The after-school-extra-help-tutor is in the library café with the teenage student; she’s explaining the exam paper structure and the tricks and tactics of succeeding through this particular system. What to watch out for. Active listening will allow you to improve your efficacy. Stop hearing, start listening. (She didn’t say that). Her voice has the narrative tonal undulations of performed female ‘helpful help’; the student’s responses are imperceptible.
Narcissism sings above the other words, it’s not that you’ll be asked directly to define narcissism, it’s more likely that within the text you’ll have to distinguish it from the others and understand it in context. So it’s good news for narcissist and it’s good news for narcissist. Awkward. The informal café at the edge of the vast non-space of the library welcome hall; I feel very welcome, jumbling along with everyone else. I can also hear myself writing this as if I’m writing with purpose, characterised as a filter. I recognise someone from the hospital, or the street, or the school, or something to do with not forgetting to water the plants. Romance of the library welcome hall, as the bagged-up cakes are still available, the traffic sneaks along, magnetically shunting in gangs, partially obscured by the reflection of the romance of the library welcome hall and the surge of after-school-growling. He’s from the glass house, he has a family. It’s a strong word, strong word to use; I can’t see any of the student’s relatives, I can’t even see him now.
The Stolen Voices Album Launch was performed as an enigmatic research project in-the-making, incorporating the varied sonic traces sound-makers produce in response to specific contexts around the UK. We were implicated in this process by way of instruction, as if we had accepted an invitation to a ***** mystery party. As we were guided through some of the audio works included in the project, as both immersive surround sound and live performance, we were held temporarily in a loose structure, something between the spectacle of a concert, and listening in to someone tell someone else what they overheard in the underpass. Mariam Rezaei’s layered, twisted vocals straddled this gap and deftly carved a space for an unsettled listening experience akin to a communal dream’s echo. The vinyl that has been produced (given away to audience members at the launch by way of a conceptual raffle—everyone’s a winner) appears to mark a point at which a certain amount of evidence has been gathered, an encircling border. Despite the metaphor conveyed to us of listening as a leaky ship, the vinyl record is complete, discrete, and so I wonder if this is in fact the end point of a phase.
Listening and reading around the enmeshed matter that forms the wider Stolen Voices project gives me permission to indulge—I have heard this phrase enough times now that I use it like I mean it and it doesn’t even make me cringe as it flows from my fingers, only on second reading does it make me cringe and I can’t believe I’ve written permission to indulge but I leave it in there as a reminder that my influences are less and less varied in their accents, their experience, and as a reminder that I must address this fact—in the semi-glazed, out of focus mind that I lean towards when I’m comfortable. I don’t have an easterly-facing aspect, as most of the contributors, researchers, noise-makers in the project do, but I am inclined to listen to the unremarkable while missing the punchline.
Subject matter and methodology meet and conflate as listening (in); this is at the heart of the dually authored research project. The noises recorded both in text and etched into vinyl speak of improvisations of everyday experience, oral histories, patterns of atmospheres via scattered British geographies. It’s difficult to move between the abstract and the tangible when we’re dealing with perception, our sensory engagement in the world, but this project does sweep between an abstract sense of the potential of de-enlightening the senses and a lived version of a rabble of (noise making) inhabitants of the British east coast-ish.
Perhaps this project is a diagram of the blob that surrounds hearing and listening. Scattered focus, vast range. When a sensorial detour becomes both subject matter and methodology, we encounter a potentially exciting tangle, moreover, the wandering nature of the recordist might reveal more about them than their subject. When a project is led by a duo, who already provide resonance with their composed and characterful performance of their findings, what work is required from us to fully immerse ourselves, to interpret?
Much has been circulated from the question of what it means to be driven by the non-ocular. Sometimes listening isn’t to do with receiving sounds: it’s short-hand for what we understand to be involved with the minor, or maybe the haptic senses. Short-hand, for an attempt to unlearn the infrastructures that we live within, that are based on the ability to focus, define, refine, and move through in a linear manner. It’s short-hand for a supposedly gentle way of being with each other—with those we know and those we don’t.
Rebecca Wilcox works with writing, audio, video and performance, often using voice as a tool. She’s currently working with Dimitra Ioannou on the next issue of the journal A) Glimpse) Of).
The Stolen Voices Album Launch took place at CCA, Glasgow, 8 February 2020
Stolen Voices is a creative research project by Rebecca Collins and Johanna Linsley. The launch included performances from Rebecca Collins & Johanna Linsley, Nichola Scrutton, Mariam Rezaei, Pete Stollery and Barrett’s Dottled Beauty.
The album features work by Ode Aseguinolaza, Barrett’s Dottled Beauty, Emma Bennett, Kitchen Cynics, Mariam Rezaei and Pete Stollery.
Johanna Linsley is an artist, researcher and producer with an interdisciplinary approach focusing on performance.
Rebecca Collins is a practice led researcher based in Scotland who works in a transdisciplinary and international context across the fields of performance studies, and sound.