Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Neglected Frontier

He drifted out of the reach of common  sense early and from  then on he could barely be trusted to properly dress himself and was interested in nothing but what he called sonics.

Some days he referred to it as sonus.

He'd be down in the basement and from  the top of the stairs you'd hear things, everything from the tinkling of one or two piano keys to what sounded like radio interference, pure bubbling static. There'd also be the occasional burst of some disembodied voice gargling words and belching. Electronic things, you know, squawks and blips and modulated droning.

He would insist that he was not making music.

He was discovering sound, or so he claimed.

"You are making fucking noise, is what you are doing," the old man would say. "Why don't we just call a spade a spade?"

Which of course only drove him right back down into the basement, back to his racket.

I guess he became somewhat famous in certain circles where the dicking around of obsessive weirdos was embraced and celebrated in a vacuum of obscurity. A prominent magazine once wrote a profile of him in which he was quoted as saying that he was assembling "a living museum of all the sounds that ever were or ever will be. All sonic possibilities will eventually be explored and discovered, or rediscovered, as the case may be. Sound is still the great neglected frontier. There are sounds from the Middle Ages that have not been heard in centuries. Or consider the cries and murmurs of extinct creatures, or an unmistakable or inimitable voice that was dead, buried, and silenced before any of us were even born. All of these things --every last one-- must be recreated."

Despite the fact that he regularly received increasingly unconscionable sums of money from foundations, pretty much everyone around  here was prepared to pronounce him a complete failure.


  1. "Lost sounds" ... what an interesting idea; all this sound-energy going somewhere. Reminds me of a remark by Mark Linkous aka Sparklehorse: "I sort of had a revelation ... the music that we make, it's gonna reverberate through the room, and then it's gonna go somewhere. Maybe it'll dissipate somewhere in the atmosphere, maybe it'll just ring on forever?"

  2. the phrase "lost sounds" reminds me of something that was up on the web recently. I couldn't find the one I had originally heard/seen but the idea might have come from this:

    -- Lianne