Michal Libera’s liner notes to “The Notebooks” CD release on Bolt Records.
It’s always a bit of a drag to jump into a car with someone you barely know or had been meeting only on easily escapable occasions, especially when you know that the drive will take several hours, that you will actually be locked up with this other person for a pretty long time so already before that happens you ask yourself if there will be anything to talk about. Radio can be of help, sure, but also surely you know that sometimes the radio sound tapestry only serves to articulate the uneasiness that you are both trapped in, certainly there will always be something to talk about, say a traffic jam, a stupid signpost or a killer-driver, but still, five hours is a lot of time and it will only be five hours if we don’t get crammed in this traffic jam and it gets even worse if you remember that the five hours is merely the beginning of another two hundreds hours you are about to spend together after you get to where you are heading and that these two hundred hours will be dedicated to work on the topic that you both agreed to work on, remember – you are working in the same field, you are more or less the same age, there are plenty of topics of mutual interest, it should be easy to spend these five hours, but then if the five hours are not easy to spend, only a hypothesis of course, if they are becoming unbearable that only means that there is something more substantial going wrong between both of you in this car. But then the drive really happens, which means that it ceases to be a hypothesis and becomes reality, and then, after that, the drive ceases to be reality and becomes a memory because this is how things go. Then it is a matter of recollection. Then in the matter of recollecting it, there is the question of how present my anxiety was during the travel. So it becomes a hypothesis again – how present my hypothesis of having a troublesome drive with Alessandro Bosetti on the way to Sokołowsko was during the actual drive. I can only presume now that it must have been present because what I remember of those five hours – or more, I don’t remember – is that when we hit Wrocław, it was dark already, there was a pale orange glow over the plains and some blurred platinum shapes of must-be-warehouses, I was the one driving so you can imagine I did not take any notes of what was happening but what I do remember is that silvery-dark-orange imagery that was facing the interior of the small borrowed vehicle where we both sat in the cloud of words centered around the name of Steven Feld. This wasn’t really expected, at least on my end. I do remember we talked about him, excited and agitated. I do remember expressing our joint adoration for his research on birds Papua New Guinea, I do remember Alessandro talking about his rather intimidating contact with the ethnomusicologist, I do remember my struggle to remember something of my own interest in the the songs of birds and the rainforests. I do remember that. And I do remember it all went smoothly, the whole drive was really fun, not boring at all, quick and smooth. I also presume we must have had a talk about Leoš Janáček, our reason to be in that car, on the way to Sokołowsko, to work on a project dedicated to the Czech composer, I think it is a well-grounded hypothesis that we talked about speech melodies, the idea of recording, its prehistory, of Nietzsche’s umbrella commented by Derrida perhaps, of recording before recording and recording after recording, I guess I do remember that, if I try hard, but most of all I have the feeling that everything I do remember stands only for what I want to try to say in this little text, and the problem is that what I want to try to say in this little text is something very simple, even simple-minded, I guess, trivial and perhaps indeed silly. But I believe it is actually not very easy to say a simple thing, even less a very simple thing. Not to mention how terribly difficult it is to say something simple when its exact opposite seems to be even simpler, even more graspable, more comprehensible and more unpretentious. Say “Dante. Alighieri”. Say you can see it, the words below, the numbers, the dots, say you can read music notation in its most basic form, say you know that it comes from Leoš Janáček’s diaries, say you are well-informed and realize that for some years he had been occupied if not obsessed with taking down these notes based on his everyday experiences and affinity to seek melodies in obscure sounds he had been surrounded with. Say you understand that they stand for something, that they actually do represent the sounds that actually had happened at some point of the day, say you were informed that the date is 8th of June 1921 and that the notes were taken during the lecture of prof. Francesco Torraca. Say you see that the notes in his diaries form an early method of recording, say you know that writing it down, on the spot, was the most handy way of recording in the first decades of 20th Century, of remembering the words, say the words “Dante. Alighieri”, say knowing what you know about musical notation you can easily reconstruct the words now, as Janáček would hear them, say today, in your internal sonic imagination you can perform them according to his notes because you are dealing with a fair bit of aural information from the past. If all this is correct, than what I want to try to say is something very simple: the very first feature of recording, the most fundamental characteristic of it, the most immediate and striking attribute of the representation of anything, the very essence perhaps of recording is not to memorize but to forget. The thing we are facing when watching Janáček’s notes is first of all not the knowledge of the past, not the information about what had happened, not the content of the event that actually occurred but the exact opposite – the lack of information, the information that did not make its way onto the staff notation. Being the machine to forget rather than to remember, recording in its most rudimentary form presents itself as lack of knowledge, lack of information, lack of grounding. Say the timbre of Janáček’s daughter voice when she was passing away on the 26th of February 1903, say the durations of her murmuring, the articulation, the detail of the sonic reality of her dying voice. But all that would be easy, I guess, to write down, if only he wanted it. What is not easy is what indisputably and irreversibly gets forgotten in the act of recording. And that very thing is something that only you yourself can grasp, the recordist, and even this is only a hypothesis, you – when taking a photo, when recording with your audio device, when hand-writing, when taking notes of whatever sort – only you may know what was it then that you wanted to forget and in order to forget it you recorded something else just like I did forget something when shaping my memories of the drive with Alessandro Bosetti to Sokołowsko, I guess I did forget something – surely it is only a hypothesis – I presume I did forget being anxious to jump into a car and being locked in it for five hours or more with another person of more or less the same age and interests, just as I do believe that Janáček only put these tiny notes in his diary to forget the most horrifying thing that happened to him on that very moment, on the day of 26th of February 1903. And perhaps my memory of the drive diverts your eyes from something more important than my anxiety.