Freya Johnson Ross

Call me: the politics of interpersonal listening

Don’t be afraid

you can call me

Lying in the dark, rehearsing snappy conversation in my head. Does this count as cultivating self-listening, or is it a nervous tic? Walking along the street rehearsing what I want to say to you, or rather, what I don’t want to say to you. Wot do u call it?

What does your internal monologue sound like? Is it chirpy or angry? Are you familiar with it? Are you so familiar with it you’re bored? Can you tune it out or have you practiced quieting it? Actually perhaps ‘it’ isn’t right, or too singular, maybe it’s they… 

How do you listen to yourself? Can you do it without cultivating speaking to yourself in some way, or are the two inseparable? For example, if you write a diary are you talking to yourself or someone else? Or maybe it feels like an external voice is observing and noting on the page.

Maybe you listen to the way your body feels or senses without words. Exhaustion. Thirst. Sadness. Restlessness. Tension. You just read these words. Think them. Say them. Hear them. Feel them?

If you lie still can you ever hear your body, perhaps sensing the internal vibrations. Swimming in breath or pulse. Hide and seek. More delicate than listening to a recording of your own voice: talking, lecturing, reading, practicing, musing, pretending. Horrifying and delighting. ‘Perhaps I just get bored with myself’. Find your guts.

Listening needn’t have a response, form part of a dialogue. Speaking into a void, to exorcise, you don’t want anyone to hear. Or if you’re just noodling. When you read your own (old?) writing, do you feel like you’re listening to past you. Writing a letter to yourself and having it posted by the workshop organisers so you receive it some months later *eyeroll*

You say elision, I say liaison. Listening between the lines, lip reading. Lip syncing intimacy. Rising sign.

I’m worried about cancer, 1 in 2, twit-tu-woo. The sound of your voice does soothe me, but hearing your noises of understanding as you listen to me voice these fears is worth a thousand ships.

Active, gentle exchange of listening, giving and receiving, reciprocity unspoken and not negotiated.

Taking turns, take a break.

Who do you ask questions of?

No but I meant:

You’re not really listening.

Wot? I didn’t quite catch that, I lost you. Sorry? I don’t know if it’s my reception – can you walk around a bit. Hang on, I’ll try again.

Is that any better?


Maybe try turning off your video? Can you hear me?


In your ear, intimate. Visibly out of sync – auditory jet lag. Uncomfortably close. Neuropathology swimming to consciousness: plastic, china, lid of metal. What’s insiiiiiiiiideeeeeee

Walking: let’s swap sides.

Airing out loud – validated, reflected by and through someone else who knows you. A precious commodity. Vent.  ‘Holding space’ has a ring of personal architecture – the framework for…an auditory hug?

Do you think I understand you. Hmm. Listening, holistically (or specifically) as relationship building. What are we doing? Perhaps I can help you to make sense of some of the confusion around what you’ve been feeling. We could explore that together. I’m sick of the sound of my own voice, how long it takes to feel like someone has heard you. To feel like someone.

If you’re feeling sad and lonely, what does it feel like to be heard by a stranger? What does it feel like to listen to a stranger? I did hear you on the Lesbian Line before, the birds are singing so loudly.


I wonder how many people I know have called the Samaritans, and I’m not sure why I don’t feel able to ask them. Freedom in anonymity. A friendly void. Stickers on the inside of toilet doors, and signs attached to high places.

maybe it’s late

but just call me

Don’t imagine you’re an amateur psychiatrist. Some people have never had anyone to give them their complete attention. There’s no more precious gift you can give to another human being than your undivided attention. Non-judgemental. Not giving advice. Not jumping to conclusions. Most people don’t want advice: they want to be told that what they have decided to do is ok.

Are you ok?

Under your skin: mirroring or mimicking? The parole ricochets around the room. The zoom. Do you lean towards filling silence out of politeness, to convey or steer? Discussion, resolution, decision. The ears have it, the ears have it!

Shared, ecstatic, hypnotic. Moving. Singing. Listening as part of a whole, to stay part of the whole. In sync. Effortless.

Excruciating, lonely, tense: that bombed. Can you edge it in or are you too worried about how it will be received? No repartee to lean on. Silence. Awkward attention. Focused, quiet, listening. Positively restrained: leaving space not leaving the room.

