CONCH

NIELS MUNK PLUM

CONCH


rising from the sea is no neptune. a silver greyhound

with shell ears walks out. dry as a bone. I get

an impulse to whisper in his ear.

all of the sudden before I can get a word in I’m frozen.

like a statue. like the waltz that stops mid air.

the dog gets thru to me. telepathic. lee. wisdom rythum.

the story goes:

one does not speak in a shell

one listens.

I’m ashamed but I catch on quick. press my ear against

his conch shell ear. first, as expected, I hear sounds

of the sea. murmurings. then gradually other music.

utter words.

words of power. words of light. as innocent and corrupting

as an alley. as seductive as the pigeon blood. The white

whore. the metaphor. alchemy of the

arf. arf.


                                                                           / Patti Smith

TO HEAR THE OCEAN

IN A CONCH

THE OCEAN IS VAST AND BLUE. Wet and glistening. Seven planes of free sight. The domain of all the mysteries which lie there beneath a moving surface. It’s sound eternal. Waves against the coast goes like a humming into my ear. The attack; a fall of the wave, the bridge; a pull of the element, the force of the moon.

 

A spiral staircase on a painting. The bearded male figure who sits beneath has through history been deemed a philosopher or an alchemist. A woman tends to the fire. Up the staircase is a hidden person in the shadows. The title of the piece gives the man the verb meditation. There is a darkness emitting from the spiral staircase, could it float further out into the room?

I release the conch from my ear. The distant sound disappears.

 

The article Why do you hear the ocean in a seashell? On ABC.Science explains the conch is the perfect resonant cavity, when the ambience of your surroundings enter the broad sea shell mouth the frequencies spiral back and forth. The human brain is superb at acknowledging unknown patterns as something familiar. The everyday life is a sea of sound, and our brain is good at sorting out things it does not need, hence ambience will lose it presence into a bigger picture. But when captured by the shape of the conch the soundwaves will transform into actual waves in our minds.

In my hands I hold the conch. In a second the sea felt real, the endless blue seemed real. What power does an object hold, could the shell be more than just a medium for frequencies, but also a potential key to something unknown?


Ralph grasped the idea and hit the shell with air from his diaphragm. Immediately the thing sounded. A deep, harsh note boomed under the palms, spread through the intricacies of the forest and echoed back from the pink granite of the mountain. Clouds of birds rose from the treetops, and something squealed and ran in the undergrowth.


The conch as an instrument has been around since Neolithic times, it is found in several early cultures, where it has held an important position towards linking the physical world with the divine.

 

The person, who is in tune with the universe, becomes like a radio receiver through which the voice of the universe is transmitted.”

 

The Nada practice in yoga turns your attention towards your sense of hearing. Listening to the sounds around you for long and intensely, you will very likely be able to hear a continuous high-pitched inner sound reminiscing of white noise. A sound without a beginning and end in the frame of time and space.

Is it a notion of nothing or something. The philosophy mentions the problem by placing the sound in between on a spectre of emptiness and suchness. Where emptiness could be compared with saying NOto the phenomenal world, suchness offers a YES. A thought, a daffodil or a mountain may not be separate solid things in a bigger picture, what offers the such would be the underlying notion of reality and presence.

 

What is inside of the conch is eternal, as it will be there always, whenever you pick the shell up and bring it to your ear. The notion of it being an instrument is only an extension of having to destroy the conch. A hole will be made at the top of the shell through which air will be blown like it was a member of the brass.

 

Notions of destroying an eternal sound to create new –

 

THE MIND TRAVELS TO THE SEASIDE in a flicker of a moment and back again. Imagine the frequencies spiralling back and forth inside the case. Oh I was there and back again with a flash. What is then real right now? I wish that were it.

 

The woman tends to the fire, a light that she made herself. The man sits at his desk; light shines in on him from a window. In the midst of his dwelling thoughts the outside world interferes with the thoughts in his mind. The darkness resides up the staircase; can we see a person inhabiting the shadows? Will she go up into that which we cannot see or down into the living space of the house?

