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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 30, No. 10. 1967.

Silence That Is Alive and Heard

Silence That Is Alive and Heard

If I were to whisper one word in a large and silent room it would not only be the whisper that is heard but also the silence that surrounds it.

If I were to drop a fragment of glass on to another fragment in the same silent room the silence that surrounds the sound would become alive and would display to me aspects of that sound that may not otherwise be apparent. The silence reinforces the sound, provides the background to it, and marks the depth the sound can reach.

Silence and sound are parts of each other and for sound to be examined it must be examined against silence.

Miss Anna Lockwood's Glass Concert at Downstage last week presented sounds created from and with glass. The sounds were not arranged in patterns but were presented alone and each sound demanded that the audience examine and explore it.

The silences surrounding the sounds became an integral part of the concert because of this, for the silence allows, and heightens the quality of, the examination.

The first night audience at the Glass Concert was replete with fur coats and opera glasses and also, it appeared, with a libera dose of alcohol. Not only did they disregard the silences but also the sounds in one of the most appalling displays of manners ever seen at Downstage.

Later in the week with audiences perhaps of less gentle breeding the concerts met with considerably more success. The audiences were prepared to allow each sound, each silence, and to examine.

The creation of the sounds was not explained—they appeared often from total darkness—giving another dimension in which they could be measured. Not all of them were beautiful, some grated and jarred a TV set Imploding made the whole audience start.

But the sounds were to be listened to and they did fascinate. Their origins (as diverse as a shattering car windshield and the amplified scraping of one fine piece of glass on another) were not as important as their presence. The sounds had their own forms and the focus was on the individual sounds rather than on the contrived arrangement of patterns.

Complimenting the sounds was the stage set—the mobile, a divided black and white backdrop, trees of coloured bottles, and sheets of glass. On this set lights moved and changed in colour and pace making the glass glow, reflecting pieces of coloured light back into the audience. Movies correlating with the mood of a sound were shown on the backdrop.

All this drew attention to sounds and when the set could only distract from a particular sound the theatre plunged into darkness.

Miss Lockwood's concert was important because of the new attitude it revealed to individual sounds, because of the nature and fascination of the sounds themselves, and because it revealed the fragile yet easily shattering world of the sounds from glass that it was composed of.

Following the Glass Concert, Underground Movies made in London and New York were shown to the audience. The movies which were made without care for commercial gain revealed the indulgence of their creators. They held moments of interest but did not appear as unified and ordered attempts at cinema, and from the introductory comments of filmmaker Harvey Matusow one gathered that this was the intention.

The films are exploratory in the same way that a child's painting is exploratory—the maker is given a medium, it is up to him to see what he can do in it and how far he can progress in it. Obviously for the maker the experience has been a "gas."

What is important in the movies is not what you see but more the spirit with which they were made. There does not seem to be concern with any of the trappings of conventional cinema.

While much of what was shown did not impress there were moments, as in the movie, Piano, in which poetry in the mood and movement appeared. In the movie Night Crawlers (which was filmed in negative in New York) a new perspective with regard to people moving seemed to develop.

However, the Underground Film movement as revealed here seemed to be lacking an aim and purpose. While it is reasonable to reject much of the conventional cinema, particularly the commercial side of it, there is still something that can be taken from it. To reject it entirely does not seem necessary, but to rethink much of it is very important.

— Bob Lord