Posts tagged ‘listening’

21 July 2014

Lakes, Sounds, Sculptures, Really + Borders (with correct links…)

Lakes, Sounds, Sculptures, Really is a text that I wrote for issue 7 of Wolf Notes, in response to the theme of Representation.
Of listening to, imagining, reading sound art, Concert for a Frozen Lake by Rolf Julius, Sculpture 2 by David Toop and Rie Nakajima… You can download the text here:


Here are two responses to my Borders evening at Points of Listening last month, where I tested a new presentation format reading texts by myself and other writers, playing sounds and film clips – this is a format I intend to pursue more and more in the coming months, both in relation to my new book and beyond:

Here is a blog post Michael Regnier, science writer at the Wellcome Trust:

And a review by Cheryl Tipp for Caught by the River:

3 July 2014

the missing link

There was a missing link in my book, and today I found it:

Giacinto Scelsi’s Fifth String Quartet, in memoriam Henri Michaux.

Beginnings that begin nothing, writings with and without sound but always listening, another border.

My book plan is complete.






12 May 2014

Writing Process Blog Tour

Thank you Richard Skinner for inviting me to take part in the Writing Process Blog Tour. Here are my answers:

What am I working on?

I’m editing the manuscript of my next book, tentatively called F.M.R.L. It is a collection of fragments and longer texts (which I like to call deranged essays), each of them working as a possible beginning for another book, and tied together by an attention to listening, reading and writing.
I’m also writing a couple of other texts for anthologies, and for over a year I’ve been absorbed in a written conversation with Patrick Farmer – although I’ve now reached that point where the gravitational pull of the book is at its strongest, hence everything I write ends up in the manuscript, in some way or the other.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’m not sure what I do can be inscribed in a genre and at the same time I have issues with labels such as ‘cross-disciplinary’: in too many cases they’re just smoke screens.

My writing is quite undisciplined, in the sense that I do not start with a plan or outline or topic, rather I respond to encounters with sounds and words; I let my contingent thinking/listening/reading lead the writing. This doesn’t mean it lacks rigour, but the rigour comes from an editorial glance and ear ingrained in the writing process and from a strict attention to form, pacing, rhythm. In Lecture on Something John Cage says it is not a talk about Feldman’s music but a talk within a rhythmic structure which effects the possibility of nothing – I relate very much to that.

My choice, at a very early stage, was to leave writing unrelated to any funding applications / grants guidelines and so on, hence to write with no such constraints. This allows me to be more daring (but far from me to raise any claims for ‘freedom’ in such framework. There’s no freedom from history, obsessions and attractions: there are, in writing, tensions to move away from them, to leave) and although such a decision poses other types of conflicts and constrains, it’s one that I’m keen to continue embracing.

One thing I’m sure about: the more I write, the less I write. The tendency to write less and less has been one of my main preoccupations since my last book. Maybe because there is an abundance of wordy books on listening and sound, some of them overwhelming to my ears and eyes, my aim at the moment is to write in a way that is less wordy and less linear, with loose and frayed threads, embedding spaces of quietude.
I see my recent writing as an eerily murmuring marginalia around the edges of the current ponderous discourse on sound.

Why do I write what I do?

Is there an alternative?

(My most convincing writing happens without a ‘why’ and a ‘what’, without an object. I’m not so interested in discussing why and what I write if I’m not asked to discuss how I write and where the writing exists.
Therefore, onward to the next question…)

How does my writing process work?

My writing process cannot be separated from my reading and listening processes, and in this sense I am very attentive of what I read and listen to because I believe they shape my words.
Since my writing exists in response to two ephemeral activities such as listening and reading, it takes shape as a series of annotations around a missing core, to the point when the very borders and margins become the core of what I do. Lately I’ve been researching very specifically the emergence, disappearance, degrees of opacity and clarity of my marginated writing, in relation to reading and listening.

In terms of process, I cannot sit purposefully in front of a blank document or plan long writing hours in advance. I write intermittently and I let myself being summoned to write by a persistent or sudden thought or prompt, by sentences scribbled on a notebook while travelling or walking, during a concert or while reading – then the long hours begin, most of them spent re-arranging words. Yesterday I was reading an interview with Roberto Calasso where he says he constructs his books like mosaics and he never knows where a book is going to end. It is, mostly, a process of arranging materials.

