Annotated notes from abroad

Sinister Resonance
, David Toop
(256pp, 17.99, Continuum)


Books read on holiday always seem different from those read at home. This year, I took David Toop's new book and read it in the Italian sun. Here are the notes I made towards a review, and my later annotations.

David Toop's Sinister Resonance seems to suggest that sound is always a carrier of narrative, never just itself.

Tangles of silence and sound, non-sound, implied sound (for instance, in paintings); surprisingly little abstract music here apart from ideas of spatial resonance.

Always a concern for careful listening. What about the notion of
casual listening? Is this legitimate? Or simply not of concern to Toop?

Thomas Merton's silence always 'religious'? What about later works when he writes of zen, of being lost in the moment of silence, way of negation. (The idea of not being able to know god, which he shared with Robert Lax.)

Robert Lax: careful arrangements? Very akin to Reinhardt's careful placement of colour (blacks), but also to ideas of repetition & change: a thing is never and can never be the same.

Lax and Merton both interested in mantras, Reinhardt in mandalas (visual mantras)
Negotiating Rapture catalogue (Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago)

The curious coincidence of also taking David Shield's
Dead Language on holiday to read, a book about stuttering and being inarticulate.

And the two
LRB reviews: one of Kyle Gann's No Such Thing as Silence: John Cage's 4' 33; the other Jenny Diski's more personal discussion of The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want: a book about Noise by Garret Keizer.

The contradiction that Toop is using words to write about music. The narratives he discusses come from language, not sound. We can only create meaning from music, just as we do from visual art, through language.

Do we
impose ideas of resonance on places and pictures (etc.) because we are nostalgic/religious/aesthetic/historically-minded? Or do certain images and architectures create intrinsically resonant images or places?

Cathedrals; famous paintings; ideas of home, childhood & family; conferred greatness as a socio-cultural
imposition of resonance and attributed/seeming memory & narrative.

David Toop's book is intriguing, meandering, considered and full of interesting reading, art and music. It challenges the reader to listen and see, to live, more attentively and carefully. To be aware of how we hear and listen, and what we hear and listen.

That in itself is no bad thing, but to have this rich resource to help on the way is even better.

     Rupert Loydell 2010

Main/Robert Hampson? Cezary Gapik? Sound as sound. Noise.

Ambient? background noise, which should perhaps be left
as background noise? Muzak?

Via Negative (St John of the Cross, Simone Weil). How can we live with the unknown?

Lax: the weight of each word as/for itself. Also playful
: cf A Catch of Anti-Letters by Merton & Lax (Sheed & Ward)

Music with purpose (social/religious/ritual), a part of daily/community/communal life, to effect
change. Silence, perhaps as a response or as a state of mind?

Is this a rearguard action? Something that we want/create to oppose new ideas/ways if learning? Or because they are things we need that these new ways don't supply?

   'When we read an internet page the typical movement of our eyes is F-shaped. We scan the first couple of lines, skitter down the left margin, glance across the first two lines of a subsequent paragraph or two, scan down the left and then - zip! - we're off to the next page. "How do readers read the web?" asks one scientist. "They don't."
   Users become adept at making rapid connections betweeen disparate date and mining useful information from long documents. But they also become less good at other things: sustained concentration; remembering the information processed; and [...] less good at the sort of "deep reading" that has been central to our civilisation since Gutenberg.'
(Sam Leith, 'The Shallows
by Nicholas Carr', in The Sunday Times, 29 August 2010)

Or are we developing new ways of seeing and listening?