first thought only thought

Each of these entries is an attempt to listen outside, or is it with?, my window. They begin and end with a thought. A perversion of ‘first thought best thought’ becomes, first thought only thought.

Patrick Farmer

5th may 2020, 09:19

What do you suppose there is to write about, when you think you should be writing about sound, and yet all you can hear out of your open window, beyond the inevitable retraction of the sound of it opening and the hitherto unfelt atmosphere unfolding as you type ‘your open window’ (and there’s ‘an argument’ for saying that the memory of a sound, involuntary or otherwise, is not really sound anyway), is the periodic capillarity of a sparrow’s chuck. There’s really not much ‘sound’ right now, but this leads you to think about pressure fluctuations, wave forms, mechanism prising itself away from nature, a consistent flow of disturbances that you think you can trace back to a source (the main road, but what part of the main road), but every time you focus on it the surroundings enfold and you’re back to where you started which is actually further on because some minutes have passed. You look up at the ash tree, which for once is empty of pigeons stripping the buds and pole hobbling the timid branches, and although you can’t hear it per se, you once again can’t help but recollect a time in which you could,  so when you listen how much of listening is involuntary, how much is in the present, because even though I think I can hear ash, an incessant ecology of psiturism and space, it is not making any sound that I can hear. When you think you should be writing about sound, you can’t help but peel things into conflicting opposites, listening and not listening, hearing and not hearing, memory and attention, sound and not sound, all these strange and subdividing mixtures that leave you unwillingly yet unavoidably couching whole confusing and convoluted sentences in hyphens just to show that you’re not entirely sure what you’re saying and yet you feel it’s probably best to say it because you’re writing about what you’re listening to and feel like you haven’t even got to sound yet.

6th May, 08:09

No sooner had I begun to listen than I heard the first swifts of the year. Some time ago I was walking with a friend and she swallowed some wind, it made her cough uncontrollably, but before that, she made such a bright, almost magnetic, avian sound. Hearing the swifts now makes me think that the sounds of their voices is a result of some parallel sensation. As they eat on the wing, their beaks nearly always open, skimming with particles of the air, they turn, unpredictable like Lucretian clinamen, swallow, and resound. Other than that, this morning remains very much similar to the last. I can hear the wood pigeons operatic hoggling, sparrows rising and falling (producing an image of skylarks in my mind), and the far off rent of the road, which this morning sounds somewhat like their are holes in the distance between my ears and the source.

7th May, 09:18

For fear of falling into pits––beginning to imagine sound because I can’t hear ‘any’––I begin to think about mapping a grid onto the environment beyond my window. An audible botany, like Rousseau plotted in his Study of Pure Curiosity; an impish detachment, like the Ancient Roman augurs made as they divided the sky into Templa, a grid to divine and interpret the flight patterns and sounds of birds; a sublimating fold, like Renee Gladman made in Calamities, realising that not only was her body a container for sound all around her, but that the grid itself was moving.

8th May, 08:31

This morning I am surrounded by sound, like every morning then, there’s an urge to name the things they come from of course, the species, even the taxa, the incidents and coincidents, one in particular draws my attention, as there are number of fumbling declensions, as if someone were anxiously trying to secure clamps and fasteners around their car, itself deluded of its metallic sheen due to over fastening already, but as ever I’ve no real desire to remain in this speculation, not for fear of speculation, sometimes it feels like that’s all I ever do, but for what it represents, the need to assign an action, an event, to a sound, to haunt our own dispositions. However, when I try to find an alternative, when I try to translate the idea into words, I become stuck. The sound that is passing from the points and nodes along which it is made, at the same time no doubt, such points and nodes will also be home to sounds from elsewhere, sounds dissolving, amplifying, cancelling out, beating, interacting, influencing, distorting, a rubbing, or a colliding, any number of these charged verbs would suit, that for me is not the name of the sound at all, the energy, magnetism, heat, light, the particulates of its latticed mattering, we might think that a single sound, as perceived, not so much as sensed, certainly not providing a postulated dividing line of sound out there and sound in here, a verbal situationalism, is an ecology of transient names suckling on their own subsistence.

9th May, 07:05

This morning I read a paragraph by Lyn Hejinian:

Patience is laid out on my papers. Its visuals are gainful and equably square. Two dozen jets take off into the night. Out doors a car goes uphill in a genial low gear. The flow of thoughts–impossible! These are the defamiliarisation techniques within which we are so familiar.

What is remarkable, is that there is no sound to be found here, because it is not fixed down. The paragraph is not a museum, it is not a lepidopterist. Its doors are open and there is a through draft, a single moment of time, a silhouette that you rush to photograph before it disappears, a bullfinch, the most penumbral of birds, that lands in the fuschias. Reading the paragraph back, I hear it differently, because the sound is different, the paragraph is aeolian, the ideas are its weather, its openness perhaps allows me to be in more than one place at the same time.

10th May, 08:31

The weather has changed and with it my hearing. The temperature has dropped and so my ability to hear in stereo, which on a ‘regular day’ is depleted, has made something of a psychoacoustic return. Beyond the fact that the particles in the air are vibrating slower, so there is essentially ‘less’ sound, leading to there being more to hear, I can’t explain it. But this may all be nonsense. I’m looking at my physiology when perhaps I should be thinking about the creatures that are making these sounds, how they react to temperature and the subsequent changes in pressure, how the substantial drop in anthropic activity could be promulgating their breeding season, leading to an increase in species predation also, who knows. I certainly feel like I’ve seen more birds flying together than usual. The diminished human presence from my window, even on on such a turgid thing as VE day, has led to an an increased awareness, an opportunity, of processual thinking, part of an immanent thinking with things, rather than into them or through them. I guess there’ll always be something in between, sound will probably always remain a concept.

11th May, 08:18

The thing about the Hejinian paragraph, and even as I type this, before coffee, I realise how asinine and contrived it may sound, it that it is so full of sound precisely because there are no pins in the sentence, no nails. Its exacting in its ambiguity. I’m thinking a lot about repetition, as every morning I sit here and I can pretty much predict what I’m going to hear. On the one hand it makes me wonder what I’m not listening to, what I can’t or won’t hear, for reasons unknown beyond the sap of my habitual lump, parking myself day in day out, to write, and my writing ear, perhaps it knows what I do and don’t need to hear, my writing hands too. But on the other hand, there is repetition, something Hejinian writes a lot about, often through Gertrude Stein. The window, like language, both mediates and blocks. But all these sounds are so nearly alike, every morning, that they must be different and so they are different. My listening ears vulture over these same patterns and grids every morning. “I lived in a landscape that made itself its own landscape”, says Stein. Trees, walls, shadows, conversations, cars, both loosely and particularly.