 

“Keep in mind that everything around us consists of energy. That energy is made up of information designed to help us more intensely sense the awareness of life than our normal five senses afford us. You can find this awareness in the simplest of forms, like that of a conch shell on a stretch of beach. The benefits are immediate and for those who deal with insomnia, hold the possibility of a restful sleep.” Writes Linda Lauren on the Huffington Post. By listening to the ocean in the conch, you will be able to find comfort, and some people might even remember things more clearly. Lauren devises us to use the conch as a tool in our everyday lives, to meditate with natural sounds, breathing and by giving us self-time to do so.

 

Sound is much like light. It’s a wave that travels out from a definitive source. What makes the two different is, that light can travel through a vacuum, f.eg. the nothingness of space. The beams of sun that hits the earth. Sound needs a medium to travel through, a carrier of some sort. Water, metal, glass, air. Sound is the energy things produce when they vibrate. Physically the sound is being produced and travels through it’s medium. Psychologically the sound becomes something in our minds, we make something of the waves that are captured by the conch of the ear. Through an associative process, we as humans recognise sounds by empirical methods. We know or assume how things may sound and use what we have experienced so farto place them into systems.

 

Music has held an important role in history, and has always been used as a tool of power. Music was composed to reach a direct link with the gods or royalty. Musical artists were in periods perceived as the media of the heavenly. Earliest the conch horns were used through rites, to summon the gods, or to summon the masses for meetings.


Silence now. Ralph lifted the cream and pink shell to his knees and a sudden breeze scattered light over the platform. He was uncertain whether to stand up or remain sitting. He looked sideways to his left, toward the bathing pool. Piggy was sitting near but giving no help.
Ralph cleared his throat.
"Well then."
All at once he found he could talk fluently and explain what he had to say. He passed a hand through his fair hair and spoke.


As predecessors to scientists, alchemists began to use a method of experimentation to answer questions concerning the natural elements of the world. In the European tradition of Alchemy a lot of the work starts in a belief of the elements. There are five; water, fire, earth, air and aether. Aether is a word describing the clear space in the sky or the higher planes in the heavens.
The experiments of the Alchemists are popularly known as the attempts of turning basic materials into gold and the search for an eternal life.
Structurally alchemistry died out sometime after chemistry was implemented as a more successful way to investigate the physical world. Anyhow the early notions of trying to understand, explain and aim for the stars has not died out over the years.


At the base of the staircase we see the main room in a home lit by two light sources. Through the window the sun is shining clearly, rising from the logs in the other corner, the flames are being kept alive, and lights up its maker, the woman tending to it’s needs. Total darkness emits from the top of the staircase; veiling us from what is upstairs. The woman looks into the flames; her male companion dressed in sunlight is reading a book; mind picturing a world someplace else than here. Both of them have their backs turned to the spiral staircase and its spectre of light dissolving into the pitch black.

 

Close your eyes.                                                         Open your eyes.

 

“When you blow air strongly through your pursed lips over the mouth of an empty bottle, you will hear a musical note. The sound is resonating in the bottle. You and I might call it a "bottle" — but a physical acoustician would call it a "resonant cavity". Getting back to our seashell, the inside is hard with an almost-glazed finish — so it's an excellent reflector of sound (it's a resonator). It also has quite an irregular shape — so it will resonate at many frequencies.”

 

To resonate can mean one of the following: 1) to produce or be filled with a deep, full, reverberating sound. 2) To evoke images, memories and emotions. 3) To produce electrical or mechanical resonance.

 

There is no need to theorize about what this inner vibration might be. Just turn your attention towards it. If you are able to hear it, you will be able to use it as an active tool in your meditation practice. In the same way that one would use the breath as an object of awareness. Let the inner sound fill up the whole space of your attention.


"And another thing. We can't have everybody talking at once. We'll have to have
'Hands up' like at school."
He held the conch before his face and glanced round the mouth.
"Then I'll give him the conch."
"Conch?"
"That's what this shell's called. I'll give the conch to the next person to speak. He can hold it when he's speaking."


