Acoustic Commons Study Group: Correspondences
A guest curatorial project, led by Ella Finer
Start: 30/04 17:00 UTC+1
Stave Hill Ecological Park
The Acoustic Commons Study Group will fill the temporary auditorium, PITCH, with the live-streams of faraway loved ones, so we might gather in the incidental mix of our long distance friendships, in a community of audio cross-currents. At its simplest, this will become an invitation to think through the commons as a space for finding-making correspondence/s, for thinking how we gather in the mix of different distances, and what such distances are composed of.
The sound of the live-streams meeting each other in PITCH will in turn be broadcast out between 17:00 and 19:00 BST, accessible from the link on the left of this page OR on the Reveil Platform, accessible here.
During the event discussion will happen in the IRC chat on the Reveil Platform.
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The following short essay, inviting correspondence, was written for the occasion of the study group's meeting with each other (in the acoustic mix of their friends at distance).
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Pangs, the softer distance (with pink noise)
Pink noise is a muffled, hushed, softer version of white noise, a dampened version of television snow, is often compared to the sound of the sea: 'ssssshhhhhh'… [i]
…to communicate again with her through the channel dug by others' words… [ii]
I finish reading our book on the plane back to London, a flight delayed by extraordinary winds, but we leave finally in the deeper night with the cabin lights pink, falling on my page as yellow. How this happens I don’t know — I write a note to remember in the margin of the book. I even write “so I don’t forget how cabin lights fall through a colour spectrum”. Good of me to leave myself some direction, I think now reading back — some way into the scene for a time of return I can only imagine will happen, again.
I am interested in what such returns to past sensation feel like, the returns that may or may not take place from another point in time, another age, and yet we plan for them with notes to the future written in the margins of books, on the back of photographs, in small blue folders, in smaller blue folders… so much thought in writing, so many words to navigate the softer distance, that expanse in which what once felt important is slowly lost to us — and maybe only provisionally, until chance or a line of corresponding thought brings us back to it.
Holding down the page of the book to write the note about the light, I notice the faint lines of purple ink on my left hand. (If only this hand could reveal to me the years of rushed writing I have marked on it). On the night I arrived you watched my plane land from behind the airport; we found each other and drove to the city. You made me swordfish and artichokes, and I wrote your words on my hand because I didn’t want to forget them:
If I die having thought a lot but written nothing…
You said this sentence, floating for its ending, and I thought (amongst so much else) of what is writable from thought, from feeling, from ways we approach knowing the world. Dear Other Reader-Other Writer, you have already written us an answer, an answer where we meet, where you and I have always met— in sound:
This 'immediacy' of feeling/meaning/knowing is resolved, and becomes writable, only…if we accept that feeling and thinking are not only simultaneous but part of the same action, if we treat feeling-thinking as one verb. The experience of sound, and hence also music, is the closest we have to an accepting of this resolved duality – the practice we perform in which this verb as one is evident: listening. [iii]
We find our way back and forth in time through speaking, with what we put into the air — all the corners of our conversations folded. This is a kind of corresponding that holds a sensorial space open, and in common. When you walk me to the Botanical Gardens to find the Lunar Lemonyoutell me lemon shares its word root with light and moon. I respond later with the writing Jamie sent me a few months before. I had attempted to read a page from memory, disappointing myself by getting no further than that lemon may become this lemon.
Things do not connect; they correspond…That tree you saw in Spain is a tree I could never have seen in California, that lemon has a different smell and a different taste, BUT the answer is this—every place and every time has a real object to correspond with your real object—that lemon may become this lemon, or it may even become this piece of seaweed, or this particular color of gray in this ocean. One does not need to imagine that lemon; one needs to discover it. [iv]
I am interested in this distinction between imagining and discovering, especially in relation to the work you are doing in Pink Noise, this writing I often return to. In Pink Noise, it is sound that creates the conditions of correspondence between seemingly strange and distant things. The heartbeat and expressway in resonance; the ancient hourglass and flood levels of the Nile. When we hear one do we discoverthe other?
…pink noise, the low hiss of white, is apparently present in our heartbeat, 'in almost all electronic components, in all semi-conducting devices; in all time standards from the most accurate atomic clock to quartz oscillators to the sand flow of ancient hourglasses; in the flow of traffic in Japanese expressways; in the small voltages measurable across nerve membranes due to sodium and potassium flow; in the speed of ocean currents and in the yearly flood levels of the Nile (...) and in music.' Pink noise, it is said, is ubiquitous. And unlike white noise, it exists in nature. [v]
Pink, falling on my page as yellow.