Drained. Have you ever gone through a conversation with your internal voice piping up after a while, god they haven’t asked me a single question, as you draw out and inquire into the detail of another person’s mind. That’s not to say it can’t be delightful, or fruitful, to devote yourself conversationally to an other. But it can be tiring, or come to feel like you are servicing someone else with your grin, engaged eyes, nods and encouraging noises. Equally, listening to someone’s unfolding thoughts, ideas or feelings – their unrehearsed mood can be joyful, captivating, relaxing. Closeness: a privilege. Effort or dedication to listening, is just as present as when it is light, reviving or unnoticed.

What do you listen to to numb yourself? Really really loud relentless music. Deliberate radio in the background. Any radio in the background. White noise. Rain, café, rustling. Sound clash. Hoovering inside and out. Something really interesting. Silence, something closer to silence. Less impingement, semi-anechoic chamber. [hhinnngggggggggggggggggggggggggg]

Cheap, careless, unlimited repetition. render tender tck tck tck-tck-tck  tck tck tck-tck-tck  tck tck tck-tck-tck

Freya Johnson Ross is an artist and researcher whose practice is focused on sound, multimedia installation and interdisciplinary listening – and how this relates to methodologies for knowledge production. Her current work addresses the politics of listening and the ethics of making and using personal and institutional archives. From Glasgow, she has studied at the University of Cambridge, Wimbledon College of Art, and the University of Sussex.

Freya Johnson Ross

Mark Peter Wright

The following text is reproduced from handwritten notes that were found within a dilapidated structure. They appear to detail the last known traces of an as yet unidentified wildlife sound recordist.

I will do my best to recall the circumstances that have led me to this point. I stand amongst a scene I can barely believe. My reflection no longer belongs to me. Soon I fear it will be too late to even speak.

I arrived here a week ago to record the sound of cicadas. Conditions were sweltering from the start. I spent days out in the long grass under burning heat, capturing the sounds of neocicada hieroglyphica, cacama valvata, tibicen canicularis, tibicen resonans and many more. I would sit in the field for hours happily listening to the high frequency buzz of insects. The work required stillness and quiet on my part, as to not encroach upon the recording. I tried to be invisible and inaudible. I was a silent listener immersed in a world of nature I have now come to fear. 

I took what was essentially a hobby very seriously. My recordings were frequently deposited in archives and used for research or artistic purposes. With the days work done I would return to my makeshift home-studio, have dinner and hurriedly begin the playback and cataloguing process for the duration of that evening, archiving and grading each recording one by one in order to preserve the sounds for future use.

It was systematic work done in the dimly lit confines of my purpose built abode. I broke up the monotony of cataloguing by manipulating and layering certain sounds into compositions. Nature was as musical as it was scientific. I would listen to my animal orchestra until I drifted asleep. How I long for those nights amidst the wreckage of my current mind state. 

This routine went on. Long days in the field with immersive nights listening back to recordings. My memory is cloudy now, but I remember things began to change one evening when I awoke from a nightmare. The dream was unique in that it appeared to contain sound alone. An unidentifiable heavy breathing crackled and howled in the most terrifying of ways. It produced an abysmal feeling of solitude in me coupled with an overwhelming presence of someone, or something.

Gasping out of sleep I sat up in bed and noticed a patch of dry blood on the pillow. I panicked and checked my body but nothing, not even a scratch. I ran my hands over my face and stopped as I touched a clotted knot of hair near my temple. I got out of bed and walked haphazardly to the mirror. The blood seemed to be coming from my left ear. “Strange” I thought, “how on earth could that have happened?” It was extremely painful to touch and felt as though something had been gnawing at my cochlear. After rinsing my hair and cleaning the blood away I managed to ignore the throbbing pain and gradually drifted back to sleep. 

Dawn came and blistering heat pierced through the windows. After coffee and a quick bite to eat I picked up my equipment and opened the door for another day of recording. I didn’t notice at first but gradually, as I made my way towards the site, just 100 feet from base, I realised something was missing. “Where had all the cicadas gone?” I couldn’t hear their usual incessant noise. I clicked my fingers next to my ears. There was nothing wrong there. I sat for hours on end waiting for the cicadas to stridulate. The heat became more and more pressing as the fatigue of waking from the nightmare took over. I drifted in and out of sleep amongst the gentle sway of the breeze. 

I came too with a sudden exhale; my ear began to cause huge irritation. Raising my hand, I felt a sticky, puss-like liquid on the lobe. I pressed a finger into the ear cavity and jumped out of my skin as a high screeching sound ricocheted around my skull, releasing a pain that registered in my teeth. Startled and anxious I hurriedly packed up the equipment and made my way back to my lodgings where I fell into another deep slumber.

I awoke in the dark, unsure of the time. Feeling disorientated, I decided to listen back to recordings from the previous day, hoping they would reassure my confused state. I set up the laptop and played a file at random. No sound was there. I played another file and again, no audible sign of the cicadas. My ear burned as I clicked on wav file after wav file. I couldn’t hear the sounds I knew I had captured from previous days. I frantically switched views and begin to analyse the visual spectrogram. None of the usual hi staccato imprints that epitomized cicada song were apparent. There was however, a ghostly marking throughout the recording. The cicadas may not have been there but something certainly was. I began isolating frequencies where I thought the inaudible content existed and boosted the volume, moving my chair closer towards one of the speakers. 

A faint, slow rhythmical sound filtered through the air. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was. I placed my good ear gently against the speaker cone membrane and then suddenly amongst the hiss of amplification I realised what I could hear – it was the sound of my own breath. 

Fear streamed through my veins like never before. Panic swirled around me. I stumbled backwards from the speaker. Both ears now throbbed as a breath, my breath, emanated outwards, growing louder and louder. I felt a sharp piercing pain pour through my left ear again. I ran to the laptop to stop the file but it wouldn’t end. I unplugged the power and all I could hear was my breath pulsing louder and louder in a terrifying cascade that swamped the room. I began hyperventilating as I noticed the speakers seemed to be physically swelling with every pulsating breath. I crashed into a box of notes sending them spiraling through the air and I as turned, struck my head on the glass light bulb that dangled from the ceiling. 

I don’t know how long had passed before I came too, drenched in sweat. There was no sound and I was glad. Daylight splintered its way through the window. I picked myself up and walked towards the small refrigerator for some water, trampling over broken glass and paper notes. I felt a tug at my ankle and fell to the floor. For a brief moment I was sure something began dragging me backwards. Sat upright I raised a tired laugh as I fathomed audio cable had spiraled around my leg. Tripping me up yes, dragging me back, surely not?

Over the following days strange incidents continued. I walked outside and again, no cicada sounds passed through the air. Had I done something to affect them? During the nights I couldn’t bring myself to listen back to the recordings for fear of hearing that dreadful noise. 

Things began to escalate. A microphone momentarily grafted itself into my hand; I had to tear it away, breaking the skin of my palm. I woke up with cables wrapped around my legs. They became impossible to remove. In my growing delusion I cut one that was attaching itself around furniture and to my horror, a strange liquid oozed from it. Exhaustion grew. I lost everything. Sleep, dreams, heat and utterances took over. Life became a waking nightmare; my sanity escaped the room. I stopped going outside for fear that something was going to take over my body. Now I know that it was already here, in this room and in me, all this time. 

{Five pages torn haphazardly from the book. The only words visible in the severed margins appear to be: I, laughter, who, patterns, transparent, noise}

I have no idea what day it is or how long I have been here. I am tired and the pain is now unbearable. The last time I looked in the mirror my body began to pixelate and blend into the background. When I squeezed my arm a noise shrieked from everywhere. I stared at myself for minutes, shimmering and flickering with the room. Slowly, and with frozen fascination, I moved the pixels of my face and blanked out.  

{Two empty pages with faint lines drawn on them}

Last night I placed headphones on in one last attempt to find sanctuary in listening, but felt a tension between my ears. The pressure became so much that I ripped the headphones away and as I did so, cicadas spilled into the air in a horrifying slow-motion dance. In a fit of auto-destructive rage I demolished equipment and smashed hard drives into pieces. Exhausted, I pummeled microphones onto walls and across the floor. 

What is happening? My body is changing; my voice distorting; everything is alive!

