- Eduardo Kohn
"One of the instrumental figures in bringing the music of the drone to the West is the
Sufi musician Hazrat Inayat Kahn. His musical treatise from the early 20th century,
simply titled Music, is an incredible sonic-spiritual composition on the potentials and
possibilities of music as law, as cosmology, as harmony. “Music is behind the whole
working of the universe”, the Sufi Master wrote, “We live and move and have our
being in music”.
"In contemplating natures music, in finding ears to hear it, a body to feel and dance it, a mind to celebrate and (re)think it, and -all together- a spirit to create it, I fatefully
encountered this incredible ‘unidentified sound #1’ from AWI’s PALAOA observatory
in Antarctica. This strange, long, low frequency drone from somewhere in the
Antarctic Ocean has an unknown origin. Is it from a creature? From water? From
some geological feature? A nearby machine or ship? All that is known about the
origin of this sound is that no ship was within a thousand km radius when it was
recorded. What we can say for certain is that it is a subaquatic sounding of Earth, of
universe, captured expertly and offered for us here to resonate with, to find
resonance in the unknown of the sonosphere.
"When I first heard the recording, I immediately felt that it was already so beautifully
strange that it required only very little to elicit its charms. I only wanted to amplify its
qualities, saturate its mysteries. Considering it as a vocalization of Earth I simply play
along with it, in amity and community. To get there, I put myself into a trance through
a listening meditation and recognize the sounder. I reflect the sound multiply into the
eternal of drone. I play back to the sounder an image of itself that is also me. This
track operates as an attentional strategy for rediscovering ourselves in the more-
"Water, amongst other things, is a specifically acoustic environment. Sound travels
faster than light in water, and whale song is thought to produce holographic ‘images’
within the mind of the ancient creatures as they communicate with one another
across vast distances. Creatures both aquatic and terrestrial use sound as a form of
sight: sonar. If we consider this ‘sonic sight’ in an expanded sense, then when I
deeply listen to this sound, I am, in a sense, recognized by it, or whatever emanates
it. In coming to witness one another -over time- we come to recognize each other. In
that unspeakable recognition between myself and the sound, I believe we have a
camaraderie, we are in, of, and as the thought(s) of the world beyond the human.
"If you take a look at the wave/sonogram of this composition, you will see an audio
Rorschach figure swimming or flying out of the vibration. This has to do partly with
the way the structure of the composition was prepared: first playing the original
recording backwards (to get to know it better), and then forwards. In that reflection
between the polar edges of the Earth and my Farfisa (an electric organ) I
acknowledge and celebrate mystery as mystery. I find solace in what is
immeasurable, intangible, uncertain. It is there in the musicality of resonant Earth
that the radical plurality and multiplicity of worlds and thought resides and resounds
in a relational dynamic that exists beyond experience."
Unidentified sound reimagined by Jol Thoms.
Part of the Polar Sounds project, a collaboration between Cities and Memory, the Helmholtz Institute for Functional Marine Biodiversity (HIFMB) and the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI). Explore the project in full at http://citiesandmemory.com/polar-sounds.