Stacey Sewell | writing/art

Month: March, 2013

Silence

If writing about sound is difficult, then writing about silence must be almost impossible. Kathleen Jamie does it beautifully:

“Slowly we enter the most extraordinary silence, a radiant silence. It radiates from the mountains, and the ice and the sky, a mineral silence which presses powerfully on our bodies, coming from very far off. It’s deep and quite frightening, and makes my mind seem clamorous as a goose. I want to quell my mind, but I think it would take years. I glance at the others. Some people are looking out at the distant land and sea; others have their heads bowed, as if in church . . . How long we sit there I don’t know. I only know I’ve never heard anything like it, a silence that could dismiss a sound, as wind would dismiss a feather. Five minutes, ten, minutes in a lifetime.”

Kathleen Jamie Sightlines (London: Sort Of Books, 2012), p4.

She gives the silence a content, a force and direction direction, and a sense of being, without turning it into a noise.

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Whispers and webs

“‘Here we must be beneath the Stones,’ the girl said whispering, and her whisper ran out into the hollow blackness and frayed into threads of sound as fine as spiderweb, that clung to the hearing for a long time.”

Ursula le Guin (1993). The Tombs of Atuan. London: Penguin.

This, from le Guin’s Earthsea Quartet, is one of my favourite descriptions of sound. In one sentence, it captures the production of the sound, the diffusion of that sound in space, and the hearing or reception of sound. Even then, it clings to the hearing, both physical sensation and phenomenlogical awareness, something more than an echo . . .