{Long break in the page, scratches and torn pieces of page}

These last few hours, or days, I’m not sure how long, have brought a deterioration that bears no words. I have lost my voice. When I try to speak there is only shrieking feedback. Language now swims in a sea of metallic waves. I spend my day in noise, unable to move for the unbearable feeling that something is listening to me; thousands of things in fact are listening to the tiniest sounds of my every move.  

All equipment is destroyed but somehow it still manages to whirr into operation every night. My computer screen flickers on, speakers begin to swell and the sounds of my breath, my feet, my shuffling recorded body fills the night air. I am immersed in the horrifying noise of myself. 

{Smears of blood and matted grey fur stuck to page}

Both ears are now completely covered by abscesses. Everything sounds from within a muffled chamber. I can hear my heart beating loudly. I tried to run but couldn’t get out of the door. Thousands of cicadas moved across the window. I felt a microphone underfoot. Picking it up I was shocked to see legs squirm from under it, like an insect flailing in the air. I threw it against a wall. 

Grey fluffy material appears to be growing out of my skin. Sound continues to sink more and more within itself. I can hear my respiratory system crackling and wheezing; every step triggers a chain of echoes, reverberating up and down my spine. I cannot write much longer. As I grapple to form these words I’m becoming translucent. Like a pixelated image my skin is cubed, it morphs effortlessly into the environment. I am camouflaged from myself. 

{The notebook was discovered open at this point}

Mark Peter Wright

Lucía Hinojosa

crevice or, space that opens 


polyphonic pulse


What is a sound. A sound is two things heard at one and the same time but not together.

—Gertrude Stein

Rhythm refers not only to vocal emissions or to the sound of acoustic matter, but also to the vibration of the world. Rhythm is the inmost vibration of the cosmos. And poetry is an attempt to tune into this cosmic vibration, this temporal vibration that is coming and coming and coming.

—Franco Bifo Berardi

I’d like to make a metaphysical stroke over the body-machine which is trying to breathe and that hasn’t only been (even more) suffocated in the past months, but is utterly lost in the abstraction of fear, in an insecure, confused and repressed condition controlled by the undeniable structural global violence that permeates our contemporary paradigm. 

I don’t want to add more layers to the texture of uncertainties, accumulated in waves of overwhelming information, usually distorted, covered-up, and edited, regarding our fragile immune-social condition, the economic crisis, the reality war. Rather, I’d like to reflect on two concepts as vehicles that can reactivate our bodily experience, that will help us position and think ourselves in-relation, as bodies: sound and breath. If we perceive sound as materiality in continual vibration, and breath as the universal witness of a collective pulse, acting as a filter for ordinary experience and finally leading to an ideological, cultural, and socio-political experience of the world: how does a body breathe? I ask myself if our respiratory experience has also been oppressed as it becomes more and more involved with a structural rhythm of control. 

The vibration of sound and breath could work as instruments for a more profound ontological investigation regarding our current condition. If we perceive their agency with more attention, we could notice that they act as the evidence, the registry, of dynamic strokes over the body-machine, those which are apparently intangible, but that work as the essential rhythm of generative states within the body-machine. 

Parting from Franco Bifo Berardi’s premise, we can meditate on the presence (and absence) of the breath’s flux as a psychosomatic metaphor and a social symptom within physicality, visualizing the experience of these circuits traversing our bodies like residues in loop that are trying to synchronize—from the agency of the body’s subjectivity—with the context’s conditions, with its reality. I think it’s important to meditate intensely on this during this crisis that wants us to remain in an anti-respiratory state, in a continuous sensorial detachment from bodies-in-relation.




Nothing rests; everything moves; everything vibrates.

