The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

August 11, 2016

Rio and Others (sport, music, de Beauvoir)
miniature afghan fretless tambur -> inv-dyn (i've gotten there)
miniature afghan fretless tambur (i'm getting there)

I've been watching as much of the Olympics as I can; it's good
to practice music while they're on. I'm disgusted by U.S.
chauvinism; I'm also disgusted by the rampant commercialism -
cutting away, for example, whenever an athlete is hurt. But I'm
also amazed at the brilliance of athletes (as I write this,
Neymar is down), who practice for years, perfecting their sport;
it's inspiring to see such ability. I keep thinking of my own
musical practice; whenever I go slack, touch and sound loosen
their uneasy collaboration, and I feel the need to start over
again. When I'm playing, say, the tambur (do listen to both
versions), my eyes focus on the bottom of the instrument, where
the bow is; if I video my fingers, I'm fascinated by their
speed, as if they're acting on their own, responding to the
quick and strange dynamics of muscle memory. Anything that
someone does well physically (beyond this always seems to be
well out of my league; I sense whole realms opening up at the
touch of a finger, a hand, a leg, a vault, and kick, a jump. I
watch these unattainable worlds; I can't imagine what it's like,
for example, to complete a floor exercise, or hold perfectly
still in an archery competition. So what I'm doing, now, is
trying out small modules, processing them with inverse
amplitudes, odd dynamic translations; at least I can hear
something new, for me, and at my end, something old as well, as
these modules appear to be, on one hand, an imitation the sounds
of anomalous shortwave signals, and on the other, some
traditional structures of ecstasy and repetition. One always
does what one can. And while I recognize all the dreary
patriotism and commercialism of the Rio games, I try to tunnel
beneath these, and rise to witness the elegance above. Neymar's

"I was rowing, and the boat glided along without leaving a
trace, so quietly. To be nothing but the white ripple rising and
disappearing into the even surface of the water. _That voice
should be killed. That voice what was saying: 'I should like to
be that ripple.' She said: 'That voice should be killed.' The
ripple was born and died without a voice._"

- Simone de Beauvoir, The Blood of Others, p. 143, trans. Roger
Senhouse and Yvonne Moyse, New York, 1948. French original,
1943, Le Sang des Autres.

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