Ingvar Loco Nordin
Yannis Kyriakides – Wordless
UNSOUNDS 13 u. Duration: 54:12
Whatever Yannis Kyriakides does turns out in a vibrant mysticism; a magic hue in a realm that promises mystery after mystery, like in the poem Romanska bågar [Roman Archs] from the poetry collection För levande och döda [For the Living and the Dead] (1989) by Tomas Tranströmer:
Inne i den väldiga romanska kyrkan trängdes turisterna
Valv gapande bakom valv och ingen överblick.
Några ljuslågor fladdrade.
En ängel utan ansikte omfamnade mig
och viskade genom hela kroppen:
”Skäms inte för att du är människa, var stolt!
Inne i dig öppnar sig valv bakom valv oändligt.
Du blir aldrig färdig, och det är som det skall.”
Jag var blind av tårar
och föstes ut på den solsjudande piazzan
tillsammans med Mr och Mrs Jones, Herr Tanaka och
och inne i dem alla öppnade sig valv bakom valv oändligt.
In my layman translation it sounds like this:
Inside the huge Roman church the tourists jostled
in the dusk.
Arch upon arch and no overview.
Sparse candlelights flickered.
An angel with no face embraced me
and whispered through my entire body:
“Don’t be ashamed that you are human, be proud!
Inside you arch upon arch open infinitely.
You will never be finished, and that is as it should.”
I was blinded by tears
and shoved out onto the sun-blistered piazza
with Mr. and Mrs. Jones, Mr. Tanaka and
and inside them all arch upon arch opened infinitely.
Wordless opens up new realms of the unexpected and the surreal, the blistering beauty of the hardly even expressed; the artifacts of semantic worlds on the threshold of oblivion, caught like a last moment of something disappearing; a movement in the corner of t he eye; the tale of a lizard swiftly withdrawing beneath the leaves of yesteryear.
Kyriakides plays effortlessly with our perception, like a master magician – but it just happens, inside our open minds, inside our closed habitats: light whispering in the crystal, dark pain shooting through the years in the quanta of seconds, in the elasticity of minutes and the petrifaction of hours… in the purification of lives…
The booklet – or rather sleeve – that the CD is delivered in has the background story:
“A suite of 12 sound portraits based on interviews with and by residents of Brussels from the BNA-BBOT archives. Words from the interviews are edited to leave only the hesitations, breathing emotional reactions and environmental sounds. An aspect of the personality of the interviewee somehow comes across in these in-between sounds, as if stripped of language another layer of communication comes into focus. The soundtrack of the edited interviews is then re-sampled and set in musical structures with wave-based electronic sounds, resonances, pulses and noise. The pieces themselves take the form of wordless narratives creating a portrait in sounds of an aspect of the personality of the interviewee.”
This method reminds me in part of an ambitious project by Bernard Heidsieck; the French banker and sound poet: Breath and Brief Encounters. Heidsieck only used the breath of a number of well-known persons – like Kenneth Patchen, Anaïs Nin, Erik Lindegren, Albert Camus, Bertolt Brecht, Pablo Neruda, André Malraux, T.S. Eliot, Paul Valery, Gertrude Stein, William Carlos William and many, many more, on three CDs – excised out of various recordings of these people’s speech.
The numbers attached to the track titles are the reference numbers of the source material from the BNA-BBOT archives.
Track 1. Pensioner_0496
“This pensioner from St. Gilles is of Italian origin. She arrived in Belgium in 1951 with her children. Her husband worked in the coalmines. In 1962 they moved to Brussels. Their financial situation was difficult and they encountered many problems with racism. They found whatever work they could in order to support their children who according to her are now settled and living well.”
This being the first piece on the CD, it immediately startles your sleeping ears to hear – as Dylan said one upon a great time. The sounds hack in, bear down and signal shrill and determined, albeit wild and unforeseen. Electronic, chiseling rock and stone audio – metal against rock – rages in tight proximity with shreds and mirrorings of left-over human, female sounds, dancing like auditive flakes of soot over the terrain, as if an aphasia bomb had detonated and torn the morphemes of meaning apart inside all these brains, leaving only torn remembrances of words and dreamy outlines of something that used to be important but now finds no place.