—The Kybalion

Recently, I made a list of the etymologies of the word ‘chaos’. The evolution of its meaning is fascinating and, in a way, all of these descriptions have been enmeshed in today’s reality, like a constellation of infinite abysses:

+ kháos o cháos = the unpredictable

+ elemental confusion

+ a mass of matter without form  

+ vacuum occupying a hole 

+ from the Indo-European root gheu, it means being open

+ it means to yawn, or to open from a cavern

+ a random behaviour governed by complex principles, sensitive to its conditions

+ vacuum framing the rest of existence 

+ confusion of absolutes, disorder 

+ crevice or, space that opens 

+ the original state of matter

Berardi says that today’s notion of chaos lies on the absence of semiotic measurements in order to comprehend the flux of information and phenomena. It is the inability to attribute a “logical order” to a series of complex events that become unpredictable, and then, this indeterminacy extends into a very confused ambiance that is impossible to decipher through the frames of reality we have within reach. In other words, the semiotic frame that had been collectively integrated in order to perceive “order” is trapped within its own limits of reality. What we thought society or civilization was is falling, because the actual semiotic flow is going too fast and, at the same time, it has broken with the temporality and structure that we thought, illusively, was holding this model. Guattari’s term chaosmosis, and which Bifo eloquently recuperates from the standpoint of poetry and breath, refers to the synchronic rhythm between cosmic chaos and singularities, and more precisely, with subjectivities. It is “the process of rebalancing the osmosis between mind and chaos, with the osmotic evolution of chaos in itself.” In this sense, this stance opens up and generates an infinity of possibilities that enter into a cosmic rhythm that, for Berardi, happens through the flow of respiration, through breathing. Breath in this sense, is the ultimate measure of relation, overcoming the limits of an established semiotic rhythm and reality, subtly auto-generating from a vibratory re-modulation between subject and experience. Berardi says, “when we say chaos, then, we mean two different, complementary movements. We refer to the swirling of our surrounding semiotic flows, which we receive as if they were “sound and fury.” But we also refer to attempts to reconcile this encompassing environmental rhythm with our own intimate, internal rhythm of interpretation.”  

In this sense, the sound of drone music could be perceived as matter without form, which is governed by complex principles, as the unpredictable mass of experience: the open state of chaos. Our bodies, our materialities, are part of the vacuum that occupies a space where the rest of existence is framed, but they can find their own rhythmic scale to connect with this open state and enter into an osmotic condition from a continual, subjective exploration, an internal interpretation, and not from a prosthetic semiotic limitation, a rhythmic control: a model that erodes singularities. 

Eliane Radigue, Jetsun Mila, 1968. (Composition inspired by the Tibetan poet and yogi Milarepa). 

The vibration of the drone, characterized by sustained repetition of sound and notes, will work as an allusion to observe the relation between our bodies and the sphere of an unlimited semiotic flux. The drone maintains a complex, penetrating sonic reality, and we could say that, as opposed to a traditional musical composition that produces sound in calculated intervals, creating a harmonic narrative “starting from zero, from silence,” the drone is a generative organism that is alive, and that is “always there” as potential mass, already holding an infinity of sound permutations and variations. This effect is released and can happen over our sensorial surface, in an osmotic act, within the physicality of our bodies: the drone happens with the body, in-relation: the body is the vacuum where vibrations can be held. 

Eliane Radigue, L’ile Resonante, 2005. 

Drone and minimalist music activate a reality principle that is radical. Its conceptual and practical design is fluid and paratactic, avoiding a dual, tautological loophole. For instance, the traditional principle in Western music starts with the idea of silence. Notes and frequencies are added over silence from a linear perception in order to construct something from an apparently blank, clean space, creating a composition through a sequential notational system that “did not exist before.” This way of ordering reality responds to a hierarchical model. Drone music takes its principles from Indian classical music, from the sustained sound of the tambura. Drone music and Indian music sound very different, but they share the same model in a structural, practical sense. This premise is based on the idea that “sound is always, already there” happening through a field of continuous electricity, and the body can tune in with that other sonorous body-mass in order to create a new state of singular synchronicity. In a way, it turns into a collaborative act between vibration and individual. 

Jung Hee Choi, RICE, during the exhibition The Third Mind, Guggenheim, 2009.

The body must listen attentively to the accumulation of vibratory frequencies in order to tune into the sonic continuum and, from that place, articulate its own experience. There is no a priori imposition or an anticipated idea, or desire, for new measures to be composed “over” space, there is only relation and interaction with frequencies that are already permeating every space, every aspect of sound. As the Italian artist Caterina Barbieri mentions, “the sound of the drone is the most penetrating archetypal gesture.” In this sense, there is no aspiration to create a new semiotic limit or a measure. The most penetrating vibration is already there, within us, between sound and bodies. 

