Tag Archives: sound

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #16

Last week I missed mentioning the arts on my must haves for public policy! How did I forget to include them?  Perhaps because the arts are like what water is to a fish, for me. I breathe in the arts – poetry, music, literature, dance, storytelling, paintings, design, textiles, prints, sculptures – they are all around, inside and outside of me. Sound seems central to me in all this, whether I am making the noise or listening to others make their noises, at music festivals, on Spotify, in my lounge room, a community hall, with a few, in a choir, in the kitchen, in the garden, at the market. Whether those noises are joyful, wailing or warning, they are what binds and heals so much of my wellbeing. I could start of litany of how sound finds its way into my regular practices:  saying poems aloud, singing with friends in a choir, listening to a busker at the Farmers Market, attending an annual international festival. I am noticing what sound I pay for, which one’s live rent free in my head, the ones where there is some kind of alchemy mutually exchanged with listeners. I recently gifted myself with a Lenten season of sessions with gifted sound and movement healer Trish Watts. With her skills, experience and care I found some new ways to heal from trauma through coaxing sound and movement in and around my body. I have really missed choir during COVID, and we are not quite back yet, I miss singing at church but that is not a safe space for me and the years of singing and making music with my husband in the kitchen or doing the odd duet and even playing for a few years regularly at a local pub are long, long gone. I have picked up the guitar again and do find myself singing in the garden, around the house or in the car, but it is not the same as the communal experience. When I hear the community of birds in the trees or the overhead cacophony of a flock, I know this kind of sound needs others of my own species to get the fullest effects of wellbeing. But music and signing are not the only ways sound comes through the arts, there is the rustle of the trees and the graceful bowing and billowing in a carefully crafted garden allowing the wind and the reeds to make sound, and the critters climbing through leaf litter crunching.  Signs of artistic lives and co-creation everywhere! There is writing, and for me a love of poetry being read or even better performed. I discovered the power of UK poet Joelle Taylor’s work at Writers Week this year. Her collection C+nto is an extraordinary memoir of a life of struggle, survival, restoration, resurrection, love, violence, vulnerability with lashings of generous insight into her world of sexual identity and creativity. Her work is part of a long thread in my life of reading and listening to works from outside of my own world stemming back to teenage readings of James Baldwin and then much later Octavia Butler and Audre Lorde. It is as if hearing someone else’s story, and explicit uncompromising expressions of truth to power, are the cornerstone of the personal being political that has supported me to find my own voice. There is no vaccine for racism or sexism or any other kind of othering, so the arts are the perhaps the most powerful way to inoculate, protect and regular boosters are required to keep our whole community healthy and safe.  That is my reason for why funding for new works is essential, creatives need to be supported so they can make their way in the world, to our ears and our hearts and our minds. It is public policy work equally as necessary as any publicly funded immunisation program … and perhaps even more so. So, I am looking out for how the arts are talked about as we head to the polls, how they are valued, how they are heard. I want an Australia where there is more publicly funded art and more publicly funded artists. I want diversity in what is heard, seen, recorded, recited, and sung.  I want to be exposed to what is invisible to me by those who can see and hear things I cannot.
These glorious performers entertained and taught a weary group of pilgrims on the eve of our last day of walking before we arrived at the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. Their music was wild, tender and demanding. September 2019 Padrón, España

2021 Meeting the Moment #3

All our days and nights are made of moments, tiny consequential invitations, quests, conspicuous and ephemeral all at once. Moments to propel us forward, hold us still, enable us to sway or even go backwards. How auspicious these moments are in our lives seems to be dependent on the value we give to them in our noticing. Perhaps they of such high value we see them coming or so ordinary and familiar they pass and we don’t even blink. At the threshold in the nano second between each moment we rarely have the luxury to hold onto the time to still it completely but the breath in and the breath out can always serve as a reminder of this crossing over from one moment to the next.

Moving at a different pace gives us a glimmer of a chance to experience these thresholds in preparation for each moment. Changing pace reminds me of how sound works and what we can learn from a tuning fork. Consider placing a metaphorical tuning fork to moments. Each moment would resonate, calibrate and send the waves and disturbed molecules before they settled and have clarity arrive. A tuning fork has two tones, one for each of its prongs (tines). These two tones are the fundamental and the harmonic, maybe another version of breathing in and out. Longer tines are deeper in sound because they vibrate more slowly and shorter ones higher because they move faster. And they have actually been made in quartz and used in fancy watches in the 0th century. I didn’t realise quartz precision in advertising was referring to miniature tuning forks to deliver the highest and more precise way of keeping time than previously used mechanical pieces.

