Rip Hayman Dreams of India & China

[Recital; 2019]

Styles: voice, flute, piano, organ, ensembles, orchestra, ocarinas, tape, electronics, bells, percussion, telephones, toys, words, dance, theater, kites, horses, sleep, the blind, dry ice, film, video, fire
Others: earthy and ethereal

And instead of asking, who played that flute, might we ask whose footsteps stirred the dust of the corridors near there, that room, now empty, where the piano still quivers, still, and still harboring echoes of those exercises that lingered thick leisure of the everyday? But, no longer day, is that not to ask, nor ever, for whom, then, are you playing? For whom, then, or now, are these memories meant to return?

Or, no longer memories, merely dreams? Or, of softness, or, dreaming, of light?

To return, instead of asking, did you hear beyond yourself, might we ask if you heard the limits of your sound, that sharp lightness that could sever sleep from dreaming, shivers from the skin? And is it enough that water spills from the bowl where, one might imagine, you stopped to rest, and resting, heard the metallic glimmer of arrival, long after you had thought only to leave? But the water spills, and might we retain such stillness?

Or, are our hands through which this shard of longing slips quick and resigned only able to grasp the empty air after we are overcome? But the air is not empty, is it? Does it still insist that rush of when wind got caught in the leaf’s spiraling descent? Does it still insist us into that air of gathering, where, under trees spangled with dew, light, a morning mist, you might have joined in laughter if only for in every breath the overfullness of a joy that is nothing, but breaks between lips?

Or, was it perhaps enough for you to silently observe the distance between you and the music through which the birds call only to be heard, this very distance (wing-soft brush-strokes hardly disturb it) between those, its source and us, its calling? How might a sound, unraveling its luster in dreamtime’s light forgetting, forget the lips from which it was spoken, and, settling in our listening, forget what it came to proclaim?

How did you mediate the impossible? Or, like the flute that plays for only water rippling from out of the past and the whispers that drift in its wash and waft and, waning, might we hear it, would eyelids flutter, to alight upon that elsewhere when its sleep returns us to its source?

That impossible memory of a source we call forgetting. That impossible memory of a source, we call forgetting. That impossible memory of a source we call forgetting. That impossible memory of a source we call, forgetting.

And did you know when you witnessed Bach’s Goldberg Variations, now drenched in sunlit dust-light, now merely murmurs, now simply (sweetly) receding into shadow’s swell, the flourish of a string, the tin-scratched rustling of a discordant echo ringing, and then suddenly awakening into the metronomic clamor of a clock (and softly adjacent, the peals, sonorous, of, perhaps, a morning windchime), and did you know that you, awake, were the witness of a dream?

And how did you return those sounds to us from beyond sleep, us who return from elsewhere’s noplace, vanquished, with only salt-stained cheeks to tell of our voyages to the beyond? To what depths did you travel, and further still, so as to retain, past myth’s remanence, the awakening of a world from the dream about itself? To what depths, and further still, did you travel so as to loosen the past from its image and return with its realization? What impossible memory, not of when or of where, can retain its source and, loosed from it, can return the past to the long since and longed for past?

As an answer, we hear only a whisper: I can’t wait to see… A whisper: laughing… A whisper: a dream.

Now, one November evening shortly after my mother’s death, I was going through some photographs. I had no hope of “finding” her, I expected nothing from these “photographs of a being before which one recalls less of that being than by merely thinking of him or her” (Proust). I had acknowledged that fatality, one of the most agonizing features of mourning, which decreed that however often I might consult such images, I could never recall her features (summon them up as a totality). No, what I wanted

writes Roland Barthes,

— — as Valéry wanted, after his mother’s death — — was “to write a little compilation about her, just for myself.”

Of course, he never wrote the little compilation. Yet, here and there he gathered an image in which he recognized a fragment of his loss, her loss — her gait, her health, her glow — but never her face which is too far away, which is to say, never her being. Therefore, not only does he miss her in his loss of her in her loosing from him, but he misses her altogether, he does not find her. Confronted with her absence in the photographs he sorts but does not immerse himself in, the photographs he contemplates but does not resurrect her from, he might proclaim, That’s almost the way she was, which is somehow worse than That’s not the way she was at all.

The almost: love’s dreadful regime, but also the dream’s disappointing status — which is why I hate dreams.

Yet, despite all the vanishing and erasure that the photograph performs, Barthes writes,

… in these photographs of my mother there was always a place set apart, reserved and preserved: the brightness of her eyes.

Despite the appearance of that which will never appear again, save in dreams and the soft blur of memory, that is, despite the disappearance that the photograph enacts, there is an imparting of an essential identity. By lettering herself be photographed, she lends herself. Without restoring what has been abolished, the photograph attests that she was. Not a just image, just an image, Godard says.

Listening to these collages, quilts, and scrapbooks of travelling, curiosities of memories and memorials of cuts in time that blur their having-been into the soft twilight of their having being, I feel what Barthes felt looking at the Winter Garden Photograph of his mother: a sting, a speck, a cut,

that accident which pricks me (but also bruises me, is poignant to me).

For, to insist on an image that it is just an image, not a just image, is also to return it to what it always was, to proclaim, at least, that an image is merely and only an image, not a portable and compact form of an already inaccessible reality. Something miraculous then happens: music. When Recital’s Sean McCann, from captain Rip Hayman’s archival materials, synthesizes memories, memorials, and sounds seized during extensive travels, into this tender collage, something wondrous happens: not only music, but also the memory of music.

Like the time-traveler in Chris Marker’s imaginary film, all of a sudden, he who comes from elsewhere stumbles, and the next step it’s a year later.

Why this cut in time, this connection of memories? asks Marker, That’s just it, he can’t understand. He hasn’t come from another planet he comes from our future,

there where

everything works to perfection, all that we allow to slumber, including memory. Logical consequence: total recall is memory anesthetized. After so many stories of men who had lost their memory, here is the story of one who has lost forgetting, and who — through some peculiarity of his nature — instead of drawing pride from the fact and scorning mankind of the past and its shadows, turned to it first with curiosity and then with compassion. In the world he comes from, to call forth a vision, to be moved by a portrait, to tremble at the sound of music, can only be signs of a long and painful pre-history. He wants to understand.

Though naturally he’ll fail, the questions are posed, they resound, and they’re on their way to sounding the depth of the question that posed them, Can we hear eternity?

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