Posts tagged ‘Writing Sound’

18 February 2015

Records Ruin the Landscape / review

I have reviewed David Grubbs’ book Records Ruin the Landscape for Music & Literature. Writing a review after devoting the last few years to my new book has been a rewarding process and one that has generated further writing already. It reminded me of how neither of my English books, En abîme and F.M.R.L.**, would have existed without my years in Italy working as a journalist: listening to records, reading books, reviewing them. There is a rigour that comes from writing reviews–an activity in close proximity with reading and listening–that thickens thought and demands attention.

(Then there’s a refusal of / removal from writing reviews, that occurs necessarily in waves — but this is the topic of another blog post)

** I need to write something about titles…


12 February 2015

A Capriccio for D A N C E H A L L

The new issue of D A N C E H A L L, the journal published by Psykick Dancehall Recordings, is out.

I wrote a Capriccio – remembering the sounds in Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty, as they evoke an idea of Rome filtered in my text through E.T.A. Hoffmann’s Princess Brambilla.

More notes on listening, writing, reference and presence, that eventually didn’t find their way into my book but that belong to the same constellation.

Here are the first and the last pages of the text:







10 December 2014


A few weeks ago I found myself sitting on the floor in a darkened music venue, on a Thursday evening in Bergen Norway, stubbornly repeating a few lines in Neapolitan dialect, speaking them broken chant-like into a contact mic, speaking and repeating while looking at my friend Signe Lidén’s calm and intent gaze as she went on smothering my voice, let it buzz, make it unlike itself and very much like an it without a self, an it alien, it alian with no self.
It was a performance of interrupted transmission and interference; of listening into speaking into a new understanding. Signe had suggested to use my voice to generate a series of curves, resonances, pendulum motions, echoes and whirls in the space. What voice? Whose voice? Reading and saying what? On the cusp between listening and speaking, understanding and confusion, identity and loss I chose to let my voice drift away, from reading a short text that morphed into a text generated by my lack of words, that in turn coiled up on itself and finally into speaking in Neapolitan dialect, as Signe made the voice sound more and more opaque. The Neapolitan dialect was a bundle of language-sounds at the same time familiar to me, to the point of no distinction between them and myself (I recall hearing my grandparents speak in dialect from my very early childhood; in this sense, the sound of dialect is ingrained in my perceiving body) and yet alien to the point of otherness (I cannot actually speak that dialect nor do I understand most of it, although I respond to its sounds). That dialect, familiar to me in listening (I know very well what I hear as I recall its sound) and alien in speaking (I don’t know what I’m saying as I say it)—is a crucial step into a way of understanding beyond text. I eavesdrop on my memory as I encounter sounds at the periphery of understanding.


Audiences in Norway are quiet. That evening, even more quiet. I could sense a lot of silent people sitting in the room, although the closest I sat to Signe the less I could actually see anyone around us; as if performing in front of a quietened cohort of attentive ghosts whose response cannot come from human channels of language but by a heightened sense of presence. Once you realise you can be in the ghostlike silence, the ghost audience enwraps you. What kind of atmospheres, conversations, non-conversations, silences can be set up, inhabited, imagined in the enclosed space of a ‘sound art gallery’? How to prompt activities and stillness and let them out of my control? The Writing Sound 2 project in Bergen was my attempt at losing control over curating projects. It was the test for a drift. To use the gallery space to represent and hold nothing, and instead to host the possibility of dynamic or still moments of reading, listening, exchanges, frictions. Hence the project’s open structure, arranged in a sequence that doesn’t necessarily have to evolve in a linear manner (Writing Sound 2 has become with time Writing Sound 2squared, and I’m now starting to draw an outline for Writing Sound -1 in 2015, where I’ll be looking at and listening to the inner lining of some of the procedures that have appeared so far in my investigations on sound and writing).