I LISTEN AND HEAR THE TREMBLING WAVES, the blue skies and the blowing wind. My attention is only focused towards the plane that is stemming out of the eggshell white spiralling object. The intrinsic behaviour of the conch. Its shape from the ocean, a body of water; the element of change.

To desire something is to need to have something. The urge to possess something. But how does one acquire something one cannot buy, something not physical but more so psychological. That vast ocean inside of the shell. Something you believe in so strongly, that even without the idea, life would be less.

 

In 1972 Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari writes following concerning the process of an artist:

The artist is the master of objects; he puts before us shattered, burned, broken-down objects, converting them to the regime of desiring-machines, breaking down is part of the very functioning of desiring-machines(…) The work of art is itself a desiring machine. The artist stores up his treasures so as to create an immediate explosion, and that is why, to his way of thinking, destructions can never take place as rapidly as they ought to.

 

In 2014 in Oaxaca, Mexico, artist Helga Fassonaki dwells on sounds from the city. During a residency she has to come up with a new artistic process, when her former intentions are shattered by a sensory overload when facing the life of daily Oaxaca. Instead she visits the churches, as holy resonating cavities they dissect the noise from the outside, and transform themselves into sound oases, where Helga is able to reflect on the materiality of the medium, hence the vast spaces never were soundless, but ideal for meditation on the resonances which were changing from day to day. The Holy Conch project ended up as a walking tour, where 18 churches or listening spots were outlined on a map for visitors to experience the sites with own ears.

 

Patti Smith does not speak into the shell. She catches on quickly and listens to the dog’s conch ears. They tell her about the secrets. Words of light. Metaphors. Alchemy.

 

Recording sounds around in his everyday life, artist Aki Onda leaves his material on the shelf for one or two years, before he rediscovers the sounds with a deteriorated picture of the memories clinging on to the sounds. Video artist Jonas Mekas created his five hour long experimental film As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty(2000) using home footage. Trying to expand on his life. This is an extract of the speak from the film -

I have never been able really to figure out where my life begins and where it ends. I have never ever ever been able to figure it all out, what it’s all about, what it all means.

 I began now, to put all these rolls of films together. The first idea was to keep them chronological but then I gave up and I just began splicing them together by chance the way that I found them on the shelf, because I really don’t know, where any piece of my life belongs. So let it be, let it go, just by pure chance, this order is some kind of order. An order of it’s own which I do not really understand. Same as I never understood life around me. The real life as they say, the real people. I never understood them. I never understand them. And I do not really want to understand them.”

 

Aki Onda has been very inspired in his process from Mekas, and states with his recordings, that the architecture of human memory is not a logical one, unlike the architecture of language.

In 2012 he makes an exhibition together with Ken Jacobs, giving sound to an object made by Jacobs; The Nervous Magic Lantern. The nervous magic lantern is almost like a dream machine. The device has a spinning shutter, which sends out a flickering light. Not quite unlike a dream machine, the fluttering beams of light seem to make human the human mind expand on reality.

 

Tony Conrad used in 1966 the same method in his experimental film The Flicker. The main event of the film is the changing between a white and a black screen. The sequence is continually narrated over a time frame of thirty minutes, where it intensifies.

 

 Close your eyes

  Open your eyes

     Close your eyes

 

      Open your eyes

 

        Close your eyes

          Open your eyes

            Close your eyes

 

               Open your eyes

 

                   Close your eyes

                      Open your eyes

                          Close your eyes

 

                              Open your eyes

 

                                      Close your eyes

                                             Open your eyes

                                                         Close your eyes

 

                                                                         Open your eyes

 

                                                                                       Close your eyes

                                                                                                      Open your eyes

                                                                                                                       Close your eyes


                                                                                                                                           Open your eyes -

 

Ceremonially, Ralph laid the conch on the trunk beside him as a sign that the speech was over. What sunlight reached them was level.
Jack stood up and took the conch.


