The Domestic Soundscape making, listening, thinking+44(0)7835136201
f.ford@brookes.ac.uk

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In praise of boring weekends


What’s really going on, what we’re experiencing, the rest, all the rest, where is it? How should we take account of, question, describe what happens every day and recurs everyday: the banal, the quotidian, the obvious, the common, the ordinary, the infra-ordinary, the background noise, the habitual?

To question the habitual. But that’s just it, we’re habituated to it. We don’t question it, it doesn’t question us, it doesn’t seem to pose a problem, we live it without thinking, as if it carried within it neither question nor answers, as if it weren’t the bearer of any information. This is not longer even conditioning, it’s anaesthesia. We sleep through our lives in a dreamless sleep. But where is our life? Where is our body? Where is our space?

How are we to speak of these ‘common things’, how to track them down rather, how to flush them out, wrest them from the dross in which they remain mired, how to give them a meaning, a tongue, to let them, finally, speak of what is, of what we are.

– Georges Perec, The Infraordinary

I like the dull

– Karen, Karen magazine

I love Georges Perec’s restless piece of writing about the importance of examining daily life; the idea that the most profound questions in life – who we are, what we are – might best be found by examining what is banal and everyday to us is one I also subscribe to, albeit it through a sonic focus.

My week ahead is busy and involves driving to Dartmoor to talk about a really exciting project with Paula and to catch up with my oldest friend, Dorrie. Later I travel to Brussels to work on an intensive, 4-day-long workshop exploring the soundscape of the city with one of my favourite SOUND collaborators, Valeria Merlini! The workshop is part of Tuned City 2013 and I am really looking forward to it. There will be a large group of students, and we are well-resourced with space to work in, kit to work with, and a fantastic group of practitioners around us. I picture eating frites and enjoying the occasional glass of Kriek; working hard; staying up late; fizzing with sonic production TO DO lists; and discovering unexpected sonic textures.

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FRITES! (Although these are Leuven Frites)

It’s going to be amazing! This Spring is turning out to be exhilarating, and I am grateful for all the opportunities coming my way. However I cannot deal with all the gadding about and craziness that pursuing a career as a sound artist entails without having the all-important spiritual sustenance of boring weekends.

I LOVE BORING WEEKENDS!

When I am stretched across several projects based in several places at once, I yearn to stomp down my well-trodden, muddy stretch of Canal towpath; to cook in my own messy kitchen; to play with the cat; to knit on my sofa; and to write on here about such wondrous normal things as bricks, bread and wool.

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Joey – another massive fan of BORING WEEKENDS

I am consoled by going to our local supermarket and buying all our staple items, and by the familiar sounds and textures of my house. When I am away from home, I miss my domestic soundscape. I miss the low drone of cars hedging their way into gaps along the crowded kerbs; the Robin and the Red Kites and the Blackbirds who sing in the skies around here and make it sound like home; the aeroplanes that pass with such regularity overhead; and the sounds of our domestic appliances churning through the never-ending laundry and dish-washing. I miss watching the squirrel steal the walnuts off our tree, and the ungainly wood-pigeons greedily hoovering up everything we leave on the bird table.

The economics of ARTWERLD are such that it is rare to get paid to stay in your own house, in your own locale, documenting its details and specificities and drawing deeply from the rich well of SAMENESS that makes it home. Far more opportunities are available which involve pinging all over the world for INTERNATIONAL RESIDENCIES, which – though amazing – are somewhat at odds with things like keeping a garden or having any animals more dependent than a cat in my care (ducks and rabbits, for example). There is a persistent idea that you need constant stimulation and NEWNESS in order to be creative, but I embrace ‘the new’ rather steadily, and instead am nourished by ‘the same’ things. All the activities which I find most inspiring – listening, walking, reading, gardening, knitting, writing, drawing, thinking, building rich friendships, making my own clothes and spinning my own yarns – require a peaceful base of operations and some degree of routine. I am amazed at the epic luxury that just staying at home and working on my work apparently represents in today’s cultural economy. When did it get so difficult to be introspective and home-bound, and to insist on learning and making things slowly?

I’m realising that if I can’t realistically be here all the time, then I can nourish my deep need for home with periods of rootedness between giddy bursts of travel. Hence, THE BORING WEEKEND is becoming an essential tenet chez moi!

This weekend has been beautifully boring.

There has been knitting.

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There has been the washing of woollen items and the cooking of tasty things.

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Left to right: wool wash, preserved lemons, fresh Basil

I have been riffing on a green/blue/brown/yellow/cream theme… a colour dirge found on my bookshelves, in my sock-drawer, in my knitting basket, in a favourite vintage plaid dress and in the weirdly tron-like cover of a vintage record befittingly entitled “Village Country Atmospheres”.

The themes finds a sonic dimension in the sounds of waking up to the loud wail of the grey-skied wind whipping round the brown fences, and in the grey drizzle that attends fetching green chives in for dinner. There are bright acoustics in briefly blue skies, filled with honking brown geese. Lavash bread breaks with a papery brown crunch, and I fancy that the soft thunk of crushing garlic is cream-coloured.

