TCS: Silence Will Contain All the Sounds

Good Morning!

July 18th is World Listening Day


Welcome to The Coffee Shop, just for you early risers
on Monday mornings. This is an Open Thread forum,
so if you have an off-topic opinion burning a hole in
your brainpan, feel free to add a comment.

“Still the noise in the mind: that is the first task –
then everything else will follow in time.”

― R. Murray Schafer


“The soundscape of the world is changing. Modern man is beginning to inhabit a world with an acoustic environment radically different from any he has hitherto known. These new sounds, which differ in quality and intensity from those of the past, have alerted many researchers to the dangers of an indiscriminate and imperialistic spread of more and larger sounds into every corner of man’s life. Noise pollution is now a world problem. It would seem that the world soundscape has reached an apex of vulgarity in our time, and many experts have predicted universal deafness as the ultimate consequence unless the problem can be brought quickly under control.”

R. Murray Schafer, from
The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World


Today’s Sound-Related History:

1821 – Pauline Viardot born, French mezzo-soprano, pianist, educator and composer; Franz Liszt considered her a “woman composer of genius”

1850 – Rose Hartwick Thorpe born, American author and poet, known for the narrative poem she wrote as a teenager, Curfew Must Not Ring To-Night 

1877 – Thomas Edison records the human voice for the first time

1933 – Raymond Murray Schafer born, Canadian composer, author, acoustic ecologist, and environmentalist; best known for the World Soundscape Project, his major role in developing the concept of soundscape, and his book, The Tuning of the World.  In 1978, Schafer became the first recipient of the Jules Léger Prize for New Chamber Music

1968 – The Grateful Dead release their Anthem of the Sun album

1995 – The Divje Babe Bone Flute, oldest known musical instrument, made from a 45,000-year-old bear bone, is found in the Indrijca River Valley, Slovenia. Musicians have been able to made sounds and music with reproductions of the original 

2010 – World Listening Day: founded to bring attention to Acoustic Ecology, also known as soundscape studies – the relationship between humans and the sounds around them. It was inaugurated on the birthday (see 1933) of Raymond Murray Schafer, one of the founders of the field of Acoustic Ecology


“We abuse the land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us.
When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to
use it with love and respect.”

“Only the mountain has lived long enough to listen objectively to the howl
of the wolf.”

Aldo Leopold, American philosopher, writer, and ecologist


The Sound of the Trees

by Robert Frost

I wonder about the trees.
Why do we wish to bear
Forever the noise of these
More than another noise
So close to our dwelling place?
We suffer them by the day
Till we lose all measure of pace,
And fixity in our joys,
And acquire a listening air.
They are that that talks of going
But never gets away;
And that talks no less for knowing,
As it grows wiser and older,
That now it means to stay.
My feet tug at the floor
And my head sways to my shoulder
Sometimes when I watch trees sway,
From the window or the door.
I shall set forth for somewhere,
I shall make the reckless choice
Some day when they are in voice
And tossing so as to scare
The white clouds over them on.
I shall have less to say,
But I shall be gone.

“The Sound of the Trees” is in the public domain.

Robert Frost (1874 – 1963) is one of the most celebrated American poets. He was born in San Francisco, but lived most of his life in the Eastern U.S., much of it in Vermont and Massachusetts. He published numerous volumes of poetry, and won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry four times: in 1924 for New Hampshire, for Collected Poems in 1931, for A Further Range in 1937, and in 1943 for A Witness Tree.


The Listeners

by Walter de la Mare

‘Is there anybody there?’ said the Traveller,
  Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grasses
  Of the forest’s ferny floor:
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
  Above the Traveller’s head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
  ‘Is there anybody there?’ he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
  No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,
  Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
  That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
  To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
  That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
  By the lonely Traveller’s call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
  Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
  ’Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
  Louder, and lifted his head:—
‘Tell them I came, and no one answered,
  That I kept my word,’ he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
  Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
  From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
  And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,
 When the plunging hoofs were gone.

The Listeners – from Come Hither: A Collection of Rhymes and Poems for the Young of All Ages, by Walter del la Mare –Knopf (1957)

Walter de la Mare (1873–1956), an extremely prolific English poet and writer with a vivid gift for storytelling, a master of atmosphere, especially eerie emanations and ghostly visitations. He was born in Kent, in southern England, son of a Bank of England official. His mother was related to Robert Browning. Educated in London at St. Paul’s Cathedral Choir School, he worked for Anglo-American Oil Company (1890-1908)  in London as a statistic clerk. His first story, ‘Kismet’ (1895), was published under ‘Walter Ramal.’ In 1908, he was awarded a yearly government pension of £100, and devoted himself entirely to writing. Now, better remembered for children’s stories and novels, his edition of collected poems was almost a 1,000 pages. Walter de la Mare twice declined a knighthood before he became a Companion of Honour (1948), and a member of the Order of Merit (1953).  


