Listening to the river fly

evening river Itchen

05/06/10
Earlier that same evening, walking down the riverbank at the top of the moors (opposite the wooden bench and ‘Rugby Meadow’), I thought I could hear some electrical interference in my headphones. It turned out to be the diaphanous fuzz of insect wings as thousands of river fly hovered over the river. The fuzz was only occasionally interrupted by the watery gulp of fish snatching the flies from the surface of the river. In the background the Rugby Club ‘disco’ (if such words are still in use) provided a pulsing baseline reminiscent of a heartbeat. Listening to these translucent sounds, I was reminded of the composer John Cage’s infamous description of being in an Anechoic Chamber:

‘I […] heard two sounds, one high and one low. When I described them to the engineer in charge, he informed me that the high one was my nervous system in operation and the low one my blood in circulation’ (John Cage, Silence: lectures & writings).

For Cage, music was as much concerned with listening to sound as it was with producing it.  Field-recording or phonography allows you to concentrate your listening and focus your ears attention upon the acoustic environment around you: it helps to train your listening.
Sometimes however, it is a relief to remove the headphones and the amplified audition of technology. The removal of that amplified ear, results in a feeling similar to Cage’s experience in the anechoic chamber. Set free of the enlarged listening of the microphone, my ear flies out toward the smallest sounds available and rests itself gently against them.

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