During this winter holiday season I reside in the northern European region with family and friends in mostly urban settings, where the days are short and often overcast. It try to soak up enough daylight, especially when the sun appears from behind the clouds, but what I seek most is places where I do not consciously hear the ‘hum.’ 

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Index of sound architecture

Automobile traffic, rubber tires spinning across asphalt. Sound or noise clouds dispersing in different directions, creating an audible hum, inundating the urban sphere. Vectors of stress, cause of a number of modern day ailments that plague our species.

I am not sure if it bothers everyone else as it does me, but maybe it is because I have a recent sound memory so radically different, a silence so intense, It is inappropriate to categorise it as the absence of sound. A silence so big, it feels like a blanket of potential. 

Walking across the fjells of rocks, moss and lichen, a view of mountain ranges all around, in different formations and character, and nothing to hear but the occasional bird call. When I concentrate I can even spot the bird who is making the call. The air is crisp and clear. Even when clouds fill the sky, their patterns come alive as an organism of aerial performance. It is an incredible feeling: the thought of being a part of this ancient, seemingly inert landscape, stillness in anticipation of potential, vastness into multiple dimensions and scales.

Ma, the Japanese spatial concept comes to mind, roughly translated as ‘gap’, which has been described as consciousness of place, the living breath that measures time and space, not as an enclosed three-dimensional entity but more as the simultaneous awareness of form and non-form, an emptiness open to imaginative possibilities that something may enter enter to the invisible, like a promise yet to be fulfilled and the silence between the notes which makes the music.”

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It rings a bell, literally, as my sound memory.

In the morning I accompany the goats up the mountain after milking. They know their land, they move as one, their beating hooves, bleating conversation and the two bells create a sonic object recurring as daily rhythm. Only when leadership is in question and signs of indecisiveness create random movements in the front, I perform my herding duty and lead the way. 

Music, emergent in this otherwise soft spoken surrounding in time and space, subtly changing the airflow, awareness of form and non-form. These movements across the land, its sounds, smells and sights become part of the landscape, aware of the physicality of emptiness. 

The swallows have started to build their nest in the barn, where I milk the goats. Swift and agile they move around, in and out the barn and around the cabin, and one day, quietly observing them I notice something, their wings make specific sounds, it is like they speak with movement. Can that be true? Apparently it is called, aeroelastic flutter, not only do they sing vocally, but communicate in many other musical ways… find ma, and tune in to the edge of perception.

See also: https://kyotojournal.org/culture-arts/ma-place-space-void/