Listening Through a Beam of Intense Darkness
Listening Through a Beam of Intense Darkness, 2015
8 mins 48 secs
Performed live for fig-2 (48/50), at the Institute of Contemporary Art, London, 30 November–6 December 2015.
On 3 December 2015, as part of Seth Ayyaz's sound exhibition Listening Through a Beam of Intense Darkness (fig-2 week 48/50, hosted at the ICA, 30 November–6 December 2015), Ayyaz performed a triptych of electroacoustic works addressing Islamic sonic culture. Makharej (2009) primarily addresses opening the spaces of the letters, drawing equally from the traditions of Qur'anic recitations (tilawa and tajwid) and sound poetry (such as Kurt Schwitters' Ursonate). The Remainder (2013) deals with theological debates from mediaeval Islamic mathematics and investigates number and algorithmic structure. the bird ghost at the zaouia (2010) is based on field recordings made by attending various religious rituals across the MENASA region. It investigates the boundary between music and non-music within Sharia (dubbed as the sama' polemic), and intervenes into space, location and place using recordings taken from Islamic sacred contexts.
The title of the elecroacoustic triptych, On the Admissibility of Sound, echos Al Ghazali's eleventh century text 'On the Permissibility of Listening To Music', a cautionary tale about the contagious effects of music as virtue or poison. The triptych is concerned with the unseen, unspoken and potentially revolutionary problematics of interrogating power in the Islamic sonic-social. Listening operates within these pieces to reveal these regimens of power.
In all three pieces contemporary electroacoustic techniques of sound synthesis and spatialization are brought to bear on 'traditional' Islamic musical concerns such as the recitation of Qur'an, adhan, voice, the admissibility of music, number theory applied to maqammat (pitch) and iqaat (rhythm).