On the English countryside in the autumn of 1797 Samuel Taylor Coleridge drifts off into an opium dazed afternoon nap. Three hours later he wakes up with 300 lines of poetry on his mind. He starts writing immediately. At line 54 a visitor knocks on the door of his house, and the spell is broken. When he one hour later sits down to finish what he started, the fountain of inspiration has vanished, and he can only remember the shadows of what was to become. The unfinished poem Kubla Khanis left at its incomplete state for 21 years when at last Lord Byron urges for the poem to become published.

 

The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice! (lines 31–36)

 

The shadows stowed away in caves were crawling out to see the light of day. The past is glorified. The artist is the beholder of the key to the heavens.

As a reaction to the industrialization, European artists wondered out into nature. Their thoughts flew up into the sky, where a dome of ideas would inflict the real life on earth. If everything is meaningless, the meaning had to be on the other side of the world. The artist was able to take you there.

 

In Jungian psychology, the psychopomp is a mediator between the unconscious and conscious realms. It is symbolically personified in dreams as a wise man or woman, or sometimes as a helpful animal.

The darkness of the spiral staircase. She is waiting up there. Soon the light will disappear as the day moves on. Her bleeding shadows will drench the room in what we are not able to see. The light through the window will float away. The flickering from the fireplace will die out if forgotten to be tended to.

 

The conch is the world’s oldest instrument. It has been around since Neolithic times, it is found in several early cultures, where it has held an important position towards linking the physical world with the divine.

 

 

LANGUAGE HAS CREATED A BRIDGE between the conscious and what is not.

Silver sparks – lightning over the fields – a storm rising over the world - waves as high as skyscrapers – flames from the sun will burn the eyes - the push and pull of the tide.

 

The conch is lying there on the beach. I pick it up. Listening into it I hear the ocean, how long has it been lying there? I would like to google it but as an attempt to be meditating I left my phone at home.

 

Alexander Dolinin analyses the short story “Signs and Symbols” by Vladimir Nabokov (1948) In the story an elderly couple goes to visit their mentally ill son on his birthday. Not knowing what they should get for him, they buy him a gift basket with ten jars with one jelly in each. Dolinin speaks about recurring numbers in the story, and how they might hint to and eventual discovery of how the story will end. The gift basket is mentioned five times during the story. It contains ten jellies, only five of which we get to know the flavour – apricot, grape, beech plum, quince and crab apple: a series that mimics the deterioration of the boy from the sweetest to the sourest. The number ten could here be presented as the double of the number of five, and hence we only know the identity of five out of ten jellies, it can imply a duality of being split into known/unknown halves.

 

I made some notes that extracted meaning from what William s. Burroughs wrote in The Electronic Revolution(1970)      

      Illusion is a revolutionary weapon             TO SPREAD RUMOURS
      Language is a virus.     

Language has been placed into society to systemize, organize and keep things under control. It is easier to comprehend the world, when you have words to box things doings and concepts. A way out = the language of scrambling. Creating new meanings against the system. To harm the masters with their own tools!

Professor Maria João Gamito had given me this essay she told me that inside the circle only chaos existed. She told me that I had to become a part of the circle, but the advice was given not to be visible as words are mightier than swords.

 

Stian Grøgaard makes four squares on the whiteboard and explains to the class the ideas of knowledge according to Wittgenstein. [A = B] when you experience something and realize your actions have consequences. [A = A] it is only logical that what you see is what you get or that [A ≠ A] because in fact you were proved wrong. The fourth box [     ] is empty. The situation of having the box there means that one have to have a system / language to be able to make the box. This box contains the knowledge of grammar and how to interweave words into meaning.

 

BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE BLACK WHITE  BLACK          WHITE           BLACK          WHITE

 

Residing up the spiral staircase the darkness might burst into the room slowly pacing closer to us as we go forward. The woman tends to a light she has created herself, a spark of fire, desirable flames used for staying alive. The man sits on his chair emitted in light from life outside reassuringly clear, the world is moving on around him, even if he is dwelling in meditation over some abstract topic in his mind.

