JODI ROSE AND THE SINGING BRIDGES
I love bridges, the way they arch out across an emptiness to connect with the other side. They occupy a space in-between, the threshold between worlds, countries and states of mind. Looking fragile and tenuous, resembling a spider-web spun across the void and creating a path where there was previously only air, the bridge hangs suspended improbably by threads. You imagine these could snap at any moment, but they are engineered strong and resilient. The cables look like harps, waiting to be plucked by angels or by passing giants. How do the cables sound? Could they become strings in an instrument made of bridges stretching around the earth?
Are the cables the voice of the divine or of any god? They are definitely the voice of the bridge. The idea that their vibrations may contain some secret language, a hidden key to the spirit of existence, excites and inspires me. The language of the cables is untranslatable, lying dormant as thousands of people cross the bridge every day, oblivious to the possibility of metamorphosis they could undergo.
Maybe the cables speak in an inexpressible other tongue, with no recognisable codes or links to the everyday process of communication. As the inaudible vibrations are amplified into an acoustic presence, the gaps in existence can be heard. On the line is the sound of the world, humming through the cables.
Maybe the cables are giant receivers, like the satellite dishes used in the movie 'Contact', collecting all kinds of signals. The humming on the lines, the random noise and static that spill over when we communicate - from the overflow of telecommunications wires circling the globe to unidentifiable frequencies from space.
Maybe the bridge catches the dreams of those who cross it, the sounds of daily life on the lands and waters beneath. Can we tune in to the cables' frequency and hear what they have to say? What if we were to stop and listen to the bridge, to its aches and cries, the songs and stories of the people who have crossed over, slept under its shelter, or jumped from its side, seeking release in the void?
Seeking oblivion. When I used to try and imagine an absolute void, even in the deepest black holes of space there would still be radio waves. In my mind I could erase most of the world - houses, suburbs, cities, oceans - even the planet itself. Floating in the infinity of space with galaxies of emptiness, the one thing I could never completely obliterate was radio waves. The idea of complete nothingness stalled there. This concept may have no basis in scientific reality, but illustrates something of my mental relationship with sound and broadcast space.
Reading Frances Dyson's work on radiance, telephony and cosmology in Nigel Helyer's sound class influenced the conception of this project. The idea of sound radiating in broadcast space and containing transmissions from the divine is inspired by her work. In her essay "A Philosophonics of Space: Sound, Futurity and the End of the World" Dyson refers to John Cage's idea of 'amplifying the inaudible' as a way of revealing the 'radiant essence of life.'
This idea reminds me of an experience walking with friends in Bronte gully. We found ourselves inside the stormwater drain and as we talked became aware of the resonance of our voices. About 200m along we all started humming. The sound wasn't just inside our heads; it was enveloping us, vibrating through our bodies and out into space. We had stumbled on the music of the spheres, where the sound of the universe somehow connected us to the soul of the world.
The idea of sound being the organising principle of the universe, behind the virtual particles that flicker in and out of existence in the sub-atomic core of being, is intriguing. What is it that holds us together in a stable form, if our atoms could spin off and scatter randomly into space? The notion of it being sound makes sense to me.
Music expresses emotion, sound affects us physically, touching resonances and dissonance deeper than words. The body has no internal resistance to sound. We can close our eyes but cannot close our ears. Sounds can kill or soothe, sound penetrates us directly.
Could the bridge have an 'other' technological voice? Perhaps one that wishes to speak through the mediums of audio technology - amplification, recording and broadcast. Inherent within the history of these instruments is the desire to contact or record the dead and talk to spirits from the 'other side'.
The bridge cable's vibrations can be read through the history of aural technologies, concerned with contacting these spirits and hearing strange voices. The voice of the bridge has a harmonic undercurrent, an expression that cannot be translated into human speech. It gives utterance to an unknown tongue, which must be heard for the bridge to be known.
While the frequency of the cables could be manufactured on an ordinary synthesiser, that isn't the point. Just as in drawing class students learn to really see what is in front of them, so this project calls for us not merely to hear but really listen to what is there.
Do we actually listen to one another, or in the rush to get the point across, do we telegraph our messages and withdraw? Every conversation is an invitation, a friend told me once. The chance of connecting with someone, sharing infinite possibilities and being changed by them is magical. It is charged with joy. When you find someone who holds such tranquillity and takes the time for slow thoughtful communication to unfold, the world melts away in their presence.
Like the sound of the bridge cables, these connections are overlooked or silenced in the maelstrom of life. The ideas and emotions that slip through the chasms of language may contain keys to the infinite melodies of the spirit. Love in particular is notoriously slippery and elusive, impossible to pin down within the rigid confines of words. Yet it must be communicated if we are to experience ourselves as alive and present in the world.
Bridges take you across the chasm from one state to another. If you're paying attention you are changed by your passage over the bridge. There's a beautiful story in Ben Okri's "Astonishing the Gods" where the main character - who is invisible - must work out how to cross a bridge that can't be seen. The key is not to wonder how, or why, but simply to trust and follow his imagination. He learns that you must set forth on the bridge and not lose your mind through questions and hypothesis and rational demands, but finally give in to magic and mystery.
The bridge cables are calling out to be heard. They are like the ship's beacon, a sign to remind us that we move between worlds. A signal that says; "Yes. I hear you." A reassurance of our presence, that we do in fact exist, as we stumble and chance across the invisible bridges that connect us to each other.
Will the sound of the cables, played together on bridges around the world become an instrument of connection? Their voices join to form a harmonic choir escaping the bounds of earthly purpose and soar out into the ether, singing a chorus of exaltation.