To the listener

August 31, 2009

posted by Heather McShane


I was reading 39 Microlectures: in proximity of performance on the train yesterday, when the woman next to me began talking to me about Matthew Goulish (the author of the book) and the Goat Island performance group. During the conversation, she asked me what the premise of the book was. I answered that it was Goulish’s ideas about approaching life. Here’s an excerpt from 39 Microlectures:


“When listening, please bear in mind: I have tried to compose some of your most particular experiences. I realize that you may consider it impossible for one to compose the experience of another. I realize that you are not a typical, but a very particular, listener. You have begun to listen in such a way that you attend only to the note being played at the moment—you try to forget a sound as soon as it stops and not to anticipate what will happen next. Your concentration lapses frequently. You are not a thorough listener, and proud of it. You have a sense that almost anything can happen next: across boundaries, with many connecting threads.


“I realize that I have imagined you. Nevertheless, you have one invaluable advantage; you are the one listener about whom I really know something. You are the one I feel closest to, even if I do not know you personally. You are absolutely necessary for me—since it would be impossible for me to imagine this process other than in conjunction with a constantly imagined percipient. In this way creation and perception intermingle and are elements of the same complex phenomenon. In this way, we have begun to write this book together. Now the question arises: How do we proceed?


“We proceed in absolute freedom, within certain limits: the limits of your abilities, the limits of work and play, the limits of the next ten minutes, and the limited size of my desktop; the limits of bodies, the memory of bodies, and the motion we make toward and away from our own death; the limits of justice, creativity, natural resources, blankness, the limits of space, time, sound, instability, the fractal scaling of cloudshapes, leaf veins, the circulatory stystem, heartbeats, the rhythms of sleep and insomnia; the limits of our skill as dancers, the limits of I need a job, the limits of the echo off the opposite wall of the Grand Canyon.


“We proceed in almost any direction, across boundaries, with many connecting threads. We proceed like the mosquito that bites the iron ox. We proceed with no need to fear or to hope, but only to find new ways of understanding.”


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