As the year opens and inevitable questions about what is being planned for the year ahead and what are you taking in from 2020 or leaving behind from 2020 and what do you want to learn has been central this past week with reflecting conversations, in formal and informal settings with peers, friends, colleagues and sojourners. Listening in there are consistent themes of resilience, improvisation, creativity, surviving and thriving, loss and grief. 2020 started in my part of the world gripped in a drought, engulfed then by bushfires and then constrained by COVID19. Adaptation became visible as we adjusted to each new and changing condition, a reminder of just what kind of species we are, one that can adjust, and harmonise the discrepancies and differences we see around us and bring them together so we can work with what we have got or create something to fit the new.

Systems unable to adjust and their vulnerabilities in these conditions, cracks became more visible and adaptation more difficult for the masses and their systems. And we can see this in governments unable to protect its most vulnerable, communities that rally around each other to fill gaps left or never created by public institutions, consistent acts of kindness and organised volunteering from individuals and not for profits. Moments being met by compassion. Moments being met by fear. Moments being met by acceptance. Time and sound meeting together with the clarity of a bell. A chime for us to meet the moment as we hear the call to stillness, or perhaps it is a call to meditation or prayer. I love to hear the sound of the city clock or the angelus bells or a call to prayer when I am in places where they are in the soundscape. The morning song is as equal to these sounds. We are in a receipt of continuous invitations to meet the moment with three movements: stillness, calibration and clarity. Stay tuned.

Morning Moment

The quartz moves with precision

As the breath moves in and out.

Warbling magpie

sharing the sky with the mournful black crow

Create a seductive binary choice soundscape.

Joy to welcome the day

Invitation to grieve

And with some rain,

bringing counterpoint,

Galahs calibrate and

celebrate dancing on overhead wires.

Year of Self Compassion #11 #surroundsound

Gifted a ticket to hear Brahms’ Human Requiem I was moved by the generosity of those who bestowed this gift on me … and then there was the gift of the evening itself.  It was and will be a gift that will keep on giving.  The program notes tell me that “Brahms, a humanist and agnostic from the humblest of backgrounds, wanted this work to speak to everyone.” The inclusive nature of the performance had me entranced. We arrived with the performers in and around us, no distinction to differentiate them from us – a common humanity. We were silently invited in the simplest of ways, no words, to gather in a central location, make a paper cup, with each station adding a new step, and the going into the centre to drink minted water, which was deeply appreciated in the muggy night air. And for our home made cups we all drank – a communion of sorts – our common heritage of the global common gift of water – linking our bodies together in this simple act – we are all water – we all drink from the one fountain – we all then leave and go to our places to walk, listen, sit, stand, touch, mingle. We are one.  Fitting ourselves around each other, being held in the spaces and sounds created when we all are in the same frame – this is what embedded inclusion looks and feels like.

The unifying moments we have when the auditorium sings a chorus together at a rock concert truly leave no-one behind and the residue of the experience can carry us into the possible in other domains which is what I need right now. Setting my self-compassion compass to north, I am discovering how much other people are contributing to my well-being and how I don’t have to do it all alone! This week I have received many gifts, invisible and visible,  and been in gracious company for meals, music, theatre and activism.  I have been held by sounds – the sounds of women cheering, the sounds of silence in the pauses between words of comfort, the sounds of the bells telling the time and calling us to prayer in the city cathedral, the sounds of the children skipping, dancing, doing cartwheels as if no one is watching, the sounds of choked voices sadly eeking out a phrase of distress and seeking my support, the sounds of democracy unfolding with all the familiarity of aging pollsters and aspiring politicians. Each sound carrying an invitation to belong to something bigger than myself, holding out a hand to me saying come listen, come rest and be held.

Surrounding yourself with sounds of love and grace are surely acts of self compassion however they might be delivered and Brahms knew what he was doing when he wrote his Requiem and the Rundfunkchor of Berlin took it to new plane. The sound infusing our souls with every breath in and every breath out. At the cellular level we were transformed, as we became one with no bodily fluids being exchanged. Choristers looked into our eyes with such empathy as they moved among their audience. Eye contact surely one of the most intimate acts we humans can participate in.  Hearing a voice true and whole moving behind us, alongside of us and then fully expressed joining with another 59 voices (and the piano played by two people with a four handed score) brings the aural intimacy to fully consummate the experience of surround sound. I belong to an acapella gospel choir and it is wonderful when we can’t hear a single voice, just one sound, that is the perfect descriptor for me of unity.

We are all pilgrims moving through space and time, the great human endeavour to know we are finite and blessed to be a community of sojourners. It is together we travel best, in company and beauty and joy, to be held when we need to be held, to be in the spaces and silences when it is time for those moments. The invitation from others to join their journey, to be part of their story line is an invitation for them as much as for you, there is a mutuality in the gift offered and accepted.

The Requiem opens with a blessing for those that mourn to be comforted, this is a time for the living and I am comforted by the blessings of dear friends, surrounding me with  sounds of love, delivering me grace.