2 – Deep listening
The first days in the 4DSOUND studio are both peaceful and disconcerting. The room is built into 3 (or 4?) floors of the old brewery warehouse. The system is installed in the gorgeous wooden beams, in the false floor, above and below. The floor is floating, the subs underneath. Importantly, the air in here feels very light.
It’s disconcerting, not just because of the new technology to learn, or the blank canvas / blank page to face. It’s disconcerting on quite an intrinsic, artistic and emotional level. Discussions with the other residents turn to the strange nature of time, how it may simultaneously stretch and contract. Here, this phenomenon seems intensified. Perhaps it’s the fact that, for once, you are working on one project, for one long period. This is your entire world, your whole focus, your total intent. Outside distractions, especially the pressure of the hustle, begin to fall away. For now none of that is necessary. Time begins to mean something else.
In the 4DSOUND studio, time stretches and contracts across five hour sessions in profound ways. The room is fully absorbing. Sometimes a total sanctuary, sometimes weirdly uncomfortable. The system resists traditional conceptualisations of speaker placement and amplification. Forget the speakers. Think about object, dimension, location, space. The system requires subtlety. Above all, it requires listening. And after a week in the studio I realise I have to re-learn how to listen. Completely.
I also realise that I have to let go of preconceived ideas about how this is going to “sound” and what I am going to “do”. This is both a conceptual and a bodily challenge. Conceptually, what is created in here needs to follow a particular logic, but the way into that logic is not immediately clear. The experience of working in here is a bodily experience – I am still unlearning the habit of the sitting-in-theprime-listening-position of the sound producer that’s been the habit my whole life … I’m walking around, I’m closing my eyes, I’m going outside to walk in the little park area above AQB, along the hilly streets of Budafok, up on the AQB roof, into the Budafok market, into the heart of noisy bustling Budapest … and hearing the world very, very differently.
I’m very slowly beginning to understand what does not work, but don’t yet have much of a handle on what does work. It’s a process… At this point all I can say is that this system does not respond to a heavy hand but it does need a tight, precise hand. Fuzzy sound and fuzzy process don’t generate what I want. This requires sharpness.
Conversations over the lunch and dinner table about deep listening, and listening meditation, prompt reminders to self to practice.
Preparation for sessions in the studio – stopping, breathing, listening. After setting up, I take extended moments to walk slowly, to tune myself through breathing, listening, stopping, moving. Taking notice of the most subtle of sounds, inside and outside the walls. Inside and outside myself.
There are resident artists coming and going in the Art Quarter Budapest space. Approaching 4DSOUND from different backgrounds, philosophies and technological approaches, they are defining and refining this system as they explore it. Alyssa Miserendino has brought a 5.1 recording of the Peruvian Amazon to the SSI, and has spent the past few weeks adapting it to the 4DSOUND system. Over 24 hours, she holds a listening session, where people are invited to sleep overnight. The complexity and subtlety of this work is astonishing, enlightening. I lay in the space in the afternoon, listening to the raindrops following the spatialised storm, feeling negative ion energy, feeling it physically and emotionally. It’s a hugely inspiring introduction to the studio.
Kate de Lorme is working on a guided meditation piece. She records us all separately, in conversation about the internal dialogue in our heads – the common feeling of ‘imposter syndrome’ – the negative voices that plague us all. It’s a curiously confronting conversation to have but also freeing. I’ve been having a similar conversation virtually in messages to an old friend. Being honest about, and vocalising, my fears of not being “up to this” has freed me from all kinds of old constraints. Kate uses the recordings in the opening of her work, our voices circling the room, much in the way the voices in our heads circle. It reminds me of being two or three days into a Vipassana retreat, how the negative voices became clear, distinguishable enough to observe and ultimately reject and put away. This process, of Kate’s work, is enormously valuable, to be able to reflect openly on the experience as we live it.