The Act of Listening #45-50

The remaining set of images from The Act of Listening series.

#50 Double Indemnity [1944] dir. Billy Wilder

Probing the recorded past: Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) listening to the ear piece in the film noir classic  Double Indemnity  [1944].

Probing the recorded past: Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) listening to the ear piece in the film noir classic Double Indemnity [1944].

#49 Late Spring [1949] dir. Yasujiro Ozu

Three perspectives of a listener: Chishū Ryū and Setsuko Hara attending the Noh performance.

Three perspectives of a listener: Chishū Ryū and Setsuko Hara attending the Noh performance.

#48 The Sword of Doom [1966] dir. Kihachi Okamoto

"I didn't see anything, but I distinctly heard sounds. Mountain winds. They rise up from deep in the valleys, blowing up the young green leaves. Beyond all you see, are endless mountain ranges that fade far away into the clouds."

Fear eats the soul: Sounds from out of the past and into the present as Ryunosuke Tsukue (Tatsuya Nakadai) wrestles with his own being.

Fear eats the soul: Sounds from out of the past and into the present as Ryunosuke Tsukue (Tatsuya Nakadai) wrestles with his own being.

#47 Ugetsu [1953] dir. Kenji Mizoguchi

Voices from beyond the grave: Noh chanting in Mizoguchi's masterpiece  Ugetsu  [1953].

Voices from beyond the grave: Noh chanting in Mizoguchi's masterpiece Ugetsu [1953].

#46 Samurai Rebellion [1964] dir. Masaki Kobayashi

Toshiro Mifune as the retired master swordsman Isaburo Sasahara.

Toshiro Mifune as the retired master swordsman Isaburo Sasahara.

#45 The Lives of Others [2006] dir. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

“You know what Lenin said about Beethoven's Appassionata? - If I keep listening to it, I won't finish the revolution. Can anyone who has listened to this music, I mean truly heard it, really be a bad person?”

Listening man captivated by the power of Beethoven.

Listening man captivated by the power of Beethoven.

The Act of Listening #43-44

A Michelangelo Antonioni Triptych: L'Avventura [1960], La Notte [1961] and L'Eclisse [1962] and the later masterpiece The Passenger [1975].

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Monica Vitti performing in Antoninoi's "trilogy on modernity and its discontents", followed by Jack Nicholson listening to Robertson's tape recorded voice in The Passenger [1975]. Sound piece - Antonioni: Anixety part of The Malaise of Modernity suite [2018].

The Act of Listening #41

Survival of the fittest: Kaneto Shinoda’s New Wave masterpiece Onibaba [1964]. Special mention to the brilliant atmospheric score provided by Hikaru Hayashi, who also worked on Shinoda’s Kuroneko [1968] and Naked Island [1960]. An overlooked Japanese director well worth checking out.

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The Act of Listening #35-40

Further updates to the Act of Listening project:

#35 Stalker [1979] - dir. Andrei Tarkovsky

#35 Stalker [1979] - dir. Andrei Tarkovsky

#36 Nostalghia [1983] - dir. Andrei Tarkovsky

#36 Nostalghia [1983] - dir. Andrei Tarkovsky

#37 Ivan's Childhood [1962] - dir. Andrei Tarkovsky

#37 Ivan's Childhood [1962] - dir. Andrei Tarkovsky

#38 A Robert Bresson Triptych:  Diary of a Country Priest  [1951],  Pickpocket  [1958] and  A Man Escaped  [1956]

#38 A Robert Bresson Triptych: Diary of a Country Priest [1951], Pickpocket [1958] and A Man Escaped [1956]

#39 Dial M for Murder [1954] - dir. Alfred Hitchcock

#39 Dial M for Murder [1954] - dir. Alfred Hitchcock

#40 Hiroshima Mon Amour [1959] - dir. Alain Resnais

#40 Hiroshima Mon Amour [1959] - dir. Alain Resnais

The Act of Listening #34

A distant voice from across the airwaves: Meg Ryan moved to tears in this Bergman-esque sequence from Sleepless in Seattle [1993]. Sven Nykvist, Ingmar Bergman's longtime collaborator, worked as cinematographer on this picture.

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The Act of Listening #21

Hearing voices, seeing visions: Harriet Andersson in Bergman's alluring chamber piece 'Through the Glass Darkly' from 1961.