I never felt I made an agreement with anybody for my writing, except for my writing. In this sense, I am reluctant to call it work: rather, I write off dictations, encounters with and rearrangements of words. I play in them and then I withdraw from them. I am not expressed in the words I write: I impress them for some time and then go elsewhere. Reading and listening are resonating spaces in which nothing happens other than the fleeting, thwarted, contingent conversations, frictions, thoughts, kinships that they generate or host or complicate. You cannot see or hear reading and listening until they meet life. Outside of their edges, reading and listening meet life and there they speak and sound and gain presence again. Away from themselves and in transformation. How can writing sustain all this?


Here is a link to Lorena Munoz-Alonso, who will post her answers on May 19th:
Lorena is a Spanish writer based in London. I was impressed with a text that she wrote last year on listening to the music by Eliane Radigue, which I found engaging because of the way she mixes the experience of listening with fragments of memory, historical commentary and fiction, in a tidal prose that reflects very much Radigue’s work.

27 November 2013

These Sounds

In recent months I have become more and more concerned with responding to sounds by working on pacing and form. I’ve been writing a series of texts that start with a seemingly rational proposition and then crumble down into interpretive delirium: for me it’s a way to reclaim the enjoyment and complexity and intermittent incoherence in listening, and to work with the residual aspects of listening, all those thoughts and detours that are often dismissed as irrelevant and that seldom find a place in texts on sound.
I’m interested in trying to state the inability of naming ‘these sounds’ and yet the possibility of writing them nonetheless.

For example I constructed the following text in anticipation of and response to the sounds in a new CD by Stephen Cornford, Music for Earbudswith repetitions and accelerations. I imagine it like a monologue read very fast.


The only information on these sounds I had from Stephen was: ‘The CD is called Music for Earbuds and is composed entirely from headphone feedback which makes some surprisingly organic (as well as electronic) sounds.’ I spent the following week dwelling on these surprisingly organic sounds as I imagined them, before even listening to them – or maybe I had begun to listen anyway. I have a habit with listening. When I hear of a record or sound piece before I hear it, I anticipate and deliberately infiltrate my experience and memory of it. Call it an exercise in fabulation, an investigation of the tangles in the listening-writing space, or simply the will to prove that a sound is never a self-standing entity but is connected, haunted and contaminated by its listeners and their histories. So here I am, skirting the edges of these not-yet-heard sounds, listening to, listening in, but always out. I have a habit with listening, it responds to titles before I listen, or maybe because I have always been listening. Music for Earbuds… ‘ear, buddy! Who’s out there? Sound it again, please? Who’s that? Hear! I have a habit with listening. It makes me write and today after playing over and over these sounds at last, I write: ringing buzzing these sounds spiralling frenzy. These sounds so stark and stubborn, as a listener I hit against their form, I slide on their surfaces. These sounds so alien yet alluring call me to spend time with them, attend to them. These sounds mark the edges of hearing and understanding. The rest will remain a mystery, this ring buzz these sounds spiral frenzy. I have a habit with listening and sometimes it’s obsession. These sounds take me to the edge of understanding. The edge here is the ear that hears. My listening encounters nothing but itself in these sounds. There is no key into or out of these sounds, only the endless play of their fabrications. Shatter any notion of sound as signifier. If I had to name these sounds it would be something wild and resounding: an incantation that returns and turns and generates a new meaning in itself, like these sounds. Why am I listening to these sounds? Because they’re there, and because they’re there I want to explore them and as I try, I fall into the circle of these sounds as I fall into the circle of myself. This circularity has no claims, it bounces the responsibility of listening back onto me. And I haven’t even started telling you of the void these sounds are set against. This void behind these sounds resounds my fluttering thoughts, terrors of understanding, interpretive delirium: Listen to the tweeting of the mechanical bird, listen to The Inner Dialogue Of The Lonely Mechanical Bird. In their exaggerated detachment these sounds mock the easy, dangerous assumption that a recording is true: maybe, maybe there is a mechanical creature, somewhere in my thoughts that thankfully does not have to be true to be experienced. I spend a good half hour contemplating this creature spawned by these sounds, crazed wind-up-toy running in circles. Its tones, sharp or rounded, puncture my understanding with their presence. The tangibility of these unnameable sounds. Is it a trap? Even the sounds of my keyboard as I type against these sounds, sound more terse and metallic. In these shortening days in the end of summer, there’s three of us and it’s a crowd: myself in the room, the headphone on and in my head, the mechanical bird with its metallic peal in my mind. These sounds. At the end I realise I might not have written much about them. I was too busy listening and writing these sounds, in but always out. In my brain they stay, at peace until they’ll reawaken to the next obsession. Go, listen yourselves. I told you I had a bad habit.


