Rethinking the Ordinary Through the Ritual of Transversal Listening

Jacek Smolicki



What happens when listening and recording become subject to systematic reenactment?

The following exposition presents a selection of recordings from the past ten years of Minuting. Minuting is a project in which I engage in daily soundwalking and sonic journaling practices to deepen my aural relationship with the surrounding environment. I select a dozen recordings from an archive of about 4800 I have made between summer 2010 and autumn 2020. I weave these recordings into a narrative that addresses, sometimes directly and sometimes less so, the notion of repetition and related processes such as rhythm, cycle, automation, and ritual.


Traversing my archive and re-listening to these selected recordings, I explore how my sonic perception and memory have changed over the years. I investigate how, reinforced by the privilege of hindsight (or rather hind-hearing), each of these acts of repetitive listening can be generative of new forms of perceptual attention, sensitivity, and criticality towards the everyday.



The exposition combines three kinds of writing and reflecting techniques.
Firstly, the selected recordings are annotated by a short contextual text, which
in many cases derives directly from the annotations I made at the time or shortly after making the recordings. These annotations are displayed 
in italics. Secondly, what accompanies some of the recordings is a set of thoughts and associations triggered by re-listening to the material. This is where a second cycle of interpretation and re-articulation of the-initially-heard happens. Here I also borrow a literary technique from Georges Perec who used literary constraints to generate ideas and refine their means of expression. Consequently, each sentence in this layer of the exposition begins with "I think of."


Through this quasi-ritualistic set of enunciations - a profane litany of sorts -
I let the situatedness and subjectivity inherent to this practice metamorphose into a gateway, that in turn opens up towards a more macroscopic mosaic of 'undisciplined' relations. Besides the obvious implication of my subjectivity in its construction, this associative mosaic intends to reveal something specific about the broader spatio-temporal situation. The reflective part of the exposition is also where I propose and practically exercise the concept of transversal listening. It is a way of listening across temporal, cultural, and material layers of the aurally witnessed moment, which the recorded material allows for, but, I argue, can also be practiced in the act of direct, unmediated listening. This reflective layer of the exposition is laid out in
regular font.

The idea of a multilayered mode of listening is revisited and given more attention in the third layer of the exposition. Therein, I adopt a stylistic modality that is more analytical and discursive. It seeks commonalities and relations with other debates, concepts, and practices for which repetition is an existential, technological, cultural, and political undertaking. Besides referring to discourses in the philosophy of technology, media, and sound studies, I also indicate my practice's kinship with the durational art tradition. This part of the exposition is conducted in a bold font.

Images that appear throughout this exposition come from a personal archive of photographs and newspaper clippings. I use fragments of them as material for collages that span the discussed sites, events, and soundscapes. I use the layout of this exposition as a montage desk for all of these components. While an evocative caption accompanies each sound file, the text's second and third layers show up only after hovering over the vertically displayed titles. With this non-linear approach, my intention is to lay out an unrestrained, somewhat heretic cartography of the project. While giving an account of its nomadic character, hopefully, this cartography helps expand the reader's own associative thinking and transversal approach to listening.

Click here to read and listen to the exposition.