The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

August 11, 2012


Start with a bow producing a continuous note on a string, in
general a single string, a single note that's mobile, that may be
transformed, may or may not come to an end within what might be
considered human time, the time of a piece of music, the time of
attention economy, the temporality of memory itself.

One hand holds the bow. Let's say the right hand. The finger,
wrist, and the rest of it, position and move the bow across the
strings. Some bows require more than this, variable tensioning of
the strings as the bow is moved; the finger do this. But the right
hand is somewhat mute, the fingers hold the bow, the bow is moved,
the hand moves the bow, the fingers are static in relation to the
bow - relative, rather than absolute, addresses.

The promise of the bowed string is ontology, the condition of a
somewhat permanent event drawing on the spectrum of sound and the
body. The promise is that of a continuous event as well, one
driven into tracks and tracking, spoors and divisions related to
drones and natural temperament. The waveforms are inconceivable,
impossible to grasp. The tracking murmurs in the blood; the spoor

Drones invert the sound and its rhapsodic; the cavern extends
outward from the sarangi which reflects pretty much what the body
churns. The cavern is the world reliant on atmosphere, on air, on
transmission carriers, Higgs bosons holding the skein in place. We
wave at one another.

The left hand, sinister, labors; it's at work making culture. It
touches the strings that the right hand, the bow hand, only hints
at. The right hand's tacit knowledge is misplaced; the left hand
is in the material itself, the depths of the cavern. The left hand
inscribes; the right hand engages inscription. The right hand
transcribes the materiality of the left. The promise is ontology.

(The bow must coax the string, the resonance. The string replies in
fits and spurts; the way of the string is resistance; the way of
the bow is supplication. Hence the double-meaning of bowing - the
production of sound, and the humbling graciousness of one and
another human in relation.)

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