June Tang

The accompanying sound piece is created from bird sounds recorded from different windows of my house, interwoven with open source recordings. It is best experienced with headphones.

“There is no sound without a relationship.”

hearing there is listening. Besides listening, or perhaps included within it, is what cannot only be aurally absorbed, but must be seen or seen to, touched or moved, by or with, between and beyond what is beloved is believed.

• • •

listening does not lie deeper than hearing but streams parallel to it, then it is neither river nor bank, but perhaps where the river has dried and a path of sand emerges broad enough to tread along. It takes seeing the river to later notice the sand and silt. It takes hearing the world, in all forms passive and inert, to come across the live nerve of listening, before diffusing—defusing—back into hearing.

Without performing a deeper dive, one simply shifts weight between feet: one to its other, one and back, one and again, until shift becomes sway, in a dance that dithers: in the absence of logics, the absence of balance.

Habituated, however, one maintains a habitat without risk.

• • •

can I-who-am-not-you, and you-who-are-not-I, take a walk through the city forest? Between the frequencies of asphalt and the frequencies of feathers, lies the vibrating spectrum of sound sleep and sound investments, sound advice for sound health; the sounding out, slowly, of scenarios and syllables; or quickly, of alarms and gavels and voices pulled and ploughed, sounding variously dry, desperate, tender.

Through air or cable: something is released; something is not always received.

• • •

are the birds? Hidden from view, they call from trees at the front and rear of the house, as well as from across this street or sometimes many; from above and upon and through overhead lines—between copper and melted sands—before reaching you.

The birds you are hearing are both bodied and disembodied, both real and virtual. Their signals, a mingling of the fleeting and archived, arrive from both the open window and open database. At times natural, at times processed, their sounds have been arranged into dialogues that did not previously exist.

Behind bright screens, the transient and eternal collide and collude, each creating the other.

One takes flight, joining several flocks at once.

One watches the others, overhears their voices, never calling out.

• • •

is not always closer, as softer is not always more distanced. The birds I came across in immaterial archives sing louder and clearer and more isolated than in the material city. Digitalised, with their environmental sounds filtered, birdspeech may enter you directly, uninterrupted and unmodified by changing peripheries, of motor traffic or riotous voices, by leaves or other birds. The signals are smooth; transmissions are more hazardous than ever.

The birds sing out, one, then two, then uncountable tens.

Rarely at rest, they call constantly: whether seeing or not, whether dependent or not.

The noise of the digital overflows, each moment, in similarly unquantifiable volumes, where volume is sound as well as weight, and distortion and amplification do not remain simply sonic.

One cry, caw, chirp or chirrup in 200 billion; more.

• • •

to comprehend the buzz of living, around and along and amongst? One can concentrate on each layer separately; one can study the sources and mediums of the sound; one can try to sense the vibrations; one can listen for tone; for regularity and irregularity; for content and intent; context or subtext.

Though where the body is at less risk, attention lapses and elements that blur and mask flow with quieter ease and efficiency.

Echo and reverberation, mimicry and delay: while inseparable from the digital’s intricacy, they also constitute a threat of collective misperception that loops further and faster than you or I can stop. New sounds cross-pollinating disrobe context and origin, becoming absorbed or assimilated—or alienated—second-to-quick-second.

"Hearing", writes Berssenbrugge, “is the fractality of fragments occurring (as they disintegrate).”

Fade in fade out, tune in tune out, opt in opt out, turn against, turn around.

Along network shores, a public wave crests before breaking.

Out on wet sand, that deafening noise of the sea.

Confronted with listening, one doesn’t turn away.

“My hearing touches my limit on all sides, a community exposed.”

• • •

ten years the skylark was studied, before it was understood, finally, that the meaning of its song did not depend on frequency, pitch or rhythm, but on silences.

One can listen for silences, its many breeds: silence of waiting; silence of rest; not speaking, not listening; listening without speaking.

Though in a time of untruths, or ventriloquising truths, silence too, becomes freighted, a roulette between resistance and acceptance.

• • •

the various definitions of sound lies the two following meanings, perhaps less often heard: 1) as n., meaning a narrow stretch of water (forming an inlet, or connecting two wider areas of water, such as two seas and a lake); and 2) as v., meaning to ascertain the depth (of water in the sea, lake, or river), by means of a line or pole or using sound echoes.

I wonder if writing can be both this noun and verb of sound:

A narrow stretch of water between imagined communities—between all the “common and uncommon senses of the world” —and a line cast within the water, sounding the depths.

But the depths cannot be sounded.

“The way I do not understand you is different from the way you do not understand me.”

The way I hear you is different from the way you hear me.

There is always deeper to go, and higher, and higher, until airborne and wide.

• • •

listen is one thing—to respond, or to write, is another. In creating a more sustained sound, writing risks adding noise to existing noise, an echo within endless echoes. Through language I cannot deliver care and action—only attend or attune to it, in an attempt to create a terrain where care and action may palpitate—not through what is said but through its vibrating texture.

And in being heard or listened to, might enable a gathering, brief and full of interruption, between the many interrupted ‘you’s and many interrupted ‘I’s.

Is this, in the end, its own kind of care?

Is it enough?

Or what else, beside the birds, can we hear now, more closely than before?


Throughout the piece there are hidden asides that can be revealed by hovering over certain words or phrases.

All open source recordings were collected from Freesound.