+ -

A Grammar For Listening – Part 2

Luke Fowler

UK, 2009
21 minutes, Colour, Optical, 1:1.33
Original format: 16mm film
Available formats: 16mm

‘Over the centuries, Western culture has relentlessly attempted to classify noise, music and everyday sounds… Ordinary noises and the mundane sounds that are not perceived as either annoying or musical are of no interest.’How to create a meaningful dialogue between looking and listening? Luke Fowler’s film cycle A Grammar for Listening (parts 1-3) attempts to address this question through the possibilities afforded by 16mm film and digital sound recording devices. In part 2, Fowler initiates a new collaboration with Parisian-based composer Eric La Casa. Parts 1 and 2 evolved from filming and recording trips, whose locations were chosen based on a number of geographic and acoustic possibilities.Silence dominated “experimental film” of the 1960’s. Sound or musical accompaniment was often dismissed as illustrative, manipulative or redundant. Instead, a return to the experiments of early cinema, concentrated on rhythm, structure and material and thereby considered film’s potential as an art form with its own unique grammar.Prior to this tendency in film, composer John Cage had foregrounded “silence” within his 1953 composition 4’33. Purging concerts of conventional musical content, he allowed the sounds from outside to come inside and become the focus of the audience’s attention. These foundational ideas, (in parallel with conceptual frameworks outlined by music-concrete pioneer Pierre Schaeffer in France, and latterly with the introduction of the R. Murray Schafer’s world “Soundscape” movement), have led to a burgeoning music scene focused on environmental sound and field recording.Pierre Schaeffer’s early use of music created entirely with tape recorders and found sounds, posited the concept of the “acousmatic” (or reduced listening). He suggested that sounds should be perceived in and of themselves, stripped of instrumental and cultural contexts, in order to develop a language of purely sonic descriptions. These attempts to cultivate a focused and more thoughtful listening practice frequently supplanted a dominant visual order.Eric La Casa often consults maps, not in order to locate the habitat of specific species or significant sights but more prosaically to calculate proximity to traffic noise. The aeleatory nature of the routes taken often suggests a drift with the character of an “open investigation” and a broad appreciation for all sound. “The whole of my work consists in finding a centre, a listening point in relation to everything which is taking place. The microphones, then, amplify everything that this listening area transmits, that is to say, all the living substances in motion, from the interior of the body to the geophonic exterior”.