Silence in the Conservatory

This week I participated in the Music & Silence workshop convened by the Science Museum and Nottingham University at the Royal College of Music. As part of the workshop, I was asked to respond to the previous events of the day. During my response, I played a recording I had made that morning of 4’33” of the sound inside the anechoic chamber that we visited at London South Bank University; I also composed the following poem in response to a live reading performance by Salomé Voegelin and Daniela Cascella. They read a series of text fragments from various sources they had strewn on the ground before them. My poem is made up of quotations of their improvised reading selections, in the reverse order of which they were heard during the reading. Fragments of fragments – an echoing.

I looked up in perfect silence at the sounds
All the catastrophic sounds describe their curve
A beautiful, arrogant creature of the flesh
I hear rain – go away – can you turn it off?
(You must never listen to this)
Perceivable only through absence –
the politics of amplitude, romanticised
[masking with static]
I hardly hear it anymore. Murmurs with muted lamentation.
Maybe I did not love it. I barely spoke
Before the bang
You have the right to an attorney
How do you make your dying? All my thoughts
about the world of sound
A second shadowy body, this audibility
We didn’t need dialog
And we’d see a movie – that’s all she wanted to see
My last thoughts – it’s not a metaphor
We’re standing in silence.

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