During any given week of the year, a diverse group of international artists are actively at work in their studios at Montalvo's Lucas Artists Residency Program. In our "This Week in My Studio" series, we ask them to share a snapshot of their experience.
THIS WEEK IN MY STUDIO (December 13, 2019)
Poet Garrett Hongo
Guest Artist – Literary Arts
Iʻm trying to pull together disparate elements of my work on a book about the experience of listening to the electronic reproduction of music--basically, being addicted to hi-fi. Iʻm trying to get to the feels of it all, organize all Iʻve written on the history of analog reproduction (the Gramophone and Victrola to the phonograph), acoustic and electronic amplification, radio broadcasting, the invention of stereo, the post-WW II do-it-yourself home, hi-fi movement, and my own personal quest to assemble a home stereo after having fallen in love with opera at La Scala in Milan-- within a major theme regarding the analysis and articulation of cultural passion itself. In a sense, regarding music and its audio reproduction, Iʻm attempting to re-write Ortega y Gassettʻs philosophic essay On Hunting, a defense of the practice along aesthetic and anthropological lines, saying how its rites are uniquely “fitted” to the development of human consciousness. Unlike Ortega, my passion is for music, yet my justifications may run along similar lines—that it is a practice that arises out of spiritual need and a ritual that goes as far back as the neolithic, when humans once blew into bone flutes and shook gourd rattles in their hands and lifted voices in rhythmic chants rather than the laborious grunts that accompanied mere existence. And musicʻs re-transmission in electronically reproduced sound is yet another order of mysterious re-creation at a remove from its source, the uncanny sonic double of an acoustic presence originating elsewhere and laced with an enhanced meaning, both pure and impure, the embodiment of vates as though from a voice beyond the norms of human reckoning and yet discernable as meant for us.
“There's something happening here,” as Stephen Stills once sung in a rock ballad I first heard on the radio in 1968, and “What it is ainʻt exactly clear...” The song, the haunting electric guitar line, and its absence from any actual physical presence in life has conjured itself as a spirit in my memory and attached itself to events in my own life as though it were part of the soundtrack to my own autobiography. So the book must make its journey too, from accounts of audio and music history to impressions the varied carols Iʻve heard have made on my own consciousness. Thus, the book is called The Perfect Sound: An Autobiography in Stereo.
Read more about Garrett's work here.