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Ethics of Participation

When I went to Torry for the first time it was still. I couldn’t see the sea at first, I took bicycle around the headland to avoid the hills, because it was winter and dark. The first thing that struck me was the industrial spaces that dwarfed me on the road and stretched away from me, large factory warehouses,undefined spaces that also came towards me as Naoko says in the form of a fishy smell. In contrast to those huge spaces I turned my bike inland a little to the small rows of houses that nestle onto the pavement around where I’m going to; Old Torry Community Centre. If I go further I can be on the hills and back at the sea and golf course. I can set up on the coast to look either back to Aberdeen city centre and maybe fireworks or out to sea which, again in the winter, will be a kind of formless dark mass and hearing will take over sight as a way to navigate this space. I’m interested in this, in how hearing is different from sight, how it involves you being inside the sound and the sound inside you. So in trying to understand something by sound there is no separation between you and the thing sounding. To be involved with sound is to be involved with an ethics of participation and I could also say a willingness to get lost (for more on this and an ethics of Listening see Salome Voegelin writing in the link above)

Instead of going to the coast, on that first visit, I go into the warm space of the community centre to be part of a small and active group for an evening class. I have never met the people before. Together we will all try to get our heads and tongues around something unfamiliar – we’re trying to learn a new language. In this I feel a little less brave than some of the women in the class, who are older than me, and trying to learn after being in their own language for a significant time. The second contrast after the different buildings is how inviting this group is and busy with activity after the stillness outside. I maybe shouldn’t be surprised by these contrasts. Places near the sea are open to greater fluctuations in temperature than inland areas. Like sound, that acts inside you rather than at a distance, maybe the sea acts on this place not on its edges but inside, making it warmer, despite appearances from the road.

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