At Lydgalleriet until 14 December you can find a collection of newly commissioned texts and sounds responding to these two words, Writing Sound, and then a collection of pre-existing books, texts and audio recordings, and then every weekend somebody else takes over the collection and invites more people or places or entities to be in and with it, and then performances, odd combinations of numbers and inconsequential sequences: Writing Sound 2 / Lydhort 3 / Weekend 2 / Sculpture 5Some of these texts and sounds are online. We stream activities and non-activities from the gallery. We had a publication when I did not plan to. We had a performance upstairs from the actual gallery space. We had private readings and hearings, people gathered in the room reading aloud and texts being borrowed, copied, taken in fragments and partially kept. Rather than pre-setting things and consequences, rather than piling up hours of documented material, my drive was to let ‘material’ and immaterial be present—in their fractured and forever unfinished state. And then, after 14 December, gone—or kept, although in other shapes, in whichever memory or fragments the incidental and passing listeners and readers might hold. To make something happen while undermining its function and envisaging lack of direct function or testing other ways of making words and sounds function. Which brings me to this:


I showed this plate at the beginning of a talk during Writing Sound 2, to introduce how I work and to draw parallels between my forthcoming book F.M.R.L. and the Bergen project. The plate is made in the tradition of ‘boudy-ware’ from the North-East of England. It is made of mismatched pieces of broken china held together by a muddy rough material. It’s uneven and a bit creepy (the head). And it probably couldn’t be used as a plate. Likewise my book and Writing Sound 2: uneven. They might not strictly work as closed, finished projects either. Yet their mismatched, fragmented parts are held together, by the muddy rough material of an ever changing thinking-listening-writing-reading-sounding. Some people might want to break them apart. Others might want to add on to their uneven shape. Use them, even?

15 November 2014

Writing Sound 2. 20 November-14 December 2014

Writing Sound 2 . A collection of newly commissioned texts and sounds alongside a collection of pre-existing ones will be available to browse at Lydgalleriet Bergen and online for the four-week length of the project (20 Nov-14 Dec). Occasionally the collection will prompt performances, readings, listening sessions, workshops and discussions.

Writing Sound 2 opens on 20 November at Lydgalleriet Bergen with Sculpture 5 by David Toop and Rie Nakajima.
On 21 November it will host a talk by Dušan Barok, founding editor of Monoskop.

Follow for updates and a full schedule.



30 July 2014

book sequence

After testing 3 sequences for my book, this looks like a possible final one. Except for a 10,000-word file of collected fragments which hasn’t found its place yet…

F.M.R.L. Footnotes, Mirages, Refrains and Leftovers of Writing Sound.

book sequence


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.

15 March 2014

Dark, the Dim Hear

On Thursday 20 March I will read at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, near the Magic and Ritual displays, as part of Resonant Voices.

The way I’ve been working with my readings for some time: led by each given theme/prompt/question/title, I collect clusters of thoughts, I write fragments, gather words from books, and I use time.
I use the time of my thinking and reading toward ‘the event’, I bring everything I’ve collected toward it up to that point, then I respond to whatever circumstances arise in the given place and time of my reading, and more or less improvise a new construction.

Here is a chart of texts, notes and prompts gathered so far – some as yet unwritten, some hidden, some to be completed in the next few days.


Votive Offerings

I give you an ear because you saved my ear.
I give you an eye because you saved my eye.
I give you a leg because you saved my leg.
And my foot.
And my torso.
And my heart.
My heart.

But what would I give you if you saved my voice?