"Precise definitions of the word 'hallucination' still vary considerably, chiefly because it is not always easy to discern where the boundary lies between hallucination, misperception, and illusion." [Oliver Sacks, Hallucinations, 2012]

Some thoughts on sound, world and understanding

"Any understanding has its being in an act of understanding" (Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, p.118-19)

Alan Lamb is a sound artist and scientist who for the past 30-years has been exploring the vibrating properties of long telegraph wires. I recently acquired a copy of his Primal Image release from 1995 that captures the beautifully evolving textures of long wires in Australia. His engagement with the physical world seems to me to nourish a fascination for the mystery of sound in nature, that invigorates his scientific and artistic activities with purpose and meaning. This spirit clearly comes across in this excerpt from a 2016 BBC Radio 4 documentary with sound recordist Christ Watson:

Primal Image is a stunning set of recordings that documents only a small portion of Lamb's ongoing sonic explorations. Aside from the sheer beauty of the listening experience, what greatly interests me with Lamb is how he encounters the world through sound. How the world is disclosed through his engagement with it in his particular practice.

Jerry Thompson worked as Walker Evans' principal assistant from 1973 to Evans' death in 1975. In 2016 he released a small book called Why Photography Matters. The following few extracts are striking in that they are applicable to sound and sound recording technology:

"Fox Talbot, and the cohort including Evans and Cartier-Bresson seven decades later, proposed a new kind of epistemology, a new, hitherto impossible way of learning about the world [...] The opposite of Mathema (a model projected to enable understanding), Pathema is an experience passively received: acquiescence to what is seen [...] When a pathema holds sway, the artist will no longer be Master of the Universe. He or she will be instead an attentive observer, a willing participant in, perhaps a servant of, a system larger than that artist's individual, personal, particular needs." (Jerry L. Thompson, Why Photography Matters, p.14-15)

Thompson goes on to speak about how photography is "at its best" when the inner world of the artist and the outer world of the material environment exists in balance, cooperating as in a dialectic: "one side presents a proposition, the other counters in a similar fashion, and on and on as a progressively refined result appears, something neither partner in the dialectic could have produced alone" (p.19).

Alan Lamb - involved in the world through sound, cooperating in a dialectic.

Alan Lamb - involved in the world through sound, cooperating in a dialectic.

Sound is an expression of space, of the physical world we are thrown into. It remains, as Lamb's work demonstrates, an expression of mystery and reverence for all that surrounds us. Bringing together Thompson's description of photography and Lamb's deep sound activities, we remind ourselves of the kind of meaning and value in work that emerges through our engagement with and in the world. A world not only made from nature, but one populated by people and all their social and creative affairs.

Often physically isolated from others in our expanding global village it's easy to neglect the importance of our worldly engagements. While convenience makes economic sense, it can at the same time weaken the sacrifice and so diminish the meaning. Consider recorded sound as one example: Commercial sound libraries provide sound editors access to a vast array of high quality recordings from around the world. Together with computer software, these sounds can be selected, edited and arranged to create a working soundtrack, quickly. In our anxious haste, we demote sound to the status of mere fodder. Reduced to pure utility, all preciousness is gone. All worldly engagement removed and understanding denied. This couldn't be further from the deep practices of Alan Lamb.

As practitioners of sound, passionate about all its forms and modes of sonic and musical expression, we would do well to listen to what Lamb's work teaches us about the world and the potential for our involved engagement in it. If nothing else, a trip outside every once in a while is always a good thing.

Further information about Alan Lamb: http://www.abc.net.au/arts/adlib/stories/s873159.htm

Incoming [2017] by Richard Mosse

Utilising thermographic imaging technology from distances of up to 30km away, documentary photographer Richard Mosse together with composer Ben Frost and cinematographer Trevor Tweeten has created an awe-inspiring audiovisual experience of surreal beauty and fearless humility.

Installation view of Incoming by Richard Mosse. Photo: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

Installation view of Incoming by Richard Mosse. Photo: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

Daily reports, digital information feeds and up-to-the-minute news bulletins can have the effect of normalising our individual and collective responses to human tragedy. Through the use of multi-channel video and sound projection Mosse re-renders such ubiquitous imagery in a new aura of strangeness. This I think re-frames the plight of refugees across the world, invigorating it with fresh meaning and insight. An inspiring piece of documentary work currently showing at The Barbican, London.

 

The Act of Listening #18: Listening for the enemy

Always listening for the enemy: Heinz Hoenig as Maat the sonar operator in the 1981 war epic Das Boot.

"It is on official record that a certain ship belonging to one of our great allies chased a sperm whale for - I forget how many miles. The chase was by hydrophone, aural, and did not become visual until many miles had been run, when the hydrophone experts were reluctantly compelled to admit that their legs had been pulled, or at any rate their ears tweaked. They state the fact that the sperm whale faithfully reproduced the sound of a U-boat running on electric motors throughout the entire chase." [Hush; or The Hydrophone Service, 1920 by H.W. Wilson]