TEXT WRITTEN BY JAMES WILKIE*
This article is published as a part of the Foreign Words series of linda,
dedicated to good texts in languages other than Portuguese. Enjoy!
As the performance ended, like curious children the audience flocked to inspect the minimalist setup that Mr. Ikeda had used to perform. The setup had been left to scrutinize upon the table: two mic direct boxes, a controller, a kill switch, and a laptop with a strip of gaffer tape running down the back of the screen.
Photos were taken, so something had been felt.
Some expected “music”, but if Ikeda had decided to do away with conventional melody and harmony, and to use instead what some described to be a single pitch, which was “the same note the whole time” – one howling note – Why listen? Is that all there really was?
What were we to listen for?
The tone swirled and beat against less perceivable ones, depending on where your head was in the space, the rate of beats to the tone would change, warbling between the ears, also causing auditory hallucinations – unlike the emotional impact some might narrow a musical experience to, Ikeda’s music is an entirely physical one which reveals the imprint of our sensuous body upon our dynamic relationship with space.
There is more to the sound, there is more to you.
Our ear has the ability to identify the cause of sounds: take the sound of a howling dog, when the howl is sounded, our brain is able to go “based on what I’ve heard before, this is the sound of a dog howling” and conjecture that “a dog must be near”. If different tones, or howls had been heard, our ear might continue only to reason this way, hindering us from venturing beyond things heard, to the more desirable act of listening.
By keeping one howl, we may begin to wonder less about finding the dog, and over time, how the howl feels, what the howl is making us think about, and how the howl is affecting our relationship to the space around us – how this constant howl makes our inconstant nature perceive our surroundings and ourselves. Using one sound we begin to navigate our own body, to navigate our space with the howl’s tracks upon it.
People at the beginning of the show were told that they should move about the room (which was sneered at) but the younger crowd listened, and took action:
As the children in hushed giggles, coursed between the legs like trees in a forest, I realized then, that they were truly experiencing the sounds as they meandered through doubtful trees, and trees who were worried if they were “getting it”, trees who had forgotten how to listen to each other, to themselves, and to let their roots entwine in a moment, to feel the single howling wolf against their bark.
Lu, Sara, Mary, Scott, Olan, Emily, Alessa, Emily, Clarrisa
JAMES WILKIE‘s work as a designer of Music & Sound has appeared in South America, Asia, The United States, and Europe. He is a graduate of Goldsmiths, where he undertook intensive studies in Acoustic Ecology and interactive and generative music (IGM) with a particular focus on sound, the body, and the virtual realm. James has a sustained interest in using his practice to claim the importance that sound has across cultures, people, creative disciplines, and everyday human life.