Chorography and Toute-eau in the Waters of Lower Murray Country

By | 1 May 2019

Coda: on Sound, Ruins and Love

It is difficult to conclude a text-in-becoming, because the conclusion that I attempt to compose keeps flowing with the shifting music of waters. It rises with climate change, as much as it retreats in drought. Between overabundance and absence, how am I to find the appropriate melody to textually materialise infinite and humid sonic geographies? I write of / from an imaginary realm that emerges from the forever-expanding totality of all waters, in both space and time. Poet Muriel Rukeyser writes: ‘All is open. / Open water. / Open I.’ I have positioned waters as contact zones between peoples, cultures and ecologies; as zones of cohabitation, interaction, confluence, repression and repulsion. I also wish to position them as creating a creolising sonic sphere – a sphere in clair-obscur, or open-opaque – where I can safely cultivate and accumulate what I am; a sphere where I can transfigure the limitations of my mythological framework and imagine – or perhaps rediscover – watery futures beyond apocalyptic predictions. Glissant writes: ‘(i)f you find the solution difficult, even impractical, do not go instantaneously yelling that it is wrong. Don’t use the real to justify your shortages. Instead realise your dreams to deserve your reality’ (L’Intention 245). Transformation assuredly begins in imagination (in hope) because ‘(h)ope calls for action; action is impossible without hope’ (Solnit 4). It is in imagination that the ability (the power) lies to connect, conceive, anticipate, and prepare to react.

Sound enacts plural realities that are audible through both its physical (technical) and imaginary (poetic) qualities. It raises awareness to this plurality and offers an avenue to hear and generate different futures. It extends beyond rationality, and a listening aesthetics calls for learning how to hear as much as for learning how to act (Dyson 149). Listening allows people to imagine a world moving towards decoloniality. Auditory imaginaries defy the static, uniform flatness of ocular-centrism to offer us another way of perceiving the tumultuous polyrhythmic variations of waters: no longer mapped but sounded, they resonate through bodies (Serres 23). Listening opens scholarship to a form of research akin to paying attention to being-in-the-world. As attention is engaged, it becomes possible to engage with waters – despite and precisely because of the mutilations: shadow places (ruins) must be acknowledged. These ruins, often conveniently discarded and forgotten, are necessary to root our sense of belonging. Historian Chris Healy writes: ‘(b)ut ruins are never simply gone or in the past; ruins are enduring traces; spaces of romantic fancies and forgetfulness where social memories imagine the persistence of time in records of destruction’ (3). Interacting with these ruins calls for an approach tending towards bricolage: ‘the activity of roaming in the ruins of a culture, picking up useful bits and pieces to keep things going or even make them function better’ (Muecke et al. 168). Bricolage is intimate; bricolage is caring. When it comes to sound, it requires the affective bond between waters and people to be heard. Listening to sound is thus about being able to love (maybe, to love again?) – where love is understood after bell hooks: as an interactive process which implies doing rather than feeling. She explains: ‘but love is really more … about what we do not just what we feel. It’s a verb, not a noun.’ Such a love is about ethical action – it rises from the Ancient Greek agapē (ἀγάπη), with its connotations of active participation and engagement. Through sound, I learn how to love and (re)invent the watery ruins of colonialism in Lower Murray Country. And, yes, I do love these ruins. Because as philosopher Jacques Derrida summarises: ‘(w)hat else is there to love, anyway?’ (278).

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