Would you rather be the thunder or the lightning?
Uhm uhm, I say, circling the cup lip with finger tips, anxious.
Thunder I think, you say. Thunder opens eyes. There’s the flash, but it’s the noise your eyes look for.
That’s weird, I say, nodding. I mean, we look for what we hear.
What do we listen for?
I see myself in movies. Not anecdotally or meta-cinematically, just, actually: I see me reflected in my laptop screen. Film history is a timeline of these transformations, of the human/technology problem; film as a medium doesn’t exist without film as a technology (doesn’t exist without humans as mediators). The cinematic apparatus means that the camera, the screen, the projector, its glow, the nightmare galaxy of Skittles on the floor all collide with you in the moment of meaning creation. Means of production produces meaning: révélateur is a revealing; révélateur is the photo developer who reveals.
I watched myself in my laptop screen when I watched Phillipe Garrel’s Le Révélateur, when I listened to Mary Lattimore and Jeff Zeigler’s Music Inspired by Philippe Garrel’s Le Révélateur, two artifacts nearly 50 years apart colliding with a now, with me. My laptop’s screen, the film screen (Bazin: “a window to the universe”) is closer to us than ever before, a literal mirror (Baudry: The mirror assembles the fragmented body in a sort of imaginary integration of the self…through it, each fragment assumes meaning by being integrated into an ‘organic’ unity”).
You can’t hear a mirror. Sound is implied, maybe (If I see lips move, do I hear talking? And the opposite? I talk to you on the phone, I hear your voice: should I see your face?). But the mirror’s fragments are images. We look for what we hear. What do we listen for?
Lattimore doesn’t play the harp so much as she investigates what a harp means. There are notes, the product of struck strings, a convalescence of tones that means music; there are palms thudding the sound box, audible flits of a finger tip and a string kissing, of the keratin nail switting, bickering back at the soundboard. Our biologies are instruments too, feedbacking entities; Zeigler presents sound as wash and lather, a wringing of guitar strings, fingerprints on synthesizer keys. “It’s all themes but improvised within those themes,” said Lattimore on performing the piece live, “so, it’s different every time, but it basically has the themes that go with the actions of the characters.” We listen to make sense, but meaning isn’t inherent; meaning is what we find in a moment. Sound cinema isn’t inherent, song cinema less so. Songs are constructed organisms, vessels for emoting and for closure; Music Inspired by Philippe Garrel’s Le Révélateur is improvised disunity.
Disunity frustrates meaning and fractures the senses. We could reel at the sensory maelstrom, or we could roll with the reel, improvise our own new meaning (Garrel: “I think it’s very useful in art to be paranoid or schizoid.”). Le Révélateur is a 58-minute suite in silence, a song cycle circling a mother and a father (dis)engaged in traumatized (mis)communication and the boy at the center of their isolating/isolation. We hear the chrysalis crack, we hear nothing; we listen to a child watch what love and families do to each other, what he will do to his family and himself. We see what we have to do to watch ourselves in movies, to hear ourselves in sounds.
The history of film is a history of disunity, of still images being upset into motion, creating something new (Bresson: “No art without transformation.”). Lattimore and Zeigler’s reaction piece Music Inspired by Philippe Garrel’s Le Révélateur thrives in disunity, complicating complications. Sound is separate but parallel to image, cohesion in disunity. I’ll see you again; I’ll see you and hear you in the same instant. Cohesion lends our lives clarity; art gives us disunity to make it all mean something. Like the thunder, like the lightning: we listen to see, we look to listen.