This story is part of our Summer Fiction Month 2020. Click here to view the stories featured this Fiction Month, as well as past fiction pieces.
Again, the phonograph replays the record. The very first motion of the driver’s ferrite, pointy reader-head clicked heavily on the periphery of the disk causing the first friction on the shellac surface and sounding like a glitchy fuzz, whose prosaic particles started moving, vibrating randomly in the space generating broken waves without any predictable order. The analog signals started floating in the sphere and the sound was born. When he woke up, he found himself in a place where everything felt cozy, fresh and succulent. He did not have any thought, as if he had no intellect, nor memory, he felt himself radiating, trying to touch the objects around him but he was not capable of feeling. He could not reach anything, nor touch anything, he only felt his weight surrounded by the air from all directions, he stretched up, he stretched down, right and left, vertically, horizontally, diagonally, his body was moving, aware of his existence. He hovered his body over the surface of the table, the wall, the phonograph, the vessel, the flower in it, everything was obscurely overwhelming, everything was ungraspable, unrecognizable, but he could not question it; it was unclear whether he was conscious or not. He could only feel the rest of his body; he could feel subtle waves of dense energy flowing stronger that his awareness started to increase smoothly, very delicately, and his intuition meandered in the place like a lonely, little ant who woke up on a hill of sand, unaware of anything around itself. How long does it take the ant in order to recognize the nature around itself, or to recognize that it is left alone on a hill of sand where each particle is located within the heap without order? Would the ant become aware of its loneliness? Would it know that there are other ants in the world? Would an ant recognize its existence as an ant? But who said that an ant should recognize its existence? And “what is recognizing anyway?“ said Ms. Lessing all of a sudden, as if she were snubbing someone, yet in a sarcastic tone. He trembled; Ms. Lessing’s voice sounded like a roaring river whose waves flowed against his body, he quivered, and his fragile, incohesive semblance made him lose his concentration, while he actually was still struggling to recognize what was happening. He struggled to recognize himself, who he is and what he is, while Ms. Lessing was feeling the cool breeze in her salon, she was aware of the music sound in every moment, and started thinking about sound.
Ms. Lessing was reading the dissertation project of her student. It was titled “The Harmony of Consciousness: A Critical Point in The History of Musicology.” She found it in her mailbox when she went to the university this morning. She held the dissertation folder passively, although she was feeling very enthusiastic about it. In that sunny morning, she did not know what to do with the rest of her boring office hours, but since she was excited to read, she would open the folder randomly, as she does when she explores la chaire de cinéma. She’d open the magazine randomly and start to read about the first film she would encounter, while listening to some music and mumbling some confusing conclusions even if there is no one listening to her. She opened the folder randomly, and thought to herself good books could be read from any starting point, the text is a loop, it does not matter from which page you start to read it, because
you would always get to the same point; also paintings, and films, and music overtures, and all theater plays, and comic books, and cooking recipes, and she heard a loud giggle resonating in her head. She smiled. She looked at the sheet she’d opened, the page on the right was empty, the page on the left had the last half-line of an ending paragraph “false physical recognition of the whatness of sound” with the footnote: 1 “Ibid.” She turned the page. It was page 124, the beginning of chapter 7: “On The Nature of Sound”, and read:
The invention of the Gramophone was considered a critical point, not only in the history of musicology, but in the history of humanity as well. Sounds were conceived of as vibrational waves that travel through the air or another medium, and they have a natural threshold of lasting. Instrumental music, up until the invention of the Sound Recorders, vibrated in the air until the sound waves vanished. The only way to document the played music was by writing notations or by memorizing it. Sounds would be collected by ears of a human or an animal; they were recognized, memorized and produced again. The new transformation made it possible to collect the waves of the sound and preserve them on a recording medium.
The chapter was very interesting for Ms. Lessing, who wanted to go home and listen to some music while reading it. This is what she does when she reads interesting books. She would sit on her rocking chair in her salon and read while the music is coming very gently from the phonograph. And she thought that she would better leave the university and go home before the blazing afternoon sun starts burning every moving object outside.