La Monte Young, The Well-Tuned Piano, 1987.




We need to visualize the subject as a transversal unity that encompasses the human. 

—Rosi Braidotti

The dissolution of the limit and the production of resulting tones and cosmic vibrations are central to the phenomenon of resonance.

—Ben Neill (Pure Resonance, La Monte Young & Marian Zazeela).

What is the experience of subjectivities? Where and how do they happen? Guattari and Deleuze put forth that the subject identifies with the centre because it lacks the capacity to observe the circuit of intensities and living states that it forms part of. But, the subject is being constantly reborn from the state that is experimenting, this is what determines it. In this sense, the subject within the body is actually impossible to locate because it is in perpetual movement and never in the centre, rather in its peripheries, moving. Therefore, the subject produces and is produced as residue, defined by the states that it experiments in a vital oscillation. 

Respiration traverses, affects and is affected by all of these subtle circuits, and maybe the attention to our breath could reveal the tempo, the rhythm of these routes where the subject happens, generating a temporality frame that could be interpreted subjectively and intimately, in relation to other tempos and other breathing circuits. 

Our anti-respiratory paradigm is gradually suffocating our sensorial awareness, with the promise that, if we wear our masks, we’ll go back to the norm, to our normal reality, where it was already impossible to breathe. If we think of the circuit of intensities and states that Guattari and Deleuze put forth, there’s really no before and after, but a continuum of exhalations and inhalations that are clearly informing us, as we lose touch with our intimate rhythm and vital subjectivity, about our psycho-social condition. The political and economic paradigm that insists on sustaining its “rhythm” generated by the politics of isolation, that leads us more and more to the terrors of an egotistic individuality and self-absorption, structural violence and inequalities regarding racism, class and gender, labor exploitation, ignorance and ecological abuse, and the ever omnipresent media garbage, promoting a frightening state that is not only asphyxiating but overtly anti-contact, anti-touch, irrevocably reveals itself by lifting its veil and showing us a structure that only works as it subtracts our breath, our air. But, in exchange of what? This is the essential ideological trade model, the effect of semiocapital’s power, as Berardi would put it. 

It is essential to feel and probably even think through the body’s agency and information, and only from there, to try to pierce into social, political and cultural fields in order to interpret and affect the model through different semiotic possibilities. To find the localities of our rhythmic patterns and think about these drives and flows—where do they come from and why? We could even differentiate and intervene with the circuits where our subjectivities are oscillating. Berardi talks about the word conspiration, which means breathing together, but I like the evolution of its meaning, the idea of a secret agreement, a plan. The agreement to observe the unseen, the hidden strokes and traces of our bodies’ intimate breathing.

I celebrate the circuits that produce new respiratory paradigms and that can tune-into frequencies of possibility in order to sustain other vibratory articulations and even produce echoes and resonance in other bodies, traversing to other respiratory fields: the poetic-political actions, the re-articulation of human rights movements fighting gender and racial violence, alternative study groups and feminist collectives, spaces for social and artistic experimentation; but above all I celebrate the complicities of friendship and rhythmic solidarity that are opening new routes based on open-ended, perhaps unfinished principles but that are able to articulate respiratory variations and multiplicities, creating a synchronicity that is possible because it is open to semiotic mystery, producing subjects that experiment themselves in-relation. 

Caterina Barbieri, Fantas, 2019.


 Patrick Farmer: Azimuth, The Ecology of an Ear. SARU, 2019.

 Franco “Bifo” Berardi: Breathing: Chaos and Poetry, Semiotext(e), 2018.

 Los Tres Iniciados: The Kybalion of Hermes Trismegisto, Editorial EDAF, 1978. 

 Rosi Braidotti: The Posthuman, Polity Press, 2013.

William Duckworth, Richard Fleming: Sound and Light: La Monte Young & Marian Zazeela, Bucknell University Press, 2012.

Lucía Hinojosa

Kirston Lightowler


I’m reading a lot of non-fiction at the moment—on herb gardens, metals, stones, and the early histories of northern California. But I recently went through a period of Charles Willeford (Pick-Up) and Leonard Gardner (Fat City)—brilliant neo-noir set in the shadowy lanes of San Francisco and the wide open highways of Stockton, California.

