Friday, May 11, 2007

finding a lost song...

"spring had come to the mountain-tracts. it was sunday morning; the weather was mild and calm, but the air somewhat heavy, and the mist lay low on the forest... when he opened the door the fresh smell of the leaves met him; the garden lay dewy and bright in the morning breeze, but from the ravine sounded the roaring of the waterfall, now in lower, then again in louder booms, till all around seemed to tremble... as he went further from the fall, its booming became less awful, and soon it lay over the landscape like the deep tones of an organ."
bjornstjerne bjornson, arne, 1869

three things...

1. every time i was outside of a city in norway i could hear the white noise of waterfalls. if a mountain was visible, this sound was also audible. sometimes it was crushing, and sometimes i didn't notice it until i put on headphones while trying to record some small sound; and it seemed to exemplify some continual force of nature... it was seemingly everywhere.

2. while i was in norway i was reading an 1869 edition of arne and what i started to think about was this idea of text translation and how perhaps, translations done at the time of the writing are closer to the language and feeling of the original, as opposed to recent translations that are borne of great research but an entirely different moment in time. arne feels so much like an artefact of an era, and the english language in this early translation, while possibly not perfect in relating the nuances of bjornson's norwegian, might be closer to capturing that victorian era norwegian feeling in english than a translator would be able to today...

3. the genius of this quote is twofold. one is that sense of poetry that comes from finding music in nature. there are so many pitches and tones ringing together in moving water sounds, and this somewhat mystical passage is so connected to the actual experience of hearing these things. the other side of the quote for me is in the idea that one can manipulate the sounds of the landscape by simply walking around and experiencing them from different ear view points. if one receeds from a loud sound it can become tolerable and beautiful - ideas that cage would exploit with regards to the listener also being a composer, and the audience finding music in various types of experiences...who'd have thought of finding such things in a beautiful little old romantic tale...

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2 Comments:

Blogger kclare said...

I experienced living with that kind of white noise and constant vibration in the air when I was little and lived very close to the sea, in particular close to the Point Reyes Lighthouse, which is one of the windiest spots on the coast, and the sea was not of the placid variety… There was always that rushing sound, even when you didn’t hear it, and I clearly remember being struck by how the quality of “silence” changed as we traveled inland, became still and truly quiet – the air took on a different quality, too, it hung, whereas you never felt that just a few miles away, closer to the ocean, and out of the valley (even if it wasn't windy)…

And I love this idea of finding music in nature – “different ear view points”!! I’m always aware of how “forest” sounds and visuals adjust to my particular way of moving through the landscape…

4:10 PM  
Blogger sroden said...

oh you would've loved this island utvae in norway, it was the westernmost part of the country, a tiny island with a resident of one! it was the windiest place i've ever been in my life. i went out late at night to record the wind on some powerlines (long since disconnected) and the wind made so much noise on the mics that i had to take off my socks and wrap them around the mics... and of course my feet were FREEZING! between that and the sound of the ocean it was not only deafening but really a bit scary. indeed you didn't realize how loud it was until you went inside. it was really amazing.

11:00 PM  

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