© Matthew Word Bain

In my last post I wrote about an experience in which a scene which had appeared to me in a vision irrupted into my reality while I was already tripping along the trail of novelty. When I had originally seen that vision in my mind, it had come with a word: Telemachy.

Telemachy was familiar to me, but I couldn’t quite place it, let alone comprehend what on earth it might have to do with this vision, let alone figure out what it was supposed to communicate to me. And so what I received amounted to a series of questions: What is the significance of this image? What is the significance of this word? Why do they come together? What am I supposed to do with them?

Some of you, perhaps, will recognize Telemachy as the name of the first four books of Homer’s Odyssey. This story whose name is derived from that of Odysseus (or is it the other way around?) begins as the story of Odysseus’ absence in his own home. His son Telemachus is coming of age with a father gone since before his birth and a mother and household beset by unwanted suitors. The name is usually translated as something to the effect of “fighting from afar,” from the Greek tele (“from afar”) and makhe (“a battle, fight”).

I have been puzzled by this name, as Telemachus does no fighting in the Odyssey until his father has actually returned (albeit from afar), so that he is not fighting “from afar” but rather directly by his father’s side. Perhaps his name is a reflection of his father’s story, perhaps it is an indication or acknowledgment of his father’s absence as an inevitable part of his inheritance.

I have also come to realize I have been guilty, albeit unwittingly, of a little folk etymology in relation to the word. The spelling of Telemachus and Telemachy suggest a relationship with other words in English containing mach:, in particular machine, machination, Machiavellian*, etc. As it turns out, the -machy of Telemachy and the mach- of machine arise from entirely different roots, although there are semantic connections between the two.

And so even exploring the question of what the word Telemachy means brings more questions and additional confusion. As I found so little traction with this line of exploration, I didn’t spend a lot of time with it. But still it didn’t go away. Eventually I just started rereading the Odyssey instead of trying to think my way to an answer.

More recently I have let this word drift outside of my own personal context and have followed it through others. In this I acknowledge I am guided in part by my own miscomprehension of the etymology, but I have come to accept that as part of the soup. Editing the video in my last post led me into another round of this exploration. The video in this post is the same video, but the soundtrack has changed. Acousmatic and anthropogenic sound now emerges in this work, where before they were absent and unobtrusive respectively.

I am curious about how the experience of sound changes the experience of a moving image. Eduard Artemyev‘s work with Andrei Tarkovsky inspires me to no end, as so much of that work walks a line between sound and music, and between sound in the landscape and sound intruding from another place.

I fell in love with the Hudson River School of painting when I was probably about fifteen. A significant feature of that school, of which I was largely unconscious at the time, is the focus on the relationship between humans and the natural world. This feature has come to be prominent in my own creative exploration, although it manifests quite differently than in the work of these nineteenth century painters.

As a field recordist, I have both sought out recordings of natural settings that are clean of any audible human influence (hard to do in the Blue Ridge, being directly beneath the primary north-south flight path on the East Coast) and recordings of industrial soundscapes, with a particular fascination with trains, internal combustion, and the sound where the rubber literally meets the road.

In this new iteration of the original video, Lake Rift, I have introduced acousmatic sounds that represent the industrial end of the spectrum. And yet, they are still the sound of life. They still have an organic cadence to their rhythms and tones, even if hearing this requires a particular quality of attention. What happens when I introduce these industrial sounds to such a tranquil, natural setting? Something different, I think it’s safe to say…

*I’m kidding.