In Owlholland, where she lives, little giraffes jump around on streets, coming from the Phonzonia hills next to the town. They used to come to Owlholland on hot days when they can’t find shadows in the hills; they would squat at the entrance of the town’s mall to get some cool air, or in narrow alleys where sunlight cannot penetrate into the urban complex of buildings, or next to any building’s cooled walls. Or they would come to town when they find it boring to stay in Phonzonia during summer evenings, just for fun. And people would be very kind to them; they got used to the situation, they would feed them and play with them. Giraffes are the partners of humans in Owlholland and Phonzonia. They got used to hearing different kinds of sounds in the town, and some of them started to collect what they found to be the most identifiable sounds and the easiest to repeat, starting from sounds of tamed animals, and not ending with sounds of machines, and cars – especially those of the sixties and fifties, and radio channels especially Monte Carlo, and human voices, children, and young people who hang out around corners, and politicians whose voices were always heard in streets coming out from windows, and elderly people who find it wise, or funny, or enjoyable, or kind, or respectful, or mindful, to talk to animals–not necessarily about politics– and the voice of Ms. Lessing who used to talk to them when she’d feed them. People in Owlholland believed these giraffes are entities that can be fed sonically. This phenomenon did not stop here.
People started to hear sounds and voices echoing at the hillsiide, and experts said it was just because the giraffes had become very familiar with the town, so they memorized many of its daily sounds and they carried them to the hills. The last mission of experts who came to study the hills, declared that one could hear some semi-human voices in certain spots in the hills, and that if you move your body in a certain way, you could hear a different sound from the same spot, as if there are several records of sounds and each one would be played according to a certain motion. They also said that there should be a bigger mission to study this unique, eccentric phenomenon. When she remembered that, Ms. Lessing thought that she had never heard the voice of a giraffe. Do they actually have voices? Do they make any sounds? Are they able to recognize sounds? And “what is recognizing anyway?” Said Ms. Lessing out of a sudden, as if she were snubbing someone, yet in a sarcastic tone. And he trembled again; in the salon, where Ms. Lessing was listening to the music coming out of the record player and spreading in the spacious salon in her place in Owlholland.
The phonograph was playing a record of Gustav Mahler’s fifth symphony, and the specific moment was the beginning of the fourth adagietto “sehr langsam”, while Ms. Lessing was reading the dissertation:
So, with the Gramophone, it became possible to resurrect dead sounds, thus, to recreate the sphere of the sound again; to recreate and relive in the past time again, to experience being in the past, in a dead moment, as well as to experience the space again as it was in the past, where the time of the original sound–played now–was still lasting. Where the original sounds were still alive. This had given a new recognition of the sound as an anima that should have its own autonomous ontology.
The afternoon sun was very strong outside. Light was penetrating the salon and straying on the wooden floor under the window frame, and the air in the salon was very cool and breezy. She felt like one of the giraffes of Phonzonia enjoying the coolness. Indeed, one giraffe was squatting below the window in the street. She thought of the sound waves spreading in the air and vanishing, and she thought of herself as a receiver of the sound, and of the process of recognizing sounds, and “what is recognizing anyway?” Said Ms. Lessing as if she were snubbing someone, yet in a sarcastic tone. And he trembled; he was feeling himself squeezed in a spiral path; the air became dense and the pressure was melting, then he was picked up by a strange force and put in an accelerator. He did not recognize all of that, he was still struggling to recognize what was happening. He was struggling to recognize himself, until he felt as if he landed on a very fragile, soft surface, and felt the flash light. when he woke up, he found himself in a place where everything felt causey, fresh and succulent. While Ms. Lessing was in her salon, on her rocking chair, reading the dissertation of her student: “The sound is heard. The sound is recognized. The sound is alive. Now, the sound speaks. The sound recognizes. The sound is a thought. The sound is a being.”
The B-flat note which was being played by the cello at the peak of the adagietto landed eventually in Ms. Lessing’s brain, he was about to utter the conclusion he got, he felt the light melting his structure. He could think for the first time now, he thought. Now he recognizes that he is recognized. Now he thought once and for all, a single thought, a single recognition, although he is not feeling the space anymore because he entered into Ms. Lessing’s head, and the rest of his body is still floating in the air of the salon. He might be dead but in his death there will be a new life. This time he knew what he is. The B-flat sound transformed into a new semblance; he gained a new nature. When the sound landed in Ms. Lessing’s brain and became a thought in her mind, Now, he is about to utter what he recognizes, and how he can recognize, and “what is recognizing anyway?” Said Ms. Lessing all of a sudden, as if she were snubbing someone, yet in a sarcastic tone. She trembled; and experts said that a cello B-flat sound from Owlholland was detected echoing at the hills of Phonzonia.
Abed Alkhamrah graduated from BCB in May 2020 with a BA in Art and Aesthetics.