Henry Beston, Herbs and the Earth (1935) 

A beautiful guide to starting an herb garden and an “evocative excursion into the lore & legend of our common herbs.” I had read Beston’s The Outermost House, which includes so many astonishing passages on sound as it relates to the sea, but recently discovered Herbs and the Earth through an article by translator and poet Lydia Davis.

Jaime de Angulo, A Jaime de Angulo Reader (1979) 

Wanderer, writer, linguist, anthropologist, rancher, translator of Native American languages—California legend!  Jaime de Angulo was translating and transcribing stories and songs in northern California at nearly the same time Knud Rasmussen was doing so in Greenland.

Charles Bucke, On the Beauties, Harmonies, and Sublimities of Nature (1843)

I feel like I’ve been reading this book for years. It’s always on the nightstand and I return to it a few times a month—almost as if consulting an oracle. Some chapter titles from the book: Beautiful Sounds—Sublime Sounds, Echoes, Music of the Spheres, Language of Birds, Corallina, Influence of Climate, Electrical Appearances!

Béla Hamvas, The Seventh Symphony and the Metaphysics of Music

An essay in which Hamvas begins by discussing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 and then pivots into a discussion of bird song, which is completely marvelous. I have Herbert Pföstl to thank for this discovery.  

Listening to:

Bonnie Guitar — Candy Apple Red & Dark Moon (1959 & 1957)

Mesut Aytunca ve Silüetler — Bir Dost Bulamadim (1972)

Mario Bertoncini — Arpe Eolie (1973)

Loren Chasse — Footpath (2008)

Jean-Luc Hérelle — Pastoral Bells (1995)


The films of Peruvian experimental filmmaker Rose Lowder

Forbidden GamesRené Clément 

Lots of films from the 1970s (Rafferty and the Gold Dust Twins) and treasures found on the Criterion Channel

Current Projects:

Epidote Press just published A Shelter for Bells: From the Writings of Hans Jürgen von der Wense and we are currently working on a follow-up publication related to the writings of Wense. 

Personally, I’m focused on a project with the working title of Hydaspes. I can’t share too much about it at the moment, but it is a long-form poem that looks closely at both stones and sound—it’s dedicated to my mother. The river Hydaspes was said to furnish a musical stone and—when the moon was waxing—this stone gave forth a melodious sound.

Kirston Lightowler is a writer, publisher, and archivist who has worked with analog film and sound since her days at the San Francisco Art Institute. She founded Epidote Press in 2014, an independent publishing imprint based in northern California’s Point Reyes Peninsula. EP is devoted to publishing historical texts, as well as art and writing concerned with landscape and the poetics of place. The press is informed by her interest in natural and environmental history, reading and the art of research, folklore, and translation. EP is particularly interested in publishing work that exists at the intersection of art, literature, and science—finding associations and connections across branches of knowledge and fields of meaning.

Epidote Press

Rie Nakajima


I haven’t read or listened anything particularly…this is incredibly disappointing part of my lockdown life :) 


I watched Chibi Maruko-chan, the Japanese animation mostly. 


I did lots of fixing. Darning socks, coats and trousers, painting walls, repairing chairs etc.  Also I picked flower from my daily walk to bring back some nature to my flat as i don’t have a garden, and then i felt sorry to them so i pressed them in books, and i made some collage with them. Then I did some recordings for O YAMA O and some other recordings for new works, and I made a sculpture called ‘seven days bird songs’ from 14-20 May online. Very recently I did a conversation with David Toop over emails on sculpture that we would like to publish sometime somehow.  

Rie Nakajima is a Japanese artist working with installations and performances that produce sound. Her works are most often composed in direct response to unique architectural spaces using a combination of kinetic devices and found objects. Fusing sculpture and sound, her artistic practice is open to chance and the influence of others, raising important questions about the definition of art. She has exhibited and performed worldwide. Her first major solo exhibition was held at IKON Gallery in Birmingham in 2018. She has also collaborated with Museo Vostell Malpartida (Cáceres), Tate Modern (London), Serralves Museum (Porto), ShugoArts (Tokyo), Hara Museum (Tokyo), The Hepworthwakefield (Wakefield), Martin Gropius Bau (Berlin) and Cafe OTO (London). Her frequent collaborators includes David Cunningham, Keiko Yamamoto, Pierre Berthet, Marie Roux, Billy Steiger, David Toop, Akira Sakata among others. In 2014 she received Art Foundation Award in the category of Experimental Music.