Sacred and vulgar at the same time is something that pink does, the way that it makes noise and silence together. Like a rattle, pink (and pink noise also) carries both the hesitation and the fury of adolescence. [vi]
I sent you a picture of the pink moon over London; you sent me pangs. (I love this word, a word that forgets it is a word and gives itself entirely up to feeling). We’ve been here before, with a pink moon between us — with sensation meeting image. It’s April, the month mixing memory and desire. [vii] It’s April and I am in a teenage mood. You would say wonderfuland study this in the way only you pay attention to aspects unseen by others. You would encourage me to really live this; the emotional range and the time, in which irrelevant relics surface alongside memories of dancing in empty desert discotheques, alone, while coming into extreme awareness of new powers, with uncertain and experimental effects. [viii]
I know you know I am serious when I ask you to translate the Spanish pop song I danced to, checking your take against my own rough interpretations. In Spanish, the lover is born in the South; in the English version South becomes the unlocatable far away. The teenage girl, once me, listens to a geopolitics of translation for the global market; to the specificity of time and place mattering for some more than others. Only I didn’t know that yet, but maybe I did. I wish I had been there! You write. In some ways you were, I reply. In some ways you are.
Without record, we could have all been there, and why not? Even with a record, I might be able to see you somewhere beside me in the dark, hear your voice within my own. This is a line of thought for another time, because there is no record. So I offer this memory to find your own way in. Maybe the corresponding part is the desert at night, the empty dance floor, the lone girl with new feelings. Or maybe it is just the night, just the dance, just the girl.
The song turning the specificity of the South to a noncommittal far awaygives us more to reckon with. When we listen collectively to the sounds of our close friends at distance, we are in the audio mix of a commoned far away. This is part of the invitation: to listen to a softer distance, from which we might find the correspondences with times and places we have forgotten or never known until now (though now somehow — through listening — might feel we’ve known forever). And still, the softer distance has specific points on the map, even if obscure, even if only revealed to us in the days, months, years ahead.
I threw my hands against my forehead, knowing something would be revealed in the gesture. [ix]
I find recording hard these days; still, you found me on the balcony, legs wind-wrapped in the light curtain, with my arm in the gusts, voice note open and running, I want to remember this. The atmospheric energies that bring so much into relation: not only those energies of the weather systems, but of the city and the many people who love the serious couple I love, of a long friendship forged in the night of a colder city, of years taking care of each other’s thoughts. Attention is an important resource. [x]
Tonight, I am writing this thinking it might be better spoken… from your balcony that looks on one side to the mountain and the other, the sea. Not as grand gesture, or to anyone in particular — the more I give to thee, the more I have, for both are infinite [xi]— but because airborne, the sense might move in other ways, and if gone, gone until foundby another, until placed in the correspondence of their own relationships, memories, feelings; their own vibrant thoughts.
[I] Flora Pitrolo, “PINK NOISE: the inner rattle of Hey Girl!”, inWhat Was Before isn’t Anymore: Image, Theatre and the Italian New Spectacularity 1978-1984, Doctoral thesis, 2014. “Pink Noise”, forthcoming in Collected Essays, London: Sylvia, 2023.
[ii] Italo Calvino,If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller,trans. William Weaver, London: Vintage, 1998. p.148. [As returned to in April 2022; first read, 1997, age 13].
[iii] Flora Pitrolo, 2014.
[iv] Jack Spicer,After Lorca, New York: NYRB, 2021 [first published 1957]. p.38. As sent to me by James Wilkes, 13 November 2021.
[v] Flora Pitrolo, 2014. CitingKuittinen, Petri. “Noise in Man-generated Images and Sound”. Helsinki: Helsinki Medialab, 1999. Accessed at on 8th June 2010 at 21.15: http://mlab.taik.fi/~eye/mediaculture/noise.html, and Levine, W. S. The control handbook. Boca Raton: CRC Press, 1996. p.590.
[vi] Flora Pitrolo, 2014.
[vii] T.S Eliot, “The Waste Land”inThe Waste Land and Other Poems, London: Penguin, 1998. p.32. [As returned to in April 2022; first read, 1999, age 15].
[viii] The irrelevant relic (more truly teenage), as described by Jack Brennan in an exchange on 23 April 2022.
[ix] Renee Gladman, Event Factory, St Louis: Dorothy, a publishing project, 2010. p.32.
[x] bell hooks, All About Love: New Visions, New York: HarperCollins, 2000. p.163.
[xi] William Shakespeare, “Romeo and Juliet”,The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works, eds. Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor, Oxford: OUP, 1998. p.346. (2.1.176-177). [As returned to in April 2022; first read, 1997, age 13].