Роман Лейбов / Roman Leibov
It could be any city, from Adelaide to Zarogoza. You cross the road, go on the subway, you buy a paper and light up as you go (smoking is bad for your health).
You walk through the city wearing headphones. You have your music with you. It's your soundtrack to the houses around you, to passers-by, cars, pigeons, reflections in puddles, snowdrifts, bridges, clouds. You chose this music yourself for walking around to - you have such a wonderful special piece of gear, a little box with a load of recordings in it. You don't have to change the CD, just pack 200 songs of every imaginable kind onto a single irridescent disc and just select shuffle; if you find Handel is completely at odds with the rain, press the button and see what comes up.
We are going to meet each other. You have your music and I have mine. We know that all the passers-by see this morning differently, we were taught that long ago. But you and I - two people with headphones on - know that we are listening to this morning differently. I'm listening to Fairus, and the snow crunching under my feet seems like sand, the water tower like something out of ancient Egypt.
What are you playing? How does the morning sound to you?
But I'm not really walking down the street, I'm sitting at my laptop in a little room on the edge of the big city. It's night outside, there's no snow, there are different expanses, another context. It's not really that important what exactly I'm doing - writing a letter to Siberia, getting to grips with the chronology of the Aztecs or eating noodles from a Chinese take-away on the corner. From the speakers comes the sound of Atom Heart Mother - turned down because of the late hour - and it seems strangely penetrating and deep, as if immersed in acid.
From outside come drunken Friday-night shouts, the thud of overturned rubbish bins and the sound of breaking glass. I'm concentrated and collected, there's peace in my soul. I see you passing like a shadow along the brick wall, crows are cawing but you don't hear them, you have your own soundtrack. I think of people whom I love and feel their simultaneous presence and warmth.
There are two types of people - those who in their childhood collected stamps with reproductions of paintings on them and those who collected stamps with dinosaurs on them.
Our musical collections are a reflection, a piece of ourselves. The music which we choose as a soundtrack to life can say more about us than any form we might fill in. The selection and arranging of the collections is an art. If you want to understand someone, it's worth listening to what they are playing on their mp3 player.
The essence of so-called post-modernity is that there is too much of everything. So much that at times it seems as if self-expression and creativity are possible only through the selection and modification of what there already is. Everything in existence is an endless database, and people are principles of selection and sets of filters which set its unique profile. On the other side of the coin is the figure of eight lying on its side, or ying and yang, or a triangle with an eye inside. But it's not a question of postmodernism, nor of databases nor of eyes. The fact is that, as a certain lesbian said, "people need people".
Through music which someone else likes, you can understand them more deeply than by studying their bookshelf or excerpts from the books sitting on them. If a virtual personality is made up of signs and meanings which correspond to them, then a musical personality is made up of sounds and feelings aroused by them.
Music is structured silence. In other words a form of cosmologisation of chaos. Each musical personality is a private strategy of travel between chaos and structure.
Music is warmhearted, it cannot live without air. Vision skates around on the surface, we do not see what is reflected on our retinas. Music penetrates, it is tactile, like the chance touch of fingers or the tickle of someone else's breath on your cheek.
By exchanging musical compilations, people can give themselves to each other. When I listen to your music and you to mine - we coincide in a certain structure of feelings, ie in some otherworldly sense, we become One.
So the motive for the exchange of music is love. Or at least a mutual interest as a form of universal gravity, on which all this load of individually pointless elements holds together.
This project is intended for the exchange of soundtracks to people's lives. It doesn't matter where you listen to the music - whether you're walking down the street with headphones on, driving down that street in a car or contemplating that car and that pedestrian from the watertower, which you've climbed up because you had nothing better to do.
To take part, you need the following:
your favourite music;
- the ability to make a selection of your favourite musical (or other audio-) works in mp3 format;
- the ability to record these selections on regular compact discs (650-800 Mb);
- the ability to send your music by post.
The principle of making the selection is simple: you record the music you like at that point in time. This means that collections made at various times can be very different from each other. Therefore it would not be amiss to put the date of the compilation on the sleeve of the disc.
Experience shows that selections made for different people turn out to be different. It's one thing when I record music for my mate, and quite another when I make a disc for my daughter or 96-year-old professor whose work I really admire. This simple fact shows that personality is a relative and ever-changing phenomenon, which appears or at least is given specific expression in a dialogue situation. So you are recommended to indicate on the sleeve of the disc or the disc itself who it is meant for.
And anyway, isn't it boring just recording the same thing over and over again?
By default we can assume that music recorded onto a disc will be listened to in random fashion. However, you can, if you wish, set the order of compositions with the help of one or several playlists.
The creation of the disc and its sleeve is not regulated in any way.
Of course, our project also has a serious socio-economic element.
There is one field of activity which has suffered badly from the complete and aggressive invasion of our lives by the internet. Every year, firms that work in this field suffer huge losses, jobs are rapidly disappearing, traditional values and fundamental concepts are under threat. Of course, I'm talking about postal services.
And yet national postal services are not demanding a ban on the sending of electronic mail, lobbying for laws on the illegality of sending congratulations via ICQ, or denouncing as pirates those who don't buy ordinary Christmas cards but choose them from a menu on their computer screens. Nor have they yet initiated a single arrest of anyone possessing Outlook Express!
All of us who use the internet are in debt to the postal services. Let's repay that debt now. By sending discs by post, you will be supporting those who never tried to stop you listening to your music and kept on producing those wonderful stamps.
With reproductions or dinosaurs.
London, UK, and Tartu, Estonia.
published on January 30th, 2003 in Russkij Zhurnal.
Translated into English by Robert Greenall.
© Евгений Горный / Eugene Gorny, Роман Лейбов / Roman Leibov, 2003-2019.
© Сетевая Словесность, 2007-2019.
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