Like marbles, we began in a clump in Kabul, and the fingers of war flicked us across the wide world. We scattered to Peshawar, Köln, Phoenix, Florida, New York, and more. Sometimes, we pass each other on the flat landscape of the screen. I catch glimpses of a birthday, a baby, a vacation as a curated status update. More often, we do not meet, and their names appear as outworn clothes a few times a year, briefly unpacked by my parents and quickly put away again. But when they arise, they always come silently, soundlessly.
Glenn Gould said a recording brings us close. In craving to inhabit the small, intimate sound space of my relatives’ (daily) lives, I invited those on both sides of my family to submit sound recordings of the following: their full name, birthdate, place of birth, parents’ names, the places they have lived and where they currently live, as well as ten seconds each of the following: a sound that captures or governs their daily life, sounds from inside their home, sounds from their neighborhood, the voice of the person they speak with most every day, recitation of a news item from that day or a poem of their choice, and, lastly, any sound of their liking (whose source they did not need to disclose). After contacting 27 family members scattered across the globe, I received recordings from 12 individuals.
Susan Stewart talks about the tension between sound and meaning, a tension that can both extend and diminish meaning. I was originally interested in playing with this tension by mixing together the variety of the collected sounds to disrupt any possibility of a linear narrative. I aspired to Joyce’s intention with Finnegan’s Wake: “to fill the reader [or listener] with ideas without necessarily making every idea distinct and separable.” But the story was inherently there, perhaps solicited by my constraints: migration and multiplicity and maneuvering between the many—like marbles.