Our encounters with sounds are fleeting, temporal. Sounds come and go almost instantly and they never come back. Even recorded sounds played by different people in different contexts are something else. Become something else. I always had the feeling though that they leave traces, like they imprint on places, objects and people in a spectral kind of way. I have stated before that sounds can be haunting. That’s what I meant.
This way of thinking was always leading me to try to listen to my surroundings. We can listen to photographs, to letters, to clothes, to books. We can literally create whole audiotopias just by our imagination triggered by visual, sensorial or other stimuli. People write songs or improvise vocal pieces just because of these stumuli. This is not a rare practice. Some cultures can even listen to their past and their ancestors just by getting attuned to their surrounding environment and its sounds.
All the forementioned are thoughts that flood my mind when I’m in an audience, when I play music or when I just listen to it. I find it so creative and so inspiring and that’s why lately sensorial and multimodal practices have become prominent in ethnography and researching. This way of ethnography-making helps to learn sound through sound and not just by writing -which is also important- about it.
That is the reason why I lean toward this kind of approach but I don’t know exactly how I’m going to do it yet. Some days I record sounds that are distinctive, that represent the particular day they were recorded in. I call this my “Sound Diary” and these pieces -you have listened to one of these before- “Soundtracks of Everyday Life”.
This is what I’ll leave behind…
At first I didn’t think I ever considered the sounds in a photo, but upon further reflection there were especially two strong examples that came to mind. One was the meme with Morgan Freeman that claimed (or proved) that words next to a picture of Morgan Freeman would be read or heard (?) in his voice. The other was Bob Willoughby’s amazing photo of Big Jay McNeely in concert with a crowd going wild. There is so much sound and life in that photo! I would have loved to experience that. I will experiment with your way of listening with other photos, paintings and letters, clothes, and books. And movement! Wow, it’s a whole new world.
Thank you for your comment.
I haven’t seen the photos you’re referring to. I will definetely check them out.
Hello, Evie. I completely agree that sound leaves traces, and that these traces are imprinted on things. When gazing at an object, reading a message, or seeing a picture, I believe people sometimes disregard the sound in their heads. Even when the actual surroundings is silent, I believe we all have background music playing in our heads at all time. Because there is sound wherever there is life. Sound may have both physical and psychological effects.
Evie thank you for your reflection. I agree with everything you say and I am glad you have turned to the sensory ethnographic mode as a way of further exploring this idea of sensorial knowledge production. I hope you can bring some of this energy to Greece to see how you can turn your sensory experiences into auditory narratives.