What is upstairs is covered in shadows. Unknown things crave attention because it is humanity’s deepest desire to know more and it is so easy to go up those stairs, why don’t we just do it?

Is a person staring down into the room? Is a body falling to the floor?

 

Ralph heard the great rock before he saw it. He was aware of a jolt in the earth that came to him through the soles of his feet, and the breaking sound of stones at the top of the cliff. Then the monstrous red thing bounded across the neck and he flung himself flat while the tribe shrieked.

The rock struck Piggy a glancing blow from chin to knee; the conch exploded into a thousand white fragments and ceased to exist. Piggy, saying nothing, with no time for even a grunt, traveled through the air sideways from the rock, turning over as he went. The rock bounded twice and was lost in the forest. Piggy fell forty feet and landed on his back across the square red rock in the sea. His head opened and stuff came out and turned red. Piggy's arms and legs twitched a bit, like a pig's after it has been killed. Then the sea breathed again in a long, slow sigh, the water boiled white and pink over the rock; and when it went, sucking back again, the body of Piggy was gone.

This time the silence was complete. Ralph's lips formed a word but no sound came.

 

ENDLESS BLUE,GLISTENING IN THE SUNLIGHT, a body in eternal movement, its transparency disguised by its epic surface; a mirror of the sky a colour what is the spirituality of being -

 

Swallowed by the waves Hermes flew down to reach for the cold body. The young body not yet frozen not yet gone. The soul seeping out of the body like golden resin ready to get crystallized into a shiny stone-like material for the next millions of years.

Hermes caught on to the edges of the sticky existence, human souls, as ephemeral as changing morning skies in the sequence from darkness to light, a birth, the gift of life so easily given back to the universe by any simple mistake.

 

In the great sea of Okeanos a solo island lies. Desolate and lonely cliffs, struck by cascades of waves.

 

An opening leads into a cave where a descending staircase unwinds.

 

She hides in the shadows of the staircase.

 

A pool with glowing water. She stares into it and sees her reflection.

 

A resting female body. The fire burns in the corner. A moon shines through the window.

 

A child’s body touches the surface of water.

 

Hermes has travelled this way many times after all he is the messenger and can go beyond distances in a flash.

 

The dog has shell ears it travels with the waves. She hears frequencies stemming out from the inside. A language which she does not understand.

 

THE BOY LOOKS INTO THE GLOWING WATER. Who is he?

 

Water, metal, glass, air,he travels through the distances

 

In his meditation he fell asleep, the moon is shining through the window, the fireplace is dying out in the corner, he cannot see much else in the room. A black object is lying on the ground same size as a body. What sudden change induces this cold hard state.

 

Waves beat towards the cliffs.

 

William S. Burroughs considers the possibilities of the human voice being a weapon.

 

I consider the object of the conch lying in my hand. My mother tells me that there’s an ocean caught in the depths of the shell. I try to look into the opening to see if I can get a glimpse of the water.

 

The skies collected my ideas and blew them away into her pool.

 

White noise from inside, our blood is rushing through our veins until the day it doesn’t anymore.

She draws an empty circle in the sand.

 

When is something ever completely quiet? ambience said and resonated over the fields.

 

He forgets who he is as his skull opens up against the cliffs.

 

The dreams changed their shape into a dome, we drew pictures on cave walls and forgot about it over time.

 

There is no need to theorize about what this inner vibration might be. Just turn your attention towards it. If you are able to hear it, you will be able to use it as an active tool in your meditation practice. In the same way that one would use the breath as an object of awareness. Let the inner sound fill up the whole space of your attention.

 

I cannot see the ocean. The dog barks and returns into the blue.

 

I throw the conch away. It is a cavity mediating the ever-desirable feeling of wanting more in my veins.  

by niels munk plum

// MARCH 2018