Are memories a sound?
Sometimes, they are, but I haven’t given mine any particular form or timbre. Even ghost sounds, those that show you a long gone path, have a certain musicality. It’s called nostalgia. For a year, accepting my loner spirit has been a way of understanding life and living it. Once again, I am sitting at the same desk, in a different flat, vocalising my existential concerns.
In the beginning, it was framed by uncertainty –the energy of an intermediate state. At that time, I reached Éliane Radigue for comfort and answers in the shape of sustained sounds, spiral melodies which subtleness lent an extracorporeal space to meditate. After months of reducing my contact to what was significant to my path, the finitude of the other became infinite. When you embrace solitude as a place and time to grow, you “enter into nearness to what is essential in all things, a nearness to the world”. (Heidegger)
However, the psychological effects of loneliness are like rose petals and thorns. You begin to feel everything around you with almost childlike enthusiasm. After a while, apathy numbs your senses, questioning your understanding of what is socially acceptable. There is emptiness and a pang of learned guilt about what you are losing. Even if it is about embracing what is essential in the form of meditation, self-knowledge, and the search for authentic existential selfhood.
My journey has been challenging, not only for the social conditions but also for my personal story. When reading about solitude, I came across The Journal of Henry David Thoreau. A beautiful piece of literature where Thoreau shares his vivid experiences with the self. It also includes breathtaking descriptions of sounds, images and feelings. His words resounded deeply, like a binaural tone flowing through my ears.
“I thrive best on solitude. You think that I am impoverishing myself by withdrawing from men, but in my solitude, I have woven for myself a silken web or chrysalis, and, nymph-like, shall ere long burst forth a more perfect creature”.
My chrysalis is still shapeless. The spectra of latent emotions and intrapersonal narrative formats are just the tip of this iceberg. Going inward can take you to deeper levels of awareness, and that’s the closest thing to feeling true freedom. Then, inevitably, when that happens, the weight of reality screams at you, prompting you to “wake up” to “go back”.
In the look for silence, I returned to John Cage to find out that he had “a marathon text drawn from the Journals of Henry David Thoreau” called Empty Words. This was Cage’s most sustained move to “demilitarise” words. In 1975, he asked Maryanne Amacher to create weather recordings for his Lecture of the Weather, one of the pieces included in Empty Words. Eventually, they would work together on Empty Words/Close-Up, a performance combining Amacher’s audio work with Cage’s 10-hour long texts.
Music between the world and me: Maryanne Amacher
It seems that I am mumbling words and references. But, you must understand the ritual before finding approach, paraphrasing Amacher. And that is what I’m trying to do by writing this. Maryanne Amacher’s vital sensibility for experiencing sound beyond musicality made perfect sense with my own search. Increasing awareness, triggering new ways of listening and thinking, perceiving beauty in daily life, finding patterns of harmony within the complex urban noise spectra. And, I would dare to add, within our own noise spectra.
Maryanne Amacher was a composer but, most importantly, a vibrant researcher and thinker on perception, sound spatialisation, psychoacoustics and aural architecture. Ahead of her time and considered a post-Cagean creator, Amacher was so sharp in her thoughts that she could predict some of the current developments in the creative fields, including early concepts of streaming and the possibilities of virtual reality.
Her early works, Long Distance Music, City Links, Music for Sound Joined Rooms, connected with my experience with solitude. In 1967, she was already looking for ways “to connect temporal flow, environmental experience and social value”. To understand spectral transformation and how the subliminal tones of the place where we grow up, or we’re born, influence us.
“There are rooms to “listen to”, and enter through the mind with sharpened sensibilities. To experience the works, one stands, walks, sits, listens, looks and reads, individually, in personal time, rather than in group time. Intended to trigger thoughts, stimulate dormant energies, Images and words become the clues, characters, and script we shape, together with the sound”.
– Project Notes: Music for Sound Joined Rooms
Joined Rooms: The social construct of solitude
The reality is that solitude is just a dream—a chimaera. We are part of something bigger than our search for existential selfhood. As Maryanne Amacher proposed, we need to find resonant links, paths of connections between the mind and the physical.
In an interview with Jeff Bartone in 1988, Amacher said: “For me, it was a way of learning about space, dimension. The different rhythms of the disappearance and appearance. Things that I never learned in my musical background. We’re not taught things about hearing or the way our mind is perceiving and the way we’re responding to these things as human beings”.
Similarly, we are not taught things about solitude; on the contrary, we learn to fear it, to avoid it at any cost. We are asked to numb our experience of reality by imposing constructed ways of thinking and living. To accept expectations and happiness, as disingenuous as the status quo. Maybe, this challenging time has forced us to deal with what we fear the most: ourselves, confined in bodily and material space, and the doubts prior to acceptance.
On the other hand, what happens if you enjoy “too much” that time with yourself? In the same interview, Maryanne shared this anecdote: “Someone said that they really questioned whether it was such a good thing to have music like this because maybe you wouldn’t need anything else if you could just live in this experience. And maybe that wasn’t really so good socially”.
Long Distance Music
On my way to learn how to navigate my consciousness and embrace the knowledge that comes with solitariness, I must inhabit my space, find and create my own rituals. When you relieve yourself of what is not essential, you are more in touch with the most fundamental aspects of your surroundings, the circulating energy.
Even when confined within one-place situations, solitude allows you to reach a point of self-knowledge outside your own structure, including your social circle and what seems familiar and usual for you. In Long Distance Music, Maryanne invited us to “listening and transmitting out of the place we are in. Develop new awareness, requiring a new attitude of mind (to be) in more than one place at the same moment of time.”
My personal experience is entangled with my therapy. To accept who I am and to relearn how to experience life -from a place of love and not trauma-, I took myself on an intrapersonal journey. Although, a form of long-distance music has been created while deepening my connections with places, things, and people important to me.
Art and creation, in any form, has become my reclaimed territory—a place when I meet my shadow self and let her talk. I am providing her with a space to speak, to create, to listen… Solitude has been the sound of our joined rooms. Some days, I think of all the possibilities ahead of me, while refusing to settle, to carry the burden of outside expectations.
“The foliage, the flowers, the strange earth forms you pass along the way. You compose the spirit in process of discovery, in that spiritual world. Imagine if we did not go through material – Imagine the beauty of the people walking through life.”
– Maryanne Amacher