telling/ listening to stories

Stories we choose to tell and the way we tell them form conscious actions. Each dialogue – written or spoken, comprised of words, movement or actions – is part of a process through which roles are chose, identities are reproduced in order to narrate something specific, while forming a particular version of the world. Think of the monster notion for instance and how its existence within the stories we tell reproduces a world where the unthinkable takes always place beyond the human context, never within it or as a manifestation of the relationships between us.

The ability to choose a particular narration, role or identity indicates a sense of power – social, psychological or other. All humans, to a lesser or greater degree (and without questioning existing social inequalities or systemic, multiple marginalisations), are able to place themselves within the communal or wider contexts in which they live by interpreting their lives in a specific way.
Some times this power may be disguised in a very active way, as a practice of survival when there is a sense of threat or when we feel our voice won’t be listened to. In this case, stories surface as indirect actions, implying rather than expressing openly.

What do we consider worthy of telling? Which roles are emerging more often within our narratives? Which values are reproduced through roles, ways of life, incidents? (On an institutional level, the news we reproduce often function in a similar manner.) Which are the news we tend to share more often? What are the social narratives of our times, shaped in space and time?

We tell stories with words, but also with our bodies, nods, sounds, other vocal expressions within a web of multiple relationships. The notion of storytelling or narrative includes of course the notion of listening. The ways in which we listen to the stories of Others (and by extension the stories we more or less tend to include into the narratives of ourselves). In a way, each narrative and also each listening act comprises a profoundly political process, constitutive of ourselves and others around us. We form the world and are being formed by the world in a procedure of mutuality.

Let’s pause and think of listening as a process, something we tend to overlook in our daily lives: the small, everyday stories we exchange, the sound of cars, the rain falling on the windows, the wind, the footsteps of other people in the house, the dogs barking in the streets, the silence of snow in the evenings, the trembling poplar trembling, birdsong, they typing of fingers on devices, tabwater running. They all tell the story of our shared lives.

You can listen to some examples of sound narratives in the work of Hildegard Westerkamp. What she calls soundscapes of soundwalks. Have a listen here: