The protein of detail

“Love feeds on the protein of detail, sucks fact to the marrow; just as there’s no generality in the body, every particular speaking at once until there’s such a crying out…”

(pages 179)

Anne Michaels, Fugitive Pieces. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1996.

Somehow unread until now; borrowed from les Bibliothèques publiques de Montrèal, Succursale Mile-End.

Eventually the idea will hit someone in the back of the head

“It’s not the unknown past we’re doomed to repeat, but the past we know. Every recorded event is a brick of potential, of precedent, thrown into the future. Eventually the idea will hit someone in the back of the head. This is the duplicity of history: an idea recorded will become an idea resurrected. Out of fertile ground, the compost of history.”

(pages 161)

Anne Michaels, Fugitive Pieces. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1996.

Somehow unread until now; borrowed from les Bibliothèques publiques de Montrèal, Succursale Mile-End.

Place itself longs

“It’s no metaphor to feel the influence of the dead in the world, just as it’s no metaphor to hear the radiocarbon chronometer, the Geiger counter amplifying the faint breathing of rock, fifty thousand years old. (Like the faint thump from behind the womb wall.) It is no metaphor to witness the astonishing fidelity of minerals magnetized, even after hundreds of millions of years, pointing to the magnetic pole, minerals that have never forgotten magma whose cooling off has left them forever desirous. We long for place; but place itself longs. Human memory is encoded in air currents and river sediment. Eskers of ash wait to be scooped up, lives reconstituted.

How many centuries before the spirit forgets the body? How long will we feel our phantom skin buckling over rockface, our pulse in magnetic lines of force? How many years pass before the difference between murder and death erodes?

Grief requires time. If a chip of stone radiates its self, its breath, so long, how stubborn might be the soul. If sound waves carry on to infinity, where are their screams now? I imagine them somewhere in the galaxy, moving forever towards the psalms.”

(pages 53-54)

Anne Michaels, Fugitive Pieces. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1996.

Somehow unread until now; borrowed from les Bibliothèques publiques de Montrèal, Succursale Mile-End.

Because the object is strange

“An experimental method in music means listening: first of all, all the time, before, during, after. Because the object is strange, courage lies in going on to define its humanity and beauty, in seeking reassurance not by pursuing the kilometric path, the white pebbles of measurement, but because we have used our taste, made a choice. Because also, for years, we have had the honesty to reject found objects if they are ugly or poisonous. Because we will go to the lengths of burning our furniture if at last we find a varnish that is purer and above all more durable.”

(page 169)

Pierre Schaeffer. In Search of a Concrete Music. Trans. Christine North and John Dack. Berkeley: U of C P, 2012.

Found while browsing the stacks of the Belzer Library, SFU, Vancouver.

And to think about who will be helped or harmed by their work

“The secret sound penetrates us, extending into disturbing and profoundly hidden realms beyond. This immediately gives rise to associations that are contradictory, confused, and varied enough to make us have to admit that communication between author and listener is based on total misunderstanding. It is at this point that we must ask whether we are still dealing with a language, and whether concrete music, even willed, should strive to say something. Maybe, by constructing series along the lines of previous, more or less successfully generalized, intellectualist schemes, we are turning our back on a possible future. Maybe it is our instinctual onomatopoeia that should be seeking an outlet in constructions that would result in more visceral musics. By unleashing a chaos of concrete sounds we are at least assured of one response; we strike terror, we arouse anguish. Young authors like nothing so much as that and have not yet enough human experience to be careful with mankind, and to bother about what they put into circulation. I do want a visceral music, but I don’t want it to be just violence and bodily disorder. Moreover, most of all I dread the opposite: that an excess of intellectualism not tempered by instinct might produce effects that will themselves trigger anguish, and anguish alone. A welter of sounds like this, very much in keeping with the times, it is true, would be only yet another example of mankind not up to the job, the apprentice surpassed by his sorcery. I have little interest in success at this price. I urge composers of concrete music, if there are any, not to unleash anything and everything, and not to be just anyone churning out just anything. And to think about who will be helped or harmed by their work.

(page 165-166)

Pierre Schaeffer. In Search of a Concrete Music. Trans. Christine North and John Dack. Berkeley: U of C P, 2012.

Found while browsing the stacks of the Belzer Library, SFU, Vancouver.

Meditating in four voices

“Let us return to the example of Bach and see how the subject-object relationship develops. Even when we have accepted that good intentions do not make an artist, and that from the beginning there must be genius, how can we imagine Bach’s work without a religious context? Because Bach is depicted as a good family man churning out his cantata every Sunday, does this mean that he isn’t a mystic? On the contrary, miracle workers and seers have always come from the common herd and have had the strongest constitutions. We would happily project our own weaknesses, our brokenness, onto the extraordinary works of a Bach; we would have him a genius on one hand, a mystic on the other. We find it hard to imagine that here the two are one, that Bach directly expresses his mysticism in the musical object, and that this and his technical skill are one and the same. When Bach juggles with the voices in a fugue; when, in a rigorous universe watched over by the four cardinal points of the dominant, like archangels, he builds structures and forms; when he calculates how they attract and repel, I like to think that Bach, both architect and priest, is meditating in four voices, revealing the identity of the human and the divine, and participating in an incarnation mystery.

Conversely, how can we hear Bach except by taking on this dualism, or, more precisely, by striving, for a few privileged moments and because of his work, to resolve our latent dualism?”

(page 163-164)

Pierre Schaeffer. In Search of a Concrete Music. Trans. Christine North and John Dack. Berkeley: U of C P, 2012.

Found while browsing the stacks of the Belzer Library, SFU, Vancouver.

To honour every inch of flesh in words

“I become obsessed by the palpable edge of sound. The moment when language at last surrenders to what it’s describing: the subtlest differentials of light or temperature or sorrow. I’m a kabbalist only in that I believe in the power of incantation. A poem is as neural as love; the rut of rhythm that veers the mind.

This hunger for sound is almost as sharp as desire, as if one could honour every inch of flesh in words; and so, suspend time. A word is at home in desire. No station of the heart is more full of solitude than desire which keeps the world poised, poisoned with beauty, whose only permanence is loss.”

(pages 162-163)

Anne Michaels, Fugitive Pieces. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1996.

Somehow unread until now; borrowed from les Bibliothèques publiques de Montrèal, Succursale Mile-End.