Rie Nakajima

Ben Gwilliam


John Boyd – The Pollinators of Eden

James Benning’s Environments: Politics, Ecology, Duration’, Edited by Nikolaj Lübecker and Daniele Rugo

Madelaine Francis Heleine – Freshwater Aquariums for Dummies

Listening to:

My back yard in this time of increased bird and bat activity between 8-10pm most evenings after the kids are worn out.

Stock, Hausen & Walkman – Buffed Up

Lee Patterson – Egg Fry #2

Joe Colley – HIVE


Kelly Reichhardt – Night Moves

Jason Bateman – Ozark (series 1-3) 

Celine Sciamma – Water Lilies

Working on:

To be honest I haven’t been working on anything during this Lock-down due to two children that are out of school and nursery and my Partner is working from home. I had initial thoughts about what I could achieve over the the next couple months and have managed to not really do any. I am not a major procrastinator, but by the time the children are in bed, I’m equally worn out managing to get a film in or two.

For many years I wanted to dip my foot in the modular synth game to try understand it a bit better, but not had the money to start a set-up that could at least give me some results under £200. I am not interested in going down this route as a practice, However electronic synthesis does have a great influence in my Installations and Performances (within physical processes and image making).

 I came across miniMO just before the New Year that is a little square module that can be pre-programmed by an Arduino or done so by miniMO. It is in effect a digital system that can be plugged in many ways between countless other modules, standalone or in its own rack system. I’ve started making my own 6 piece rack set that I will try connecting to mildly electric objects such as coils, dying batteries etc… I like how it is extremely affordable in comparison to a Moog on Steroids.And of course, I’m writing up my thesis, its more of a game of Tortoise and the Hare right now.

Ben Gwilliam an artist whose work spans sound, film, installation & performance. His work explores how the mechanics of sound media reflect & distort human perception, often manipulating the space(s) & moment of experience. His fascination drives a curiosity that forms as durational performances and installations, film & video works and writing. He has exhibited & performed Internationally in spaces such as La casa Encendida Madrid, The Cornerhouse Manchester, Artists Unlimited Bielefeld, Modern Art Oxford, & FACT Liverpool. His performance and composed works have been commissioned by Abandon Normal Devices Festival (UK 2010), Rumilingen new music (CH 2010), University of Salford (UK 2008) & IOU Theatre (UK 2003).

Ben Gwilliam

Hannah Dargavel-Leafe


Julia Blackburn – Time Song: Searching for Doggerland

Marguerite Duras – Practicalities

Thomas Bernhard – Extinction

Listening to:

Beatrice Dillon – Workaround

Amplify2020’s bandcamp releases


Céline Sciamma – Portrait of a Lady on Fire

John Smith – The Black Tower

Working on:

I have just finished a set of sound pieces, Fountains, which will be released on the cassette label Eminent Observer in the next few weeks. And I’m back in my studio, working on drawings in relation to the sounds and the landscapes they were recorded in.

I’ve also been researching and recording my radio show, Sonic Envelopes, that goes out on RTM.FM on the last Wednesday of each month. In the next episode I interview the artist Gabriella Hirst about her sound piece ‘Siren Song/The Winner Takes it All’ and we talk about Greek myths, Eurovision and the practicality of using sea sponges as a windshield.

Hannah Dargavel-Leafe is an artist and researcher based in London. Her practice considers landscape and sound within the expanded field of sculpture.

Hannah Dargavel-Leafe

insta @hannah.dl

SARU is a research group that provides a forum for dialogue and exploration between the fields of experimental composition and sound art. It is situated in the School of Arts at Oxford Brookes University between the fields of Music and Fine Art. Areas of interest include electroacoustic and language based composition, interdisciplinary practices, field recording and auditory knowledge. SARU is bolstered by a community of practitioners and is home to audiograft, a festival of contemporary experimental music and sound art.

You can get involved in SARU through our new MA Sound Arts course and our PhD programme.