3 (sort of) silences.


The drunk Totochabo spouts this ‘sham erudition’ in René Daumal’s A Night of Serious Drinking:

‘If it’s half-wits you want, you’d better go and look for them somewhere else, for we know jolly well that beneath the perceptible form of sound is hidden a silent essence. It is from this, this crucial point at which the kernel of the perceptible has yet to choose to be sound or light or something else, from this hinterland of nature where to see is to see sound and to hear is to hear suns, it is from this very essence that sound draws its power and its ordering force.’

(Translation by David Coward & E. A. Lovatt)


Hidden away in the extras of the BFI’s DVD of ‘The Great White Silence’, Herbert Ponting’s film of Captain Scott’s doomed Terra Nova Expedition to the South Pole, are two audio recordings. These recordings were done by Chris Watson in Scott’s hut at Cape Evans, Ross Island. This one was made at 10 pm on the 10th January 2010.


Before each of 3 performances at Café Oto last week, the four members of the Art Ensemble of Chicago stood and faced the audience in silence. These ‘silences’ lasted maybe only half a minute and were terminated by a single note played on the saxophone by Roscoe Mitchell. This drawing was done from memory but with my eyes closed.


From left to right: Roscoe Mitchell, Junius Paul, Hugh Ragin, Don Moye.