times falling down to earth. Pulsing imperfectly, vibrating constantly. Like its Greek namesake, the butterfly (ψυχή). Like a voice.

When listening to someone’s voice, one is shaken. Literally. If it is a rattle or a sway, a quiver or a surge, a swell or a drop – the associations are lively and active when we become aurally engaged. To frame and fasten the voice, the right one for the task at hand – for the saying, telling, or singing even of the kind of truth inherent in a text – is not easy. And these are not poetic texts I am dealing with. These are science, most of them, in the sense that science is when it aims at making sense non-sensuously. Sense and sensuous are the key terms, and it is voice that bears the brunt of the task, the heaviest corner of the pilgrim’s icon throughout the procession.

So I listen and make choices, and layer sounds upon sounds, sounds under sounds, masking and enveloping, sometimes outright misleading, using all the tools available to create a sensorially rich aural scenography of meaning. From letter to utterance, from utterance to swelling composition, with a more than healthy pinch of constant doubt thrown in. It is the due owed to creative bringing forth. Hope you listen for it when its summer embodiment comes around for a visit.

Eduardo Abrantes, Copenhagen, March 9, 2020

music theorists and meta scientists

Carl Lesche

A psychoanalyst, metascientist, philosopher and music theorist, Carl Lesche (1920-1993) was a member of the Nordic Summer University in its earliest days from 1952.

Robert Rauschenberg performing “Shotput + Elgin Tie” at a Fylkingen concert at the Museum of Modern Art, Stockholm, 13 September 1964. From Fylkingen Bulletin 1:1966. Photo: Hans Malmberg/Tio. Retrieved from http://www.hz-journal.org/n19/hayashi.html

Also a member of the radical music group Fylkingen, Lesche was a theorist in the experimental music and performance field. His travels took him all the way to the Soviet Union, where he made some of the earliest recordings of orthodox liturgical music.

(from ‘A Short Biography and List of His Scientific Writings’ By Åke Åredal)