It’s a relief to hear the rain. It’s the sound of
billions of drops, all equal, all equally committed
to falling, like a sudden outbreak of democracy.

 Alice Oswald, British poet


Raining in Bedlam

by Dorothy Porter

An afternoon storm cracks
into thunder

the sky churns black
boiling over
with hailstones
banging on the tin roof
piling up into white
little ice turd heaps
on the grass

it’s that dead hour
three o’clock

‘The hour Our Lord died’
Frank hisses
his land hair alive
with static

just my luck
to be stuck
with a crackling Catholic
when it’s raining in Bedlam.

“Raining in Bedlam” from What a Piece of Work, © 1999 by Dorothy Porter – Picador (Pan MacMillan Australia)

Dorothy Porter (1954-2008) Australian poet born in Sydney to a barrister father and a chemistry teacher mother. She was an open lesbian, and moved to Melbourne in 1993 to be with her partner, novelist Andrea Goldsmith. The couple were coincidentally both shortlisted for the 2003 Miles Franklin Award for literature. Porter had a series of poetry collections published between 1975 and 1992 which were mainly known to other Australian poets, until The Monkey’s Mask was published in 1994. Porter said, “The Monkey’s Mask – the book for which I couldn’t even find a publisher – suddenly becomes a film, a play, and the BBC has just done a radio dramatisation of it in London. I admit at times I have deliberately done things to make money. But The Monkey’s Mask I wrote for the sheer hell of it.” Dorothy Featherstone Porter died from cancer complications on December 10, 2008, survived by her partner Andrea  Goldsmith, her parents, her two sisters, and her cat, Wystan, named after W. H. Auden.


“Since there is no real silence,
Silence will contain all the sounds,
All the words, all the languages,
All knowledge, all memory.”

Dejan Stojanovic, Serbian poet


The Languages I Speak

by Mahtem Shiferraw 

The languages I speak come to me
in my dreams. One is a serpent, but
I don’t know which one. Toothless
and with blue venom, it enters my veins,
and I let it breathe black blood. When we
shed our skin, we stand, suddenly naked
and alone, our belly bloated with thousands
of words we do not recall. We call this
learning. The learning we do takes
years to muster, and never leaves. One
is an empty cloak, but its one, red eye
is turned backward. It does not see me,
or it does, and I do not know. The hissing
sound we hear is not new, but slowly whorls
our ears, our movements. On cloudy days, it
sounds like music too, but do not let it fool you.
I do not ask where I fit within the cloak – inside
or out. One is a cloud that refuses to rain –
this one drags itself behind me, its body the exact
shape of my shadow, and though fuchsia, or burgundy,
I know it is also of a bleeding shade. Its mist, an
old horror, coming back home. And this one –
this is absence, the smell of something missing,
or mad. Both. It does not leave, and somehow
I find it hidden everywhere: a toothache I
cannot get rid of.

“The Languages I Speak,” © by Mahtem Shiferraw, was published by the online magazine World Literature Today in May 2018

Mahtem Shiferraw is a poet, visual artist, and cultural activist from Ethiopia and Eritrea. Her chapbook, Behind Walls & Glass, was released by Finishing Line Press. She is the 2015 winner of the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poetry. Her poetry collections Fuchsia and Your Body Is War were published by University of Nebraska Press. She is the founder of Anaphora Arts, a nonprofit organization advancing the works of writers and artists of color. She divides her time between Los Angeles, California, and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.


The Sound of the Sun

by George Bradley

It makes one all right, though you hadn’t thought of it,
A sound like the sound of the sky on fire, like Armageddon,
Whistling and crackling, the explosions of sunlight booming
As the huge mass of gas rages into the emptiness around it.
It isn’t a sound you are often aware of, though the light speeds
To us in seconds, each dawn leaping easily across a chasm
Of space that swallows the sound of that sphere, but
If you listen closely some morning, when the sun swells
Over the horizon and the world is still and still asleep,
You might hear it, a faint noise so far inside your mind
That it must come from somewhere, from light rushing to darkness,
Energy burning towards entropy, towards a peaceful solution, 
Burning brilliantly, spontaneously, in the middle of nowhere,
And you, too, must make a sound that is somewhat like it,
Though that, of course, you have no way of hearing at all.