13 October 2013




a version of the previous post from the minor angle, the less outspoken, to be whispered, by the whisperer

or, a quick view into my writing processes and how sometimes i build a text,

from notes written on scraps of paper and on notes on an iphone then lost and recalled in a lopsided way

longing for, attempting at a writing lost at sea

like bas jan ader in search of the miraculous lost toward the horizon of an ocean

and again i encounter borders of my self

and again I think of the horizon in melville’s late short story daniel orme, daniel the sailor landlocked and looking at the horizon

daniel orme

daniel, or me?

daniel a  letter lost

and always a letter gained, in this country people often spell my name as daniella, i gain one L, a letter lost a letter gained, an A and an L
which amuses me, first because it makes my name sound a bit like a joke, where ella in the name rhymes comically with ella in the surname, the double L in italian drastically accelerates the way you pronounce a word, whereas the pace in ela is much slower and opens all up backwards toward the e
and secondly it amuses me because it makes me think, ah, L is listening, there you go, the gift you get from this added L to your name really wants you to find some meaning in it, a bit like that famous bullet with one’s name written on it, L is the bullet with the surplus of my name written on it and is bound to strike me.

so let’s go back to that book from the 24 july post, and the letters in it and here I have found my beginning and my L:


(This is to be read aloud)
. . .

A lead-coloured blanket crept up toward the edges of the sky and darkened it with restless flickers of anthracite shading. It then gradually thinned down and shaped itself into a word, I could read each letter one by one, emblazoned in capital letters the word was 
 L I S T E N 
and the letter type was exactly the same one that appears in the poster of Max Neuhaus’ renowned performance from 1976. In my sound-art nightmare, one by one the letters began to peel off the sky and to fall on the ground, some of them denting the soil, others caught in tree branches, or cracking roofs, others splashing in the river, others shot off like silver bullets ready to peel off my ears. Some of them looked like they were ducking off edges to disappear. Others were big and still darkening even in their decay. I followed them one by one:

L , I , S , T , E , N .

L sounds the Italian word lontano, away, far away, L is away, listen and listening, lontanando, L landslides loops loiters laps lingers . . . . . and at last L leaks through the window of a library and lands, alphabetically observant, on an open book by Leopardi, Giacomo Leopardi the Italian Romantic poet who once wrote a poem looking at a hedge on a solitary hill and listening to the wind rustling through leaves and meditating on the passing of time, and infinite silence. L the letter lands on the page and sticks onto the first letter of another poem there, L as in La, in Italian it’s the musical note A, the note you use to tune an instrument, a beginning, and La is an article as in the, La, La sera del dì di festa, The Evening of the Holiday. 
I look at some verses from the poem: E fieramente mi si stringe il core, a pensar come tutto al mondo passa, e quasi orma non lascia. And it grips my heart fiercely, to think how all in the world passes, and nearly leaves no trace.
I want to linger on that quasi, nearly: All in the world passes, and nearly leaves no trace. Nearly. And yet, a trace it leaves in its passing, this everything. The same heartache the poet got at the thought of things passing in the world, arises as he recalls hearing the echo of a song, lontanando, as it dies little by little, crushing his heart. Un canto lontanando morire a poco a poco / già similmente mi stringeva il core.
Like Villiers de l’Isle-Adam’s fictional Edison in his late nineteenth-century fiction Tomorrow’s Eve, who wondered what happened to the sounds he could not record before he invented the phonograph, Leopardi wonders about the cries of his ancestors, remote lost sounds of conflict and war. In the night of the holiday all is peace and silence, the world is resting, and so are sounds except for those of memory. The L in listening is away, lontano, it prompts memories from afar. How far back, in time?


