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Arnolfini - est 1961

An afternoon’s informal salon on the theme of fiction and ethnomusicology consisting of talks by four guest speakers and a round-table discussion, interleaved with listenings, and readings from a diverse collection of texts.

Saturday 30 November 2013, 2pm to 5.45pm, free

For further information and to book, click here

This salon will be concerned with a systematic unsettling of borders- imagined and institutional, enforced by law and regulated by tradition – which claim stability but remain susceptible to various forms of disruption. Across its programme, conceptions of nationhood come into question, historical assertions are troubled, dream and reality merge. Its approach will be at once critical and creative, sprawling across talks, performances, listening sessions, film screenings and discussions as it attends to scarcely explored histories of listening, contemporary practice in sonic art, ballet and folk song, public record and private memory. All of these activities are part of an attempt to illustrate a conceptual operation that combines art and ethnomusicology, in which modes of musical documentation- be they recording, writing or filming- align themselves with their subject, rather than seeking simply its description and capture. This collective exploration will consider how fictional and deeply subjective experiences might propose a different, riskier definition of truth, one that would challenge received ethics, global hierarchies, colonial legacies, and the traditional opposition of self and Other. The consequence of these activities might be to make audible all sorts of sounds that were once hidden: illicit, imaginary, exiled.


‘‘When the anthropologists arrive, the gods depart.’ So declares, I am told, a Haitian proverb. Maya Deren, on the other hand, was an artist: therein the secret of her ability to recognize ‘the facts of the mind’ when presented through the fictions of a mythology.’ (Joseph Campbell, Introduction to Divine Horsemen: Living Gods of Haiti by Maya Deren)

‘This time, the worm, in a lively mood, began a captivating Hungarian rhapsody, every bar of which bristled with the most appalling difficulties. Soon the reptile began to accentuate with great convulsions a certain song of noble proportions, every note of which, in transcription, would doubtless have borne a heavy accent. Around this theme, established as a foundation, were woven many light ornaments which required only a shudder of its supple body. The reptile was growing intoxicated with harmony. Far from showing the least weariness, it grew more and more excited at the contact of the musical emanations it let loose. Its rapture communicated itself to the audience, strangely moved by the expressive tone of certain sounds like weeping, and by the incredible velocity displayed in various successions of demisemiquavers. A frenzied presto crowned the reptile’s enthusiastic delirium and for several minutes it abandoned itself unreservedly to wild gymnastics. At the end, it prolonged the perfect cadence by a sort of improvised method of amplification, repeating the last chords until the percussive liquid was completely finished.’ (Raymond Roussel, Impressions of Africa)

‘When the homeless ghost was hearing my voice inside this wood, it was a lofty music for him, then he started to dance the ghosts’ dance, staggering here and there.’ (Amos Tutuola, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts)

‘The white man’s canoe, advancing upstream in the short-lived disturbance of its own making, seemed to enter the portals of a land from which the very memory of motion had departed… Astern of the boat, the repeated call of some bird, a cry discordant and feeble, skipped along over the smooth water, and lost itself before it could reach the other shore, in the breathless silence of the world.’ (Joseph Conrad, ‘The Lagoon’)

‘And, as for the sorcerers themselves, they remain resolutely silent on this issue. What is the singular word, that lost utterance, the Lord of Peyote passes down to them? And why do they need three years to learn how to handle the grater properly, this grater on which it must be admitted the Tarahumara sorcerers perform some rather curious auscultations. What is it, then, they have torn from the forest and the forest yields to them so slowly? […] Not the outward array of the ritual, nor the gimlet screams of the dancer, nor the night wind speaking and breathing on the mirrors, nor the litany of sorcerers cradling their graters, that astoundingly vulnerable and revulsed litany- what is it, then, that none of these can succeed in explaining?’ (Antonin Artaud, ‘Concerning A Journey to the Land of the Tarahumaras’).