Listening to/with Mar Paradoxo: Listening Reports

[Versão em Português]

[report a]
I started the listening process around 4:30 pm, with studio monitor headphones (semi-open design) in a meditation position and with eyes closed. The journey through the album was to listen to all tracks in their order of recording (from silence 1 to 100, in ascending order, and finally overlapping silences). As this is the second time I've listened to the entire album, I noticed important differences between listening following the original order of the tracks and the path I took. The original order of tracks, which privileges the duration of the tracks as an ordering parameter (from the shortest to the longest), produced in me a listening that varies a lot, especially at the beginning, which made it difficult to immerse in the project, difficulty that dissipated as the tracks got longer. When listening in the recording order this sensation decreases considerably. As we make contact with the environments and sounds by “blocks” and the durations vary a lot, the immersion in the project seemed more intense with this route. During the listening process, with my eyes closed and trying to concentrate only on listening (that is, not doing another activity in parallel), I got the feeling that Stolf's silences are like frames for the stronger, incidental sounds that occur in my surroundings. Frames that can be denser, with complex textures, or plainer and smoother, frames that, such as in a painting, can be more ornate or simple, taking some of the attention away from the center, but still “framing it”, or privileging this “framing” in the incidental sounds of the surroundings. I noticed that being focused on listening to the album amplified my listening to the sounds of my surroundings; at first, I somehow struggled against listening to these surroundings – being with a half-open earpiece in a place that was not fully silent annoyed me until the moment the frame's image finally emerged. At that moment I started to welcome the sounds of my surroundings as part of the listening process. At times, especially when surroundings were quieter and Stolf's silences were smoother or less dense, I felt as if they framed my thoughts. Another issue that caught my attention when listening to Stolf's production is that most of the underwater sounds do not recollect any of the Hollywood SFX clichés, that muffled sound, which has severe cuts in the mid-highs and highs. In a good part of Stolf's silences, the feeling, for me, was to be next to a fire pit, with its high-pitched crackling noises. Physically, the task of listening for 1h40 minutes in a meditation posture, immobile, was quite challenging. I managed to stay completely still until silence 59 when I opened my eyes for the first time and did some light stretching movements to have circulation come back to my legs. Then I returned to my primary posture and stayed that way until silence 92 when I repeated the process of stretching and I went back to listen until the end in immobility. This challenge, however, was not in vain, as, over time, as the sensitivity of the legs started to decrease, the sensation of listening to the album became more interesting. At some moments it felt like I had my body partly immersed into water; or, in some of the tracks that contained engines sounds, I felt the sensation of being in a floating or flying vehicle. In this way, despite the issues of the long listening process, I think that the challenge produced a more complex listening experience, that involved the body and was definitely more subtle than if I were lying down or sitting in a comfortable chair or listening to the album following shorter paths.
[report b]
I arrange ahead of me all of the graphic material included in the record, connect my headphones to the notebook, bring myself a glass of water.
I hear: noises from the auto repair service, dogs barking and howling, the sun making me squint my eyes while I write.
I put my headphones on.
Waves. Thunder. I hear in each track three or four layers of sound. More than anything, I hear the cuts in between tracks - but the cuts, in themselves, have no sound.
Sometimes there is a whisper overhead, like the wind coming in through from a small opening in the window.
A frog: hm, hm.
When the whispering wind disappears, the silence calms down.
I listen while I reread what I wrote. This bothers me, so I try not to hear my thoughts.
coastal silence 100: something is lurking, something that spies me out of the frame
coastal silence 24: silence. When the sea disappears.
coastal silence 40: frying of an egg.
Some silences have fewer layers. Some of them are nearly homophonic (97, 85).
This one I already know: on the top, the whispering of the wind (not so intense now); on the bottom, percussive snaps.
Surface: whispering wind
Intermediate layer: percussive snaps
Bottom: a giant frog
(coastal silence 80)
coastal silence 62 (and 45): sounds like the auto repair service next to my house.
New category: the ‘auto repair silence’.
I didn’t remember those birds (are they on the record or are they here?).
Writing, I give names to everything.
coastal silence 3 and 1: rugosity with the sea as a background.
coastal silence 61: two layers, as in so many photographs of the horizon by the sea. Half water, half sky. The lower half moves (waves); the other only oscillates.
coastal silence 56: the same familiar elements, but with a different timbre. Space is more compressed.
45 - 20 - 22 - 75: auto repair silence - quiet silence - sea silence - wind silence
Rough cuts: from 45 to 20; from 75 to 38.
The quiet silences (20, 25) make me listen more attentively.
I feel like the album is formed by five or six alternating landscapes. Each time they reappear, we stay with them longer.
