PoL # 4 Magic and Loss (after Lou Reed): A Listening Event for Magical Objects and Ancestral Sound

With David Toop
Date: Wednesday April 9th, 2014
Time: 19:00 (duration approx. 40’00”)
Venue: Swedenborg Society, 20-21 Bloomsbury Way, London WC1A 2TH

Zurbaran Ram 1631 copy

“Listening, as if to the dead, like a medium who deals only in history and what is lost, the ear attunes itself to distant signals, eavesdropping on ghosts and their chatter . . . Sound is a present absence; silence is an absent presence. Or perhaps the reverse is better: Sound is an absent presence; silence is a present absence.” David Toop, Sinister Resonance, 2010.

“In the house, in which they could not afford to live, it was unpleasantly quiet. Marvellously noisy, but the noises let through silence . . . Not many nerves could stand it. People who had come for a week had been known to leave next day . . . The people who had the house were interested in the wood and its silence. When it got worse, after dark or at mid-day, they said it was tuning up . . . A large gramophone stood with its mouth open on the verandah flags. They had been playing in the wood, after lunch, to appease it . . .” Mary Butts, Armed With Madness, 1928.

“The skies as autumn approached called more insistently for music.”
Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji, c.1021.

Wooden slit gongs played a pivotal role in Bamum society in Cameroon. Their function was to send out signals in times of crisis from within the royal court. By the time German colonists reached the Bamum kingdom for the first time in 1910, they found eight of these spectacular instruments, each hollowed out from a central slit, decaying on the palace ground like felled giants from a mythical past. Two French colonial administrators stationed in the Bamilike region noted that these gongs were carved when a king was enthroned; when he died they were abandoned in the market square and left to rot as if undergoing the same process of decomposition as the king himself.

Congo drums

“The Museum of Lost Species is not exactly a museum, since all the species are alive in dioramas of their natural habitats. Admission is free to anyone who can enter. The coinage here is the ability to endure the pain and sadness of observing extinction and by so doing to reanimate the species by observing it.” William S. Burroughs, Ghost of Chance, 1991.

“Someone should have stopped the birds from singing today, Hammers from striking nails into clay.” Scott Walker, Such a Small Hurt, 1967.

“The lecturing voice was far away, irrelevant and unintelligible. Peace flooded her.” Dorothy Miller Richardson, The Tunnel, 1919.

Vietnam percussion 2

“. . . the ‘there is’ and its negation no longer stand in tragic opposition; they agree at the fundamental level and communicate. Between the ‘there is’ that takes over presence and its complete dissolution in absence, the painter grasps forms and things surging up and fading away at the same time.”
François Jullien, The Great Image Has No Form, or On the Nonobject through Painting, 2009.

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