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The space between the world and the solitary garden

At one time I frequented a tiny formal garden whose solitary stone bench proclaimed the biblical suggestion: ‘Come ye yourselves apart, into a quiet place, and rest awhile’ (Mark 6: 31). In this one-person space, really little more than a couple of glorious azaleas and a miniature pond, I felt completely alone, even though the busy world outside was still perfectly visible a few steps beyond the wall. The world must have been audible too yet, strangely, I can’t remember hearing any sound at all. Perhaps I was listening to something else.

There are few everyday opportunities for the kind of reflective cultivation that comes from listening to an inner universe. Maybe it helps to take away the world, or at least place it at a distance.  Perhaps there is a benefit in the bone-clean purity of emptiness, where nothing is known. Perhaps there you can listen to sounds that are white as azaleas and as pure as water in a shimmering pond. But take away even these similes and comparisons, and then you really know nothing. And that’s different again.

Listening to untitled #90 by Francisco López, I don’t know what any of these sounds are. And I don’t know what I meant by that—what are they ‘of’, ‘for’, ‘about’, ‘doing’? Behind a screen of processing there are glimpses of—I think, for a while—waves breaking, insects calling, birds singing.  For a few minutes I am straining my ears to hear connections. I can’t hear them. I can’t use them. But there is this loud, insistent, high-pitched tone—not superimposed, but part of it (whatever ‘it’ is)—that blasts through like… no, no similes please. It is not a sound to identify, or to care to identify. This unyielding experience transfixes a moment of listening that goes on forever and, instead of changing, becomes more and more profound. The world behind the wall is silent for a while, and being alone in the garden is all that matters. Quietly listening, but certainly not passive. And probably there was really no point in writing all that down because, for you, it will have been different, of course.

Untitled #90 (extract)

Composer programme notes and bio

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