What Sound Looks Like

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt

I flew a kite for the first time in decades if not ages, for the first time perhaps since before my own age hit double digits. The kite was a gift my child, still early on in single digits, had received, and we took it down to the ocean — a straight shot by bus from our home — to see how well it took to the wind. There is a dragon on the kite, a not particularly friendly looking dragon. The higher the kite flew, the more the dragon’s eyes seemed to shine with the sun. If you can hear your kite, that’s not a particularly good sign. When the kite lingers a couple dozen feet above the beach, the tails flutter perceptibly, much like a flag fighting to stay erect in a storm. If you hear your kite, it is proximate to ground, perhaps heading rapidly in that direction. The goal is to not hear your kite. The higher the kite goes, the quieter the flutter, until at some point the kite makes no sound at all. It ascends into silence. I had it in the air for almost 45 minutes straight, learning to tug this way and that to keep it afloat when the elements challenged its flight plan. At some point I recognized that I could pluck the string and watch the waveform travel up to the heavens, up to the kite, which would jiggle a bit in response. The slender tether made me think of Ellen Fullman’s Long String Instrument, which places the performer, generally Fullman herself, in a field of resonant strings, like a Lilliputian caught in a luthier’s workshop. I wondered how my long string might come to make sound, rather than recede from sound. As it hung in the air, I took mental notes about attaching something, maybe a bell, maybe a wind chime. Those experiments are for the next trip to the beach.

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt.

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