These vibrations begin to become information

“The first [air] particle to be impacted is knocked off its unique and stable position in the universe. It swings forward, and then is pulled back again by the spring, and attempts to find its original spot. Its initial surge forward has thrown it up against the particle next to it, and that particle begins the same process. There’s real slapstick comedy here – particles all knocking one another out of place like circus clowns.

We’ll follow the [sound] wave into one of your ears.

The wave travels a little more than two centimetres through the ear canal and arrives at your tympanic membrane, otherwise known as the eardrum. The wave vibrates the eardrum, which transfers the vibration to a tiny bone attached to it on the other side. This bone is connected to two others; the three are known informally (and, for our example, appropriately) as the hammer, anvil, and stirrup. The hammer transfers the vibrations to the anvil, which sends them to the stirrup. The stirrup covers the entrance to the inner ear. It is in the inner ear that these vibrations begin to become information.”

(page 16)

Greg Milner. Perfecting Sound Forever: An Aural History of Recorded Music. NY: Faber and Faber, 2009.

Borrowed from the Bibliothèques publiques de Montréal, ILL.

What is constellated in our minds

“Essentially, every image is nothing but a dab of colour, a hunk of stone, a trick of light on the retina that triggers the illusion of discovery or recollection, just as we are nothing more than a multiplicity of infinitesimal spirals in whose molecules, we are told, every one of our traits and tremors are contained. And yet, such reductions offer no explanation, no clue as to what is constellated in our mind when we see a work of art that, implacably, seems to demand reaction, translation, learning of some kind – and perhaps, if we are lucky, a small epiphany. These things appear to exceed the scope of almost any book, and most certainly the scope of this one, made of haphazard notes and indecisions.”

(pages 291-292)

Alberto Manguel, Reading Pictures: A History of Love and Hate. Toronto: Knopf Canada, 2000.

Borrowed from the Bibliothèques publiques de Montréal.

Temporarily shedding the accepted perceptual logic

“The most sophisticated definition of “magic” that now circulates through the American counterculture is “the ability or power to alter one’s consciousness at will.” No mention is made of any reason for altering one’s consciousness. Yet in tribal cultures that which we call “magic” takes its meaning from the fact that humans, in an indigenous and oral context, experience their own consciousness as simply one form of awareness among many others. The traditional magician cultivates an ability to shift out of his or her common state of consciousness precisely in order to make contact with the other organic forms of sensitivity and awareness with which human existence is entwined. Only by temporarily shedding the accepted perceptual logic of his culture can the sorcerer hope to enter into relation with other species on their own terms; only by altering the common organisation of his senses will he be able to enter into a rapport with the multiple nonhuman sensibilities that animate the local landscape. It is this, we might say, that defines a shaman: the ability to readily slip out of the perceptual boundaries that demarcate his or her particular culture – boundaries reinforced by social customs, taboos, and most importantly, the common speech or language – in order to make contact with, and learn from, the other powers in the land. His magic is precisely this heightened receptivity to the meaningful solicitations – songs, cries, gestures – of the larger, more-than-human field.”

(page 9)

David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World. NYC: Vintage, 1997.

Borrowed from the Grande Bibliothèque (Bibliothèque et Archives Nationales du Québec).

Every sound is evidence of work

“At root, every sound is evidence of work: something exerts energy, and the fruit of that labor is a vibration that we call a sound wave. Vibrations can occur in any environment where there is mass and elasticity; the mass is displaced by a force and is motivated by elasticity to return to its original position. But the mass itself does not move with the wave. […] When a sound wave is generated, the mass is the air itself – or rather, the billions of particles that comprise the air – and the elasticity is the natural tendency of the particles to return to a stable position.”

(page 15)

Greg Milner. Perfecting Sound Forever: An Aural History of Recorded Music. NY: Faber and Faber, 2009.

Borrowed from the Bibliothèques publiques de Montréal, ILL.

We choose to wander in a gallery of mirrors

“Bearing in mind Pope Greogory’s call for the reading of pictures, I would go further. I would say that if looking at pictures is equivalent to reading, then it is a vastly creative form of reading, a reading in which we must not only put words into sounds into sense but images into sense into stories. Of course, much must escape our narratives because of a picture’s chameleon quality and because of the protean nature of a symbol. Image and meaning reflect each other in a gallery of mirrors through which, as through corridors hung with pictures, we choose to wander, always knowing that there is no end to our search – even if we had a goal in mind. A line from Ecclesiastes sums up, I think, our dealings with a work of art that moves us. It acknowledges the craftsmanship, it intimates the inspiration, it tells of our helplessness to put our experience into words. It is worded like this in the King James Version: “All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.” The experience of a work of art can no doubt be understood, because it is, after all, a human experience. But that understanding, in all its illuminating and ambiguous revelations, may be condemned, because of its very nature, to remain for us just beyond the possibilities of our labours.”

(page 149)

Alberto Manguel, Reading Pictures: A History of Love and Hate. Toronto: Knopf Canada, 2000.

Borrowed from the Bibliothèques publiques de Montréal.

Colour is the most relative medium in art

“In visual perception a colour is almost never seen as it really is – as it physically is. This fact makes colour the most relative medium in art.

In order to use colour effectively it is necessary to recognise that colour deceives continually. To this end, the beginning is not a study of colour systems.

First, it should be learned that one and the same colour evokes innumerable readings. Instead of mechanically applying or merely implying laws and rules of colour harmony, distinct colour effects are produced – through recognition of the interaction of colour – by making, for instance, 2 very different colours look alike, or nearly alike.

The aim of such study is to develop – through experience – by trial and error – an eye for colour. This means, specifically, seeing colour action as well as feeling colour relatedness.

As a general training it means development of observation and articulation.”

(page 1)

Josef Albers. Interaction of Colour. New Haven: Yale UP, 1963/2013.

Borrowed from the Grande Bibliothèque (Bibliothèque et Archives Nationales du Québec).

The sound of reality comes at you all at once

“How can a representation of music be as real and authentic as the music it represents? Every recording is an attempt to come to terms with this paradox; even if, like the aforementioned genres, it rejects the idea of recording something real, it still defines itself in relation to that tradition. How you solve that riddle represents your ideal of perfect sound. Every record is its own tone test, a challenge that proclaims: This is music.”

(page 13)

Greg Milner. Perfecting Sound Forever: An Aural History of Recorded Music. NY: Faber and Faber, 2009.

Borrowed from the Bibliothèques publiques de Montréal, ILL.