Blended text (Anne Carson’s Sigh Symphony in italics throughout)
Formlessness: unshaped, structureless, without form.
Of course, formlessness is a troubling thought because we live in a world ‘only of forms’. It’s troubling but I don’t think it’s meaningless, emptied of all meaning. It is troubling to think of being emptied of all meaning. But not of emptying itself, which is just an action, a movement.
Do you hear sighing.1
John Cage said about silence: “…the situation one is clearly in is not objective (sound-silence), but rather subjective (sounds only), those intended and those others (so-called silence) not intended.”2
To consider formlessness through Cage’s lens of sighlence: “…the situation one is clearly in is not objective (form- formlessness), but rather subjective (forms only), those intended and those others (so-called formlessnesses) that are not intended.’
Do you wake amid a sigh. Radio sighs AM, FM.
Shortwave sighs crackle in from the Atlantic.
What if time wound-down, slowed to a standstill, even emptied itself of content and memory so we had only a vast immediacy, a resonant present?
Can extraordinary windows open in our minds to atemporal repositioning, where the perpetual rules governing past-present-future have no bearing.
Hot sighs steam in the dawn.
People kissing stop to sigh then kiss again.
When someone has Alzheimer’s, the first thing to go is usually short-term memory. Later as the disease progresses, there is disorientation to time and place. Individuals may become confused or disoriented about what month or year it is, unable to describe accurately where they live, or to name a place being visited. Eventually, patients may wander.
Doctors sigh into wounds and the bloodstream is changed forever.
What happens when forms are undone, just as they are done, back to ubiquitous (but what isn’t?) formlessness.
Flowers sigh and two noon bees float backwards.
What is the architecture of unintention?
Christoph Marthaler’s theatre stages passages of empty time, and of memory time. His dramaturg Stephanie Carp calls him a director of the ‘meantime’ when something has concluded and something new has not yet begun. A time between. A time of waiting, of remaindered thoughts, leftover people, and once forgotten songs.3
Is it doubt?
Objects become luminous in ambiguity—sharply in focus as drifting detritus of form, life-rafts in an ocean of -lessnessesses, offering sentient things to claw in the face of deathly subsumption.
Is it disappointment?
The illusion of opposing forces in this world is a useful one (sound vs. silence, form vs. formlessness). This illusion allows us to set up a series of mirror shards from which to gouge gems from ourselves – shivers of relationships, reflective patches of play, sound lego constructions that it might interest us to place in variegated light splinters.
The world didn’t owe me anything.
I don’t decide not to hear such and such. We determine as we are listening what we are listening to, perhaps in loops and swirls (for snowy audiences in the round), and in squares and rectangles (for 90-degree angels).
Leaves come sighing in the door.
We wrap clarity-veils around wisps of many-meaninged ambiguity. We tell stories of inclusion. Of fall streaks and mare’s tails, wave clouds and flanking lines, spiritual swings through the mental real. But sounds simultaneously spin form and formlessness, design and air, the homed and the homeless, the forgotten and the hungry.
Singing in Marthaler’s theatre occasions acts of collective memory. Mostly sung very quietly, songs grow out of silence bringing individuals from solitude into chorus. They are sung as if half-remembered, very fragile, harmonious and beautiful. Sometimes, they’re like a prayer repeated. Sometimes, a long lost refrain. Every now and then, an aria turns inward. Here and there, a daggy vaudeville turn. They express impossible longings for a lost past and a longed for present.3
Bits of girls sigh like men. Forgeries sigh twice.
Anne Carson, in her essay “Totality: The Colour of Eclipse,” tells us our experience when the sun leaves us and we are abandoned by light: “People who experience total eclipse are moved to such strong descriptions of its vacancy and void that this itself begins to take on colour.”4
A sigh may come too late. Is it better than screaming?
I wrote a composition entitled Ink Drifting. The piece is based on the idea of ink passing into paper, the impossibly small sound of coloured fluid being sucked into dry parchment, that movement of water molecules into the spaces between the paper molecules. This piece also tries to deal with the tiny scratches of a pen up against rough paper textures. Of course this is impossible to hear, but jet-black inky liquids do seep into the fissures of paper everyday. And hearts bleed when sanded.
Give me all your sighs for four or five dollars.
Sounds and silence aren’t antithetical.
A sigh is weightless, yet it may interrupt the broadcast.
Cage might say formlessness doesn’t exist.
Can you abstain?
Words will plunder all but wondering uncertainty— outlines and borders where things emerge, tip over, vanish, where forming and deforming happens. “That corpse you planted last year in the garden, has it begun to sprout?”5
We hunt together the sigh and I, sport of kings
shimmering horizons of illusion spilling into chimera.
To want to stop is beyond us.
Some water manages to remain a liquid indefinitely, even inside clouds at temperatures below freezing.6
|1Anne Carson: Guillarmo’s Sigh Symphony appears in Italics throughout.
2 John Cage, Silence
3 Benedict Andrews: Christoph Marthaler: in the meantime
4Anne Carson, Totality: The Colour of Eclipse
5 T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland
6 This can happen in cumulus clouds for reasons that are not understood. If the water does suddenly freeze, the vapours around it also freeze in rings which fall to earth, leaving large gaping (fallstreak) holes in the clouds.