24 July 2013

preparing the book




















13 July 2013

woke up with a tune in my head

on repeat:

Tags: ,
20 June 2013

date with siren

At Café Oto tonight Akio Suzuki hammers nails into a wood plank, in resolute honing of sounds, a devoted action of closeness. For every nail in the wood, a pierce in the ears and a sharpened insight, inhear. Months of waiting hammered upon this half of 2013. The inner sides of Suzuki’s hammering thump are darker than their outer part and softer at the edges than the centre. Hammering in this room, softer at the edges than the centre. Days hammered upon, think of what you are doing. Against these odds you can only hold a feather and hammer nails of resolution and persistence, softer at the edges. These words and echoes and thumps and wails could flip over to the unheard, to the not-paid-attention-to. They could be here or could not. Step into, or out. In, you hear a hammering resolution, out, you see a feather. Be a feather with the same precision as that hammering, spend time with every filament, make yourself more transparent and nearly invisible but present. In complicity under and over public lives. Hammering sounds, softer at the edge than the centre. Reverberations of stones and voice. Analapos string reverb listen exhaust. From hammer to feather to breath. Analapos, in a sounding understanding where ala is wing and posa is lay, n-n-n and here we are, caught between flight and stay. Us, cripples who once flew, who spend all our life chasing a hidden goal. Think of those who, in private spaces and houses or psychiatric institutes try piling up cards or hammer other nails or conjure up unlikely enterprises as private revolutions, often patronised because they either care too much or their goal appears futile and light, like a feather. Think, few things can match these, the study and dedication of those who devote their minds and bodies to reaching the impossible feather-like fulfilment in devoted actions of closeness. These people have friends and lovers and relatives who keep reawakening them to daily matter-of-fact. Think of what you are doing: a feather. Those who hammer and are like feathers don’t have the same noIdon’twanttosayit value of a football player or a senior lecturer or a broker or a political leader or a curator. Barred from history, no fellowships or honours, yet because of them, being human matters. You search for these marginalities so that yours can be as present, so that you can tell it’s real.                It is stifling hot in the room, somebody opens the door, a siren enters and wails. Recollect your Oto sirens. The siren that cut a slit into the muddy grumbling bass slabs of Ambarchi/Csihar/O’Malley. The siren that, like a welcome sign of outsideness or a break into boredom, opened the space of listening outside of a, hm, ‘panel discussion’. Sliding playfully along that siren’s uneven coils you then thought: Take 6 panels (wooden), hammer all the discussing people inside and rejoyce in the muffled sounds of their smothering. The siren that haloed around the sharp geometric arrangements of Asmus Tietchens until you no longer knew if it was imagined or bounced off the crystalline formation of frequencies so beautiful and enclosed. The siren that you’d hoped for as a distraction, because the music sounded no longer enough and you were striving for a prompt to divert into contemplating an illegitimate echo-logy of thoughts. Remember then, the siren that broke the newly-met silence and met you at 6am walking on Karl-Marx-Allee in Berlin ten years ago, after you’d seen the dawn break from the huge windows at Panorama Bar above bodies and techno bedazzlement and movement and thick air and euphoric thoughts of abandon.         I call you call you Siren, furtive siren. In our oto date tonight, hearing watching, the air in the room is dense and full of echoes, whistles, whispers, and you and I are in here in pandaemonic thrill gazing at the sudden swollen portion of space that melts the next breath into these words, the light persistent buzz flipping up the undersides of breaths, bruises behind, the trembling. To you these nails; to wait, this hammering.       Now it is 11.05pm and a thin mist has descended on the streets. As we walk, shop signs and car lights draw sulphurous trails in the triple dark. We enter the Dalston overground station fleeing like feathers and dizzy with the echoes of hammering.

28 May 2013

music / taste / listening

For the last few weeks I’ve been very absorbed with writing my next book, and with a side project of short satirical dialogues (in which I try to mix Lucianus of Samosata’s satires with a 21st-century version of Daniil Kharms, only concerned with the aural… More on these soon) and I haven’t got many words left for this blog.

So I thought I’d post some music instead.