 “The Sound of the Sun” from Terms to be Met, © 1986 by George Bradley – Yale University Press

George Bradley (1953 – ) American poet, editor, anthologist, translator from Italian, and fiction writer. He has also worked in construction, as a sommelier, a copywriter, and an importer-distributor of Italian olive oil. His poetry collections include The Paradise of Assassins, Of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, The Fire Fetched Down, A Few of Her Secrets, and A Stroll in the Rain: New and Selected Poems.


“The cholera had broken out in its most fatal form and
people were dying like flies … That was why the place
was so quiet. It was true that there was no one in the
bungalow but herself and the little rustling snake.”

Frances Hodgson Burnett, from chapter one of
The Secret Garden



by Nazik al-Malaika

It is night.
Listen to the echoing wails
rising above the silence in the dark

the agonized, overflowing grief
clashing with the wails.
In every heart there is fire,
in every silent hut, sorrow,
and everywhere, a soul crying in the dark.

It is dawn.
Listen to the footsteps of the passerby,
in the silence of the dawn.
Listen, look at the mourning processions,
ten, twenty, no… countless.

Everywhere lies a corpse, mourned
without a eulogy or a moment of silence.

Humanity protests against the crimes of death.

Cholera is the vengeance of death.

Even the gravedigger has succumbed,
the muezzin is dead,
and who will eulogize the dead?

O Egypt, my heart is torn by the ravages of death.

– translated by Husain Haddawy, with Nathalie Handal

“Cholera” © by Nazik al-Malaila  from  The Poetry of Arab Women: A Contemporary Anthology, edited by Nathalie Handal – Interlink Books, 2001 edition

Nazik al-Malaika (1923-2007) Iraqi poet, considered one of the most influential contemporary Iraqi women poets. She was born in Baghdad to a mother who was also a poet, and a father who was a teacher.  She wrote her first poem at age 10. Al-Malaika graduated from the College of Arts in Baghdad in 1944, and later earned a Master’s degree in comparative literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She published several books of poetry. Al-Malaika left Iraq in 1970 with her husband Abdel Hadi Mahbooba and their family, following the rise of the Baath Party to power. She died in Cairo, Egypt, in 2007 at the age of 83.


“The sweetest sounds I’ll ever hear
Are still inside my head
The kindest words I’ll ever know
Are waiting to be said …”

– Richard Rogers, “The Sweetest Sounds”
lyrics, from No Strings


Two Haiku

by Chiyo-ni

moonlit night–
a cricket sings
out on a stone

but for their voices
the herons would disappear–
the morning’s snow

Chiyo-ni (1703-1775) born during the Edo period’s artistic renaissance, one of Japan’s most remarkable women poets. Her family were scroll makers, so they mounted the work of many poets and artists. Chiyo-ni began writing poetry at an early age, and her father recognized her talent. When she was 12, he sent her as a servant to the home of a haiku master. Born nine years after Basho’s death, she apprenticed with two of his disciples. In her twenties, she made the arduous trek over the mountains to Kyoto, where she attended haiku meetings – often the only woman in the room. There were at least 300 other women poets at the time, but women’s conduct was narrowly defined, and most females entered the art world through husbands or brothers. One of Chiyo-ni’s earliest haiku (written at the prompt of a Zen master) became widely known. But the deaths of both her parents, her brother, and his wife led to her running the family business for at least 15 years, until her niece’s family took over. At age 52, Chiyo-ni took vows as a Jodo-Shinshu Buddhist nun. This sect was open to lay people who did not wish to enter a Zen monastery. She said she became a nun “to teach her heart to be like the clear water that flows night and day.” It enabled her to pursue her work, and to travel. In spite of criticism of “women’s haiku,” Chiyo-ni published two collections of haiku in her 60s. A hundred anthologies included her poems while she was alive and an additional 20 after her death. In 1764, Lord Maeda of the Kaga providence commissioned her to inscribe 21 of her poems in calligraphy on scrolls and fans, which the government gifted to Korean envoys. Her health declined and she spent most of the last five years of her life in bed, but continuing to write, until her death at age 72.



About wordcloud9

Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for over 50 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband.
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