1923.47.27_Brass amulet against evil eye

Magic and trial by ordeal
A hand. Cast brass amulet, against the evil eye. From Naples.
[written to be read aloud, to become breathless in reading]
The dim here always struck me. It’s dark, the dim hear as I tentatively tune in voices and whispers from the past. The dim light in the museum, the amulets against the evil eye, the empty drawers under the glass cabinets prompt me to linger in the voids and in the gaps, to imagine and recollect gestures and rituals around them: they set up a scenario and make me step into a past, in the Seventies in Southern Italy, when in dimness of memory I hear, out of the hazy layers of my recollections I hear a grainy persistent breath, a fatigued whistlebreath emitted not as a sign of life, but as the last aural sign of a life about to expire, it is my great-grandmother in her bed, not because she is ill but because she is very old, slow, at the border of life yet clings to life, poisonous and persistent like ivy my grandmother would say, lying, breathing in a dark grey room at the end of a long Sunday afternoon, when dusk comes in, in my recollections I hear the dim, recall a persistent broken sigh in the shape of a breath and then a stop, a convulsive breath and a stop, as if a rusty hook had caught that breath to prevent it from expiring, and she lies in a tall bed, maybe tall because I was little, although I later learned that bed at the time were in fact taller (to prevent mice from climbing up, or so my grandmother would say) I hear that convulsive breath as coming from an underworld of hidden whispering galleries, it is my great-grandmother’s but to my hearing it sounds as if it is the whole room breathing, and I’m left there, I can barely see her but I hear my larvae-great-grandmother disappear into her broken sigh, sighing herself into the room. Other voices are plotting next door. For some days I have been weighed down with a persistent headache and sickness. They bring her a small bowl full of water and a bottle of olive oil. She pours some drops of olive oil in the water and begins to hum, hums, a circling incantatory spell begins to coil around my hearing, then out of that bundle a tiny hand appears, withered and wiry, shadowed by wrinkles and by time, as she repeats small circular motions on my forehead with the tip of her thumb mumbles mumbles, I’m unsure if she really means anything or if she is just repeating a gesture passed on to her, soiled and half-broken, across who knows how many generations, I’m unsure whether to laugh at all this or be very serious and solemn, I am here little I listen but I don’t know what’s going on and maybe I’m not supposed to. Why is everyone suddenly so serious and solemn. Many years later I learned, in a car at night, speeding past the streetlamps at the edge of town where rubbish heaps, half-built tower blocks, concrete walls taken over by ivy and nettle bushes hide another past and another layer underground, past one of the few surviving mythraeums that nobody ever stops to visit, the light and speed and summer air taking my breath and absorbing me in that uneven mix of ritual and disillusion, of life expiring and ritual dying, of spells persisting yet changing, it all came back to me in a flash, ferocious like the heads of pigs hanging in the windows of a butcher shop to point at its deathly sales, a glimpse of something recalled in a splinter of a moment in transit, ferocious because it was her last spell before her death, later I learned I’d been subjected to a spell against the evil eye.

Three Women. A tale of magic, deterioration, listening and transmission

A skull carved on lava. Southern Italy, 1917. / 
The Count of Sansevero, Raimondo di Sangro. Magic underground in Naples. Gesualdo da Venosa.

On 23 September 1889 in a wing of Palazzo Sansevero in Naples, a small bridge connecting the palazzo with the family chapel collapses. The accident reawakens interest in one of the palazzo’s accursed inhabitants, Raimondo di Sangro, prince of Sansevero (1710-1771). The cause of the collapse is a water leak, but soon the rumour spreads that the night before the accident, strange noises rising from the underground vaults of the palace and sinister omens had announced the imminent ruin. The palazzo had once belonged to magus, prince and scientist, alchemist and scholar Raimondo de Sangro. A legend swarming with ghosts and a building full of voices.

A magic cord, Malta 1907 black and white tapes. Found in a mattress. / Chord or cord. Listening, reading, writing, spinning.



The empty drawers.

‘To communicate something in order to let it circulate, so that once it has been cast out to others it will come back to him/her a little more magical, like the shields of the Northwest American Indians, which are endowed with greater and greater value the more often they have been the object of ceremonial exchanges.’
Michel Leiris, Scratches.

Of objects removed.

objects removed

21 February 2014

table of contents

I might not have a title yet for my book, but I have a table of contents:


‘Sound’ is as real as ‘hell’ (after Dante)

I’m no longer a reader: I’m a starer

Hush, hush


Borders, Horizon


Lakes, Sounds, Sculpture, Really

A nosegay of culled flowers


By ordeal

Cabiria, Suspiria

Inner Voices

Votive Offerings

The Great Beauty

Date with Siren

It hears me

These Sounds



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