Audible Matter / Wave #6 January 2022

Editor's note #6

Audible Matter was the title of our second Current, exploring the relationship between sound, the audible and matter. By acknowledging the distance between the human-known and the enigmas of the planetary-unknown we are keen on exploring the possibilities of sound as a place for cognitive and sensitive growth in kinship with the planet. We opened this Current by asking about mediation and translation, about indigenous epistemologies in tandem with the non-human world and about silence and infrasonic registers of sound.

Through the exploration of audible matter, we aim to learn from river’s stones, speculative archeological objects, specters of colonial history, bells transformed into weapons, Mayan textiles, volcanoes, diasporic histories and sonic images. We know that an exploration of the sonic must debunk the cognitive reduction of the audible to Western reason.

By taking distance from the common separation between matter and sound, we propose an understanding of the sonic in tandem with the materiality of the world to which humans comprise merely one part. In this case, we participate in a system of knowledge that, instead of belonging to us, we belong to. We are part of something larger than the sum of our individualities. A forest and its sounds can be understood as a non-human knowledge system, where matter, sound and audibility are not completely separate.

We close Audible Matter with Wave #6, and we cannot express enough gratitude for the trust of the many artists, curators, scholars, thinkers, musicians, activists, weavers and poets who dedicated their time and creative energy to the development of these three Waves. We couldn’t do this without you. We are also grateful to you, our dear listeners, for your time and consistent complicity. We know you are out there, and this is the Us that constitutes our community. We exist because you are reading these lines.

Egyptian singer, actor, musician and writer Abdullah Miniawy’s contribution to Wave #6 is a vertiginous, spellbinding sonic journey though Giza. In what the artist describes as an experimental departure from his previous work, listeners are invited to immerse themselves in 77k Vertical Hectares Deep Where an Archaeological Pillar Was Buried in Giza. The heavily synthesized electronic rhythms that populate this theoretic space beneath the sands are open to possibilities.

In This Space We Leave is an excerpt from the documentation of a 44-minute sampling of ambient sonics from New York based musician Saint Abdullah, mixed together with spoken and lyrical verse by Abbas Zahedi. Through their exchange of found sounds from Iranian field recordings, eulogies, poems and wider media, the tape is reminiscent of a sonic diary and explores Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, overlapping each other in a non-linear process. Conceived as a soundscape for Zahedi’s solo show at the South London Gallery in 2020, in Wave #6 its vocals materialize as text and are presented through a ‘trans-scribal’ exegesis, proposing an expansion of the track’s resonances, depths and sonorities.

Nolan Oswald Dennis presents Soundings, a multi-faceted project-in-progress resulting from research, conversations and deep, active listening. The subjects of this piece are regions of the world that have been (or remain) subjected to violent colonial and apartheid dispossession. By accessing open source geophonic and seismic sensor arrays, Dennis–along with Dr. Kwasu Tembo–repurposes the data and translates it via recorded and redacted written conversations that serve as powerful reimaginings of what else these lands may be trying to tell us. By redacting portions of their conversations, Dennis and Tembo invite readers to creatively approach the question of what can be learned by listening to the sounding of the planet.

Ulrik López shares gods cannot be seen but can be heard, a sound work realized in collaboration with Alina Maldonado. Merging López’s forensic study of found objects as fossils to interpret world views, rituals, myths and crafts with Maldonado’s experience in electroacoustic composition and field recording, the work weaves several soundscapes from three Mayan sites in the Yucatan peninsula. Replicas of Mayan flutes were brought to these archeological sites, played and recorded. The verses depict the exploration of the spaces and the haunting and intrinsic presence of the spirits that inhabit it. The work was first presented as an immersive sound installation at Delfina Foundation, London, in collaboration with Infrasonica, in December 2021.

A drum sits amid tall grass in an open field. The camera trembles as wind pushes through the valley and a mysterious whistling echoes nearby. When a light rain falls, the droplets bounce off the taut drumface, outlining the emergence of a rhythm. In The Sorrow of the Inverted Sailer, Chilean multidisciplinary artist Enrique Ramírez treats us to a presentation that features and unites indigenous instruments, multi-generational performance, and the harnessing of the elements to produce a moving visual and sonic piece. As the source of the noise is revealed to be the artist’s mother manipulating a wooden instrument, a kind of corporeal cadence arises, taking on the spectral presence of breath, almost as if the valley–and every living thing within it–were inhaling and exhaling with each gentle movement.

The Wave Track we chose to close Audible Matter is by Chilean DJ and producer Valesuchi. Peace, which comes from her 2019 album Tragicomic, is a subtle yet complex foray into the artist’s work. Synthetic, pulsing waves permeate this soft, melodic beat, providing a calming accompaniment to our 6th Wave.

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