Audiendum Extimate (“I hear it now more and more distinctly…”) (2013)

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In Franz Kafka’s The Burrow, our mole protagonist has built itself a peaceful, intimate quarters in the ground, but it is rustled from its sleep when it hears a noise coming from somewhere inside its house. Certain that this is the sound of its “enemy,” our mole loses itself in a dizzying hall of mirrors; a paranoid attempt to localize the source of this disturbance. “I did not hear it at all when I first arrived, although it must certainly have been there,” it thinks. “I must first feel quite at home before I could hear it; it is, so to speak, audible only to the ear of the householder.”


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Calling this noise “the very noise of intimacy,” the philosopher and musicologist Peter Szendy presented this Kafka story in a seminar on the nature of listening, and in it he found an analogue to what he identifies as an internal struggle going on within each of us as we listen. It is made apparent at the moment when, as we are listening, we sometimes become aware of an “other” voice within ourselves, commenting on what we hear as we hear it.

In Audiendum Extimate, we first hear the resynthesized sounds of crickets and wind captured on a warm summer night in Budapest. These sounds suggested to me a certain harmony of the body, a unity and peace within itself. That intimacy is disturbed by an increasingly audible sonar that pulses the deep seas in search of an “other.” Both of these sounds suggested intimate listening devices in vast, resonant spaces. Once the body becomes aware of the presence of this “other,” it violently attempts to hunt it down. The ensuing passage includes an orchestrated sonogram of the sonar itself, as if the strings attempt to search out the “other” by emulation.



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