Spotify might not be perfect, but at least I can try… Although I’d rather the music be played without a list of names and titles.
Anyway: every now and then I will be posting playlists with not much coherence other than the unsound glue of ‘what I like’. They are, most of all, driven by the need to return to certain sounds and songs, by the need to put music back in the picture, to understand why I return to certain sounds and songs and, why not, to prompt reflections on taste and aesthetic understanding, which I feel are very much needed.
What are we attracted to? What do we like? How?

So here’s the first one and I already cannot wait to post one soon on old Italian pop songs.

More soon and I hope you’ll enjoy. It’s 10pm so I will start with nighttime music.

1 May 2013

caves, sybil, recordings

On the 16th of June 2007 I walked with artist and friend Paolo Inverni, for an hour, inside an underground cave at Rio Martino in Piemonte, North-West of Italy. The cave stretches into the core of a mountain in the Alps, along two levels of underground tunnels, for about two miles, in total darkness. The local council lists the following characteristics of the cave, to be considered by anybody who might want to walk in it: humidity 100%, temperature 5.5°C, an underground river, walkways without handrails on both sides, relatively low ceilings in some places, jagged outcrops at head level on the sides of the walls.

The underground river can be a route to follow or a hindrance. In the points where the water level is low, the riverbed is a guiding path. When the water does not allow you to walk in the riverbed, you are forced to clamber along slippery edges on the sides.

Inside the cave, darkness looms and one false step could be fatal. The sense of danger is not only physical. Only once did I stop walking and felt overwhelmed, although I’m unsure as to why: was it the darkness that the lights on our helmets barely disrupted, the awareness of being so out of reach, the lack of living organisms around, the uncanny reverberations of our voices, the oppression that engulfed me as soon as I entered? To quote Jules Verne in Journey to the Centre of the Earth: I felt lost. ‘As long as you stay close to the walls you’re safe’, my friend said. But the walls are slippery. We could only walk and keep walking. Long stretches of silence were only interrupted by brief communications, episodes of strange play and remoteness.

At the end of the cave, after walking for an hour between the river and the walls of rock, a sudden change: a sudden blast of cold air, countless drops of chilled water against my face, and a roar amplified out of proportion. This is what we came here for: an underground waterfall, one of the highest in Europe, cascading from a height of fifty-five meters. In the darkness of the cave, I could not see the waterfall: I could feel it, and hear it.

We could barely talk. And there was no way to do an audio recording of the experience of encountering the waterfall after the hour-long walk underground, we’d have come up with shapeless noise anyway. Better to listen. And think of another type of recording, in the words that would follow the waterfall.

Then we had to get out of the cave. Another hour-long walk through a tunnel of black and silence faintly measured by tiny water drops. In the walk back did the afterlife of the waterfall, and perhaps its sense for us, begin to form: not just because we had been there but because we had walked away from it, with no actual recordings to bring back, and yet still hearing it reverberating in the tunnels of our recollections. We didn’t have an audio file with us, but that didn’t mean the experience would vanish.

The first thing I noticed once I walked out, after adjusting to the blinding light of the mid-afternoon, was a patch of lichens. I thought of Camillo Sbarbaro, an Italian poet who wrote broken verses of small utterances at the beginning of the 20th century. He also collected lichens. Often he would write of his words becoming mineral, and himself too. At the end of the thirties, after a visit to a cave, he wrote, in a collection called Wood Shavings: ‘What remained inside me of what I’d felt, was what is left of a whispering; something incredible, which I seemed to “hear through”; the wonder it gave me dwells on. And if that place is vague to the memory, as the place pointed at by the Sybil’s reply, then the fear of not capturing the place sharpened my yearning.’ I want to dwell in this state of sharpened yearning and ‘hearing through’, and write of caves and voice Sybil’s words; to dwell in these transitions between being in a place and the premonition of its absence, when it has not reached me, yet I can feel its chill.

Sbarbaro speaks of the Sybil. Only a few months ago, while choosing the cover of my book En abime, I opted for a picture of the Sybil’s cave in Cuma near where I was born, in Southern Italy. A cave, an abyss, a Sybil, a poet. A poet, a Sybil, an abyss, a cave, also animate a poem which I always enjoy reading aloud, it’s entitled Spelt from Sybil’s Leaves and it is by Gerard Manley Hopkins. It’s got cavernous spaces, black, lost words and broken utterance, and I have nothing more to say to you about this poem which is so close to what I want to say. I’d rather let these words break into mine. So:


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