A few first thoughts on walking and listening


The origin of the word walk is a mixture of movement through place and movement in time.
walk v. walken, walkien travel on foot, move about, a fusion of Old English Wealcian to roll up, curl, muffle up.
The abrupt change in meaning from Old English “roll” to Middle English “walk” is explained as perhaps coming from a colloquial use in Old English that was adopted in Middle English when “people wrote as they spoke.”
Another factor may be apparent in the sense carried by some of the cognates, that is in thickening of cloth, which is done by not only rolling it, but also by treading or trampling, which has an obvious semantic connection with “walk.”
Chambers Dictionary of Etymology

‘A lone walker is both present and detached from the world around, more than an audience but less than a participant…Walking provides people with a wealth of casual contacts and facilitates contemplation.’
Rebecca Solnit. (2000). Wanderlust: A History of Walking.

The path assists our solitude and contemplation: it leads and we follow. Our footsteps becoming part of the rhythm of our landscape (and soundscape), a treading and kneading over; a ‘thickening’ of time and place.

‘The rhythm of walking generates a kind of rhythm of thinking and the passage through a landscape echoes or simulates the passage through a series of thoughts. This creates an odd consonance between internal and external passage, one that suggests that the mind is also a landscape of sorts and that walking is one way to traverse it. A new thought often seems like a feature of the landscape that was there all along. As though thinking were travelling rather than making.’ Ibid.

I myself am a bit of an unintentional walker I amble and meander in inappropriate footwear. Being prepared seems to be encumbered with intent. In terms of recording sound, intentionally seeking out the sounds you want to hear, often obscures and forsakes the very act of listening.

‘Listening lets be, lets come into presence the unbidden giving of sound. In listening humankind belongs within the event. And as a presence, the sound is that which endures, which is brought to pass, the sound whiles away in the temporal presencing which is essential to it.’
Don Ihde, (1976) Listening and Voice: A Phenomenology of Sound.

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