There is a kind of radio drone present throughout, finally winding down into the last whimpering moments of held-back, pressed-down and rejected semantics.
The typical – if I may say so – Kyriakides sound language is immediately recognized, in small, pointillist, prickly sounds that move across the perimeter, in a soundscape that is incredibly tense, yet very transparent, beautiful and dangerous, as if unseen forces were pulling at existence through means not yet understood, discernible only through the obvious, cranky effects on life and matter, appearing in a machine-for-making-sense manner, built from remnants and shreds of human speech and found metallic spare parts in some junkyard of planetary awe. This is an alien world beyond aphasia and brain damage, in a world where most of our human paraphernalia is wiped off, leaving Rigpa shining through in the Bardo of this life.
Track 2. Software Engineer_0106
“An interview with a 30 year old software engineer who came to study in Brussels and ended up staying there. He does not feel very comfortable in the interview and he often waits for the interviewer to tell him what to say.
The falling, bee-swarm elasticity – of an old 1970s’ synthesizer kind – (or early space fantasy film soundtrack guises!) – falls away inside jolly car horn exclamations echoing down narrow streets between old brick houses of Europe, while tickling, ticking needle-point sonics fly past and back around “mmhs” and “huhs” and “aahs” of insecurity. Reflections of bashful laughter rolls like lonesome thunder, revealing a trace of humanity in a corner of some circumstance. A wider, more extensive repetitious atmosphere has you re-live what you just experienced – and all things past are in the same place: an un-place…
Track 3. Cleaning Lady_0500
At the age of 10 she came from Morocco with her mother and her sister to join her father in Belgium. She stayed 7 years. In 1982 she went back again on what she though was a holiday and her father announced that she was to stay permanently in Morocco. It was a nightmare, and furthermore, she was obliged to get married. At the death of her father, and going against the wishes of her brother, mother and future husband, she decided to return to Belgium. She though she was going back to paradise, but it turned out to be hell.”
Wheezing, escaping oral cavitations seep through the humid sound web, the cut-up speech being rendered a surprising electronic modality; coffee pan whistles in a ghost chamber of sorts under empty evening skies without consolation. Cruelty is in play, as certain despair colors the environment that Kyriakides has molded from this female bending and hiding.
Track 4. DJ_0617
“The story of a DJ who explains the role music plays in his life. According to the interviewer, the conversation was very pleasant, except for the fact the music in the background was extremely loud.”
A flickering off-and-on madness, life through blinds - or anatomies flushing down madly rushing fields of vision! Run-away Merklin toy trains around the living room of an eccentric! The rhythmic patterns in here are maddening, thudding, hacking away at sanity with the determination of a rock bottom Marx Brother bloodshed! Even the voice of the DJ is used in a more coherent way than before, but that statement doesn’t mean much in this Kyriakides world with its alien, yet startling familiar, auditivity. Cheese powder falls from above, getting in your eyes – burning – and your ears – itching. It gets wilder, it gets cheesier and choking. Choke on this cheese, ass-hole! Cheesy sounds up your nostrils and the light of the toy train blinding you all the way down the Persian carpet; childhood forced down your throat.
Track 5. Sociologist_0158
“A 25-year-old sociologist who likes to observe Brussels and look for the most stunning views, to focus on parts of a city, which are run-down but which always seduce him; and this because it buzzes with people, it loves the outsider, the interaction, the social above all. He wants to occupy public space and provoke people by creating events such as making tea, music, and singing. In the interview he gives accounts of the city’s retreats, the adventure of Brussels, his eye is pointed towards a certain ideal social life. The interview starts with a cup of tea.”
Starts with a cup of tea, huh! A mini-waterfall! Fact is, a concentrated water trajectory is outlined down the field of hearing, pouring mighty in earphones! This gesture is repeated a few times. Shining, caressing elf drones high up in the register soar like candy airplanes in a venomous childhood somewhere at the edge of imagination, where fairytales merge with the nightmare of reality. Bopping Christmas tree percussion glimmer and shine like glass spheres in a world of auditive perfection; the hums and eehs and giggles of humans casting their shadows like summer clouds passing over the plains; a sudden reminder of the brevity of beauty, the shortness of breath…
This is a jelly tangerine lust-maker tune!