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We’ve made shashlick for lunch today, and we had lavash bread pizzas for dinner last night out of my Estonian cook book. We’ve got Sam here for the weekend, and yesterday Mark cleaned the kitchen and the bathroom while I hoovered the stairs. Yesterday we walked by the Kennet & Avon with Mark’s dad, and his insane Springer Spaniel – Milly – explored the bushes and rolled in the puddles enthusiastically. I went to Weight-Watchers and discovered I had lost half a pound. We ate sausages for lunch in the pub yesterday. We drank a bottle of wine in the evening and watched the 2012 version of “Judge Dredd” and Kevin McCloud poncing around with alpacas and jet engines in pursuit of his tres luxurious “manshed”. This morning we had a lie-in and Joey came to lie on us and a pigeon cooed down the chimney into our bedroom. Tonight we shall watch “Got to Dance” and I will cast on The Next Knitted Thing.

For this thoroughly normal weekend I am profoundly glad. I will remember it with a big grin – a green/blue/brown/yellow/cream hued smile – when I am drinking Belgian beers in Brussels next Friday and missing out on sleep in an exciting, new, completely un-boring and exotic-to-me city with amazing Valeria.

I’ll close with this fantastic poem by Wendy Cope which you are sure to enjoy if any of what I’ve written here has chimed with your own experiences; it’s one of my favourites.

I hope you are having A BRILLIANTLY BORING WEEKEND! Xx

(Poem #1444) Being Boring

If you ask me ‘What’s new?’, I have nothing to say
Except that the garden is growing.
I had a slight cold but it’s better today.
I’m content with the way things are going.
Yes, he is the same as he usually is,
Still eating and sleeping and snoring.
I get on with my work. He gets on with his.
I know this is all very boring.

There was drama enough in my turbulent past:
Tears and passion-I’ve used up a tankful.
No news is good news, and long may it last,
If nothing much happens, I’m thankful.
A happier cabbage you never did see,
My vegetable spirits are soaring.
If you’re after excitement, steer well clear of me.
I want to go on being boring.

I don’t go to parties. Well, what are they for,
If you don’t need to find a new lover?
You drink and you listen and drink a bit more
And you take the next day to recover.
Someone to stay home with was all my desire
And, now that I’ve found a safe mooring,
I’ve just one ambition in life: I aspire
To go on and on being boring.

— Wendy Cope

5 Responses to In praise of boring weekends

  1. colleen says:

    This is a beautiful post, Felix. I’m delighted that you had a chance to revel in the gloriously quotidien (I so love that word) before gallivanting off to discover foreign soundscapes

    I had an entirely unboring St Patrick’s day which involved a serving of the Irish Stew that my friend serves up every year when she invites us round to celebrate. And I got a puncture at City Airport and attempted to change a tyre for the first time.

  2. Knit Nurse says:

    I can definitely relate to the joy of a boring weekend, especially when it is sandwiched between busy weeks. Great just to fall into routine and luxuriate in the glamour-free world of familiar places, people and things.

    Nice to see the preserved lemons got made!

  3. Jen says:

    Gawd I love, love, love this post !!! Yes, the Boring Weekend is essential… for me the two ticking clocks in a quiet house… (I ponder, are they synchronized??? How can they be?) The garden needs weeding… so that I may continue to ‘fetch some kale’ for dinner soup. You know… I just love to hear about what goes on in your ordinary life.. and love to mention mine. Things Ordinary may quite possibly be the new conceptual art, but then the pendulum swings. Things ordinary are definitely tv and drizzle and cleaning house. Today I am caught up in what might be ordinary in my life (after having played two 3hr StPaddys gigs on the weekend, and have sore fingers)… I want ordinary. I want walking and tea, and call it a day. :) Thanx again Felix. xx

  4. Amy says:

    So, so very true and so beautifully put. I crave the boring weekend and the comfort of the routine — especially when, as in the last two to three years, I’ve been called away from it time & again for work trips and family sorrows. Coming home again, I find there’s nothing like marching up and down my favourite hills, sticking my nose into my garden, washing up the dishes *in my own kitchen* to make me smile. And thanks for introducing me to that lovely Georges Perec essay.

  5. Jen says:

    Oh hey… I come to post, and I found I already have. This is weird ! None the less…..I’ll post again !

    You said ” There is a persistent idea that you need constant stimulation and NEWNESS in order to be creative, but I embrace ‘the new’ rather steadily, and instead am nourished by ‘the same’ things. ”

    Let me tell you, I long to be released of the need for this constant stimulation.

    Constant newness. Constant new things hauled into one’s environment. In fact, I have a motto, something I borrowed and tweek’d from Cheryll Crow

    “Want what you have, not to have what you want.”

    Translated to creativity, it surely means ‘work my resources, what is around me…. finish unfinished… do not continually stop and start something else.

    Be Here Now.

    Thanks Felix, for making me think about what opportunity I am sitting in.

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