These landscapes are made of a group of characters (the wind, the waves, the frog, the thunder, the percussive snaps, the rugosity, the running water). Often these characters reappear in different landscapes.
I don’t hear any sea in the noisy silence (55). Someone seeks for an object in a toolbox.
Quiet silence; noisy silence; auto repair silence; rugosity with the sea as a background; sea silence; wind silence.
Layers in coastal silence 74, from bottom to top: frog / rugosity / percussive snaps / wind
A comma: a brief digital silence marks the transition between coastal silence 76 (track 100) and 100 silêncios empilhados (track 101).
[report c]
It is as if I heard the sound that other times have. Here time is articulated as meaning, which leads me to imagine a triangle between times, silences, and subjects. As if none of the three were fixed, but together they built very strong and whole realities. I listen to paradox sea in random order and make myself a subject of other times and silences, trying to construct and deconstruct the meanings that emerge from each stage of my listening, sometimes instinctive, sometimes elaborated. It seems curious to me how each silence suggests a different abstract time. Dense and rarefied silences, intense, smooth, brief, and slow times. Paradoxes. I turn up the volume, my timing has changed. Because my time has intensity and so those of paradox sea also have it. Polyphlóisboio, as my father would remember. I wonder what’s the identity of this so-called physis is, translated by subjects. Is it inanimate, as we, those of now, conceive it? Or is she a goddess who awakens in us the sensation of time through the senses? Would the sound be our bond? I remember that sound is also tact because I feel the cold of water through listening. I shiver. Time cools down, slows down again, I'm reaching the end of this conversation with silences, which is also a conversation with matter. Or maybe I just heard a sonic-silent story of time.
[report d]
I listen to the first CD, from the first track to the last in sequence. Within that range of silences, I imagine several seas. Those from Baía de Todos os Santos, Rio Vermelho, Iracema, Futuro beach, Meireles, Mucuripe. Silences took me to the coasts, the groynes, took me on the fishermen's boats anchored at the port. I imagine from the little I know of the seas in Florianópolis and I mix it with my closest seas.
At the beginning of listening there are many shots, many cuts, the silences are very contrasting. I seem to be moving to different surfaces of this and those seas. In one moment, I am at the shallow, and suddenly at the deep. Sometimes the waves take me, sometimes I hide from them on the groynes, the rocks or the boats.
Am I the microphone? Or do I try to be Raquel? I try to locate her. Imagine her. Where would I put this microphone? Where did she put it? What is that sound? The silence is now quieter and the noise of the recorder emerges.
The waters resemble bonfires. They pop like fire. My thoughts run in different directions, I can't concentrate on just one sound. I think of the microphone in the water – the hydrophone –, I think of the water-fire, the waves (whether they would catch me or not), the continuous noises, the depths, the body of the one who captures(ed). Did she capture in or out of the water? Both, I think. I imagined that she would not go into the water. But in the course of listening, I imagine that in some moments she did. The fisherman also enters the water to fish. She fishes, she fishes for silences. These silences, unlike fishes, do not enter through my mouth, but through my ears, at the apartment, in front of my computer, aiming to be the body that captures these sounds that I hear, or to be the hydrophone itself, pushed, pressed, raptured, cherished by the waters.
The shots are gradually becoming “long takes”. The scenes are now much longer. I am more relaxed, since the next tracks are longer than the previous ones. I arrive at the overlapping silences. The hard cuts are now not so scary as they were on shorter audios. I think I'm already prepared to listen to them in this stack. The "bed" of longer silences also doesn’t make hard cuts as clear as before. The stacked silences now do not seem as interesting as listening to the sequence of short shots with the hard cuts.
[report e]
Listening report - Coastal silence 4, 61, 42, and 51.
Thursday, 5 pm, 18 degrees. I hear a motorcycle panning from right to left, but it's not coming from the two speakers inside my headphone. From those speakers comes another movement other than panning, it is now fulfillment, the filtered sound of a wave flooding me. I'm in a workroom that I share with my partner. My companion is sitting to my right, and coming from where he is, I hear creaking chair sounds and now and then, WhatsApp sound warnings that always take me outside of my headphones. The waves hit my ears but when I expect them to continue, a cut, next track. A minute is not enough to make me dive. Ok, coastal silence 61 and then 42, this one reminds me of fire crackling and boiling water. But that is not possible! It's a hydrophone, after all.
[report f]
I listen to the album tracks while solving a bureaucratic problem in my profession. There are eight tabs open in the browser. Eventually I come back to the tab where the recordings are uploaded, play them and take notes. The recordings are fragments: my listening is fragmentary and I think this is fair. My listening of these fragments is floating, and I think this is fair, in the sense of practicing a listening behavior that I understand to be adequate to the situation. A fragmentary listening of a fragmentary object.

