Visions of listenings
(University of Oslo)
Paper short abstract:
Starting with Marcel Duchamp’s statement about the limits of human observation that “One can look at seeing but one can't hear hearing”, my paper discusses the short film “Hamburg” from the film “Thirty Two Short Films about Glenn Gould” vis-à-vis my anthropological fieldwork on music therapists who employ music listening as therapy.
Paper long abstract:
There is a moment in the short film "Hamburg" from "Thirty Two Short Films about Glenn Gould" (1993) where Gould plays one of his recorded Beethoven performances for an unknown maid in his hotel room. As the Klaviersonate unfolds, the film camera closes up on the maid and we, the film audience, are able to observe the subtle changes in her face. It is an audiovisual, hermeneutic moment where we feel invited to start guessing at what emotions and which personal memories the music produce in the listening woman. Our interpretations can only be uncertain, if not anxious, but nevertheless we are convinced that "something" happens to the woman as we observe her listening to the music. This "something", an instant of musically induced emotional change in the listening subject, contains valuable knowledge to music therapists who employ the Bonny Method of Guided Imagery of Music (GIM). In my anthropological fieldwork I observe a group of Scandinavian and North-American GIM-therapists who seek to establish a basis for knowing and predicting strong, observable responses to music in the bodies of their listening clients. In my paper I draw on "Hamburg" as well as video artist Bill Viola's work The Passions to shed light on the seemingly imperceptible, yet highly significant moments of my fieldwork. I explain how I as an ethnographer employ the techniques and insights of visual artists in order to "slow down" and, importantly, trust that which I record by my very own eyes and ears in the field.
Anxious visions and uncertain images