Reflections on Task 15 and Task 16 – Uneven Surface

Dear Marie,

many thanks for Task 15. It is very relevant to work that I have been doing on movement sonification, so I really welcomed the opportunity to explore and reflect upon sound in relation to my engagement with yoga. After some thought, I decided to take literally your instructions to ‘invite’ sounds into my yoga practice. So I started thinking of ways to sonify my practice and I came up with the idea to use bells. There is a phrase in Greek that translates as ‘people will hang bells on me’. It is a playful phrase referring to some sort of social sanction when someone is breaking  the rules or behaves in an unconventional manner: when someone says ‘people will hang bells on me’, they mean that people will stop taking them seriously, they will laugh at them. And I really liked how this idea of hanging bells on my self made a yoga practice, which often takes itself too seriously, a bit ridiculous. So I hung bells on myself.

I chose two Christmas ornaments, made of cheap metal with one tongue each. Silver and guy. I attached them on various parts of my body using pegs and elastic bands. I am positive I looked ridiculous.

I knew that doing yoga invites quietness. I knew that some schools of yoga, and Iyengar especially, work with duration. Each posture is diligently entered, maintained – while attention is given to the breath and all sorts of minute movements – and  released dynamically and carefully.  Yet, I was little prepared for what I heard:

Ding -a- ding -a- dang-a- ding

Nothing

Ding -a- ding -a- dang-a- ding

Nothing

Ding -a- ding -a- dang-a- ding

Nothing

The bells were clear: when I am in a posture there is no sound. Or at least the bells are not sensitive enough to capture the micro-movements that take place. There is  a lot of commotion before I go into a pose with the bells responding to every step and every movement of my limbs and then there is nothing. After a while, the racket becomes annoying – the silence equally loud. The bells tell me that when I do yoga,  my body is quiet. I wonder if it is also mute.

Task 16 – Uneven Surface

The video you posted as a response to Task 13 worked slowly on me. I did not understand what the video was capturing, but after a couple of days, and as I was thinking how I was going to respond to Task 15,  I found that I became more sensitive to textures. First to the textures I was stepping on and then  – wild with joy – noticing that there are textures above me too. As David Abram observes: ‘we are in the world’. Walking on a route I have been taking for years, I also observed that the texture of the surface was uneven. (All these years, I am sure my feet must have known this but kept it to themselves). And what hit me then was another thing I knew all along: that we practise yoga on even surfaces. The artificiality began to bother me. I started thinking that in this way yoga already sets us upon a futile search for a utopian place. A place with even surfaces that does not exist, unless you make one for practising yoga.

So your task is this: Do your yoga practice, any poses you choose, any time of the day, on uneven surfaces.  Try to work with and against them. See how they affect your practice and what you might be doing in order to accommodate them. I hope you will enjoy the task.

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