Coastal silence 2: a hiker makes a trail on a stone ground.

Coastal silence 8: tiny water and bucketfuls of water.

Coastal silence 9: In front of one of those roadside houses. Someone throws buckets of water in a small creek.

Coastal silence 14: I forgot the cellphone’s sound recorder inside my pocket.

Coastal silence 17: I move my feet or hands in the water. Cars pass in the distance.

Coastal silence 31: Ligeti’s Lux Aeterna. There comes the black monolith and lands right next to this creek.

Coastal silence 40: Next to a noisy computer, I try to open an unsympathetic plastic package.

Coastal silence 58: I decided to enjoy the sound of my fingers clicking on the buttons on the hand recorder interface.

Coastal silence 66: And the phonograph’s needle runs over the wax cylinder.

Coastal silence 72: Roadside. Cars pass by me while I hitchhike. I adjust the microphone.

43. I’m in a room with machines in the background, someone plays with a piece of plastic close to me.

64. Someone opens and closes a tap with good pressure. Scrapes and scrapes. The sound is tactyle.

78. Water. The water breathes.

96. Water, a little bit more agitated. A car passes by.

Coastal silence 34: Medium high drone and tactile events.

Coastal silence 64: High drone and tactile events.

Coastal silence 46: Medium-high drone, tactile events and continuous percussion.

Coastal silence 52: tiny stones hitting each other. Or: a phonograph’s needle over a wax cylinder.

Coastal silence 98: Fictional soundtrack for the horror genre. I am watching TV, and in this episode, there are some decisive moments in the series.

Coastal silence 62: another scene in the same fictional series in the horror genre. Or another scene in a different production, but composed by the same sound designer.

Coastal silence 100: I am alone in my home’s kitchen. I am not sure whether I will make another coffee or not.

[report g]
{In the previous week}
I navigated through the whole Mar Paradoxo album. I retain a lot from this experience. I also read the text The Noisy-Nonself and watched the documentary My Octopus Teacher. That bipedal chimera and that female octopus do not leave my mind.

{Day 1}
I walk through the beach with the water ankle-deep. I hear, I look, I smell, I feel, I am at the sea. I take out my mobile phone from my pocket, open the sound recording application and start to talk with no preparation or direction, sort of drifting through.
“it is very difficult to imagine that the sea can be something silent
these white waves
white noise
so many frequencies, so many intensities
I cannot picture the sea as a place of silences
perhaps this totality, this immensity
visual, sonorous, tactile
a sense of fullness so intense that it borders with silence?
silence as fullness, not as emptiness
everything that inhabits the sea, all of a subaquatic universe
full of colors, full of sounds, full of forms, of movements
we do not know the depths
various creatures
many of them we’ve never even seen
what do we hear? what do we not hear?”
(Transcription of excerpts of the audio made while walking on the beach)

{Day 2}
Back at the beach, I walk once again along the seaside. I choose track 30 from the second disc – one of the tracks that intrigued me the most – and put it on loop. I struggle to mix the sound of the sea where I am (but I hear it outside, with dry ears) with the sound of the sea where I am not (but in which I seem to have my ears submerged). Inside, out, here, there. I walk a little bit faster and I sense the rhythm of my breathing. At a certain point, something in the sand draws my attention. Immediately, I stop and bend down to check: some kind of shell, it is broken. I soon find myself engaged in collecting pieces, fragments, remains, traces of creatures that inhabit the sea. I get involved in this task until I get tired of this listening-action. I take with me a little collection of coastal vestiges and elect one of them as Coastal Silence 74.
Fig. 1 - Collection of coastal vestiges
Fig. 2 - Coastal silence 74