Track 6. Artist_0640
“An interview with a 38 year old artist. The interviewer has just come in from a cold January rain storm, and there seems to be a lot of fun and laughter in the ensuing conversation.”
A flickering quality again, almost – yes! – techno: Kyriakides freakin’ fuckin’ funky techno with them ah and them eeh and them American movie hamburger laughs, disgusting me: a disgust fueled and amplified by my former Dallas, Texas habitat in late 1970s, where I biked up and down in an atmosphere that darn well adheres to these Kyriakides interview burn-downs, this finger tapping of reality’s grating bars of senselessness; meat on the move: soulless people marching for a quick death in the star crusher, all at once, you morons on the curving plane, for which the celestial bodies spin in vain!
Track 7. Music Salesperson_0618
“Entering the record store, Arlequin, in the center of the city, the atmosphere is relaxed, the interviewee is very shy to begin with, but slowly relaxes by the passing and going clients and regulars. He talks about his passion for the radio, and the atmosphere in the studio.”
It gets jazzy, old-time laidback club jazzy – friendly, cozy! - and then somewhat intoxicated, still relaxed, railway jingly, but gradually switchyard dark and lonely, barely within reach of the long, dancing shadows of city life beyond: urbanity echoing in shreds and falling geometries of light; them huge railroad cars looming like old memories, anchored in the inertia of amnesia. This music is a huddling, hiding place – a hiding-place! – in the midst of Urbana; one of those zero spots that you find under highway overpasses, behind industrial fences and in dog-watched junkyards in Missouri, or existence perceived from down a ditch, as you lie in the grass, surrounded by empty cartoons of juice and milk and society’s refuse (I did once one night in 1967 on the outskirts of Milan, hitch-hiking north), while laughing couples stagger by like tipsy drinkers of light and noise in the world of diversions; the illusions of bodies surrounding empty opportunities.
Track 8. Drummer_0404
“A Gambian drummer is interviewed by two children about his life as a musician, the many different percussion instruments that he plays, and the cultural adjustments that he had to make to coming to Europe from Africa. The interview is held in Dutch, which for all the participants is their third language. In the course of the interview the children burst intermittently into fits of giggles, which seem to be ignored by the adults. It turns out that some amorous noises coming from an upstairs room are attracting their attention. At the end of the interview the drummer gives an example of his djembe technique.”
Sparse percussion – reminding me of tin cans disturbed and dislocated by a jumping cat in a Fort Worth alley – and then conversational residue, as if swept together by a janitor down in the subway at four o’clock in the morning, sharp – while burning, repetitious sounds – metallic – penetrate your brain like shooting spears of migraine; those early after-hours retreats home after a night full of closeness and smoky talks with friends and other strangers (again a Dylan quote; can’t help it!)
I do listen for those eroticisms from upstairs, and with some generosity and imagination you may fit them in there, reminding me of very early Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry (Erotica from Symphonie pour un homme seul from 1952) as well as a 1970 work by Ralph Lundsten: Cosmic Love; the most heavenly erotic electroacoustic music that was ever made.
Track 9. Schoolboy_0032
“The city seen through the eyes of one of its youngest citizens. The interviewee is a 7-year-old boy from St. Gilles. He is certainly not shy or lacking in things to say. He talks about his school, hobbies, friends and future dreams. When he grows up he wants to become a pianist at the opera. He’s also not a big fan of the city, he wants to go and live in a tree-hut in the forest.”
A munching sound, munching away at something, perhaps the past, as I saw it in a movie on TV once, where big, scary jaws ate away at the past, just a couple of hours behind, in fact ridding us of all pasts we ever though we had… High-pitch machine residues may pass a drones or simply interferences, and bubbling Silver Apples Of the Moon Subotnickics rubber by like early Macintosh screensavers from 1991… The child’s voice is displayed in the same cut-up manner as most other vocals, and the silvery and black crankshaft motion inside this valve receiver 1958’s style heavy weight match (Ingo versus Floyd) atmosphere bends things out of shape, pouring rubbery constipational contents out of a thousand tilting tin cans… My fingers a dripping with the rancid fluids of lost time, life after life after life, while I try to grasp the situation that is opening in front of me every millisecond… Someone throws up in the midst of a criminal investigation… and I tell myself not to be proud, but grateful. I write it all over the wall!
Track 10. Blind Man_0425
“Born with minimal eyesight, he slowly lost all his vision as he was growing up. In the interview he explains how blind people go about their lives in the world of the seeing, and what kind of appliances and devices are used to help. He doesn’t rule out anything as impossible, he even names photography as one of his passions. He explains how sighted people experience unsighted people and vice versa.”
A crowd – electronic hiss, electroacoustic ambiences; soaring, ascending, descending motions – voices speaking through crackling train station speakers; the crackling in fact obscuring the message beyond audibility, simply providing an atmosphere of fact-filled undecipherable lines of speech that crisscross these huge halls of arrivals and departures, the way the Here and the Now provides a crossroads for innumerable lives; the way the planet provides a crossroads for temporary growls in the flesh. The transient electronic beeps open halls of passing spaceships with busy creatures wearing big Don’t Panic buttons like official badges!
Track 11. Rai Singer / Electrician_0522
“A singer of Algerian Rai music, who also works as an electrician. He explains to a pupil his taste for music, his studies and the thoughts of his parents on him wanting to sing. The interviewer is from a Passerele, a class in a school with kids who have recently arrived in Belgium. They spend half a year to a year learning the language and getting to know the school system. At the end of this session the singer gives an example of his talent in a rendition of the famous Rai song Didi.”
For the first time on the CD we hear real vocal permutations, the French Sound Poetry way, like late Henri Chopin working with Marc Battier; poésie sonore electronique – also drawing my attention to some earlier Paul de Marinis (Music As A second Language).
There is a peculiar fluidity at play, seeping down the moments like honey, or like the sticky, tenacious dream walk that we’ve all experienced, not being able to escape some dream body fate that closes in… Much of this piece, in beautiful tendons of slowly contracting and relaxing emotions, deals with the scary slowness of crucial moments.
Track 12. Pensioned Clerk_0197
In sessions organized by some primary schools, children go and interview pensioners in old people’s homes. The idea behind this scheme is for the benefit of both generations. Prevention against social isolation and loneliness, the breaking open of certain taboos, the passing down of knowledge and experiences of past ages.”
The last piece is by far the longest, in excess of 12 minutes. Nervous breathing; old age panting, really, opens the work. I can see those old folks sitting around in a dining-room at an old-age home, waiting to be served, then moving their spoons with Parkinson-trembling hands from the plates to their mouths up in their wrinkly faces: a seemingly desperate and tedious process that just mimics life; shadows of life: life on the brink: life slowly moving into the Bardo of afterlife, wrinkle by wrinkle, dissolving thought after dissolving thought – a process we all are heading for, and which we have all gone through a million, million times in this samsaric wheel of deaths and rebirths, slowly, slowly climbing up towards the open, clear spaces of Enlightenment.
The short, heavy, strenuous panting is woven into electronic sound-clouds and swirling, winding drones shining with overtones. The growls and rearview mirror laughter of old-timers disperse like dry bulrush (Typha latifólia) crackling in late November frost, while Shaman calls inside the sound-web echo between the dark mountains of intermediary states of existence and mind.
Yannis Kyriakides’ CD Wordless leaves me breathless! His sound world is delicate, fine-tuned, sometimes austere, ascetic - always lustful in a dreamstate way, like experiences out of transitory phases. Musical lines are sometimes almost erased, barely felt, barely sensed - until reappearing as if etched and engraved, runestone and rock-carving wise. Kyriakides' sonic realm reveals a mastery play with empty geometries, empty spaces bridged by transparent tendons of intense tensions; forces pulling and peeling in a dreamtime friction of the dimensions.