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Matthew Mullane



1.) In detourning a conversation into a poem from its own constituent parts, a sort of alchemy is attempted. An attempt at pushing common speech into lyric sound. However, this alchemy is ultimately futile as the text remains text, quiet static text that forever dooms the written poem. This tension points to the non-cochlear, or rather, highlights the non-cochlear as an intersection of media where sound is only capable of being conceptually insinuated.

As a consumer of art in all of its various media, and a creator in a few, I have reached a point where I am always considering what idea is best represented in what media. Is this emotion/scene/story better represented in a painting or on a piano, etc. I was recently reading a short story, a particularly bland short story from a collection of contemporary fiction in translation. The feelings transmitted were akin to that sort of metaphysical malaise portrayed in a de Chirico painting: urban dreamlike isolation and mystery, long quiet shadows interrupted by faceless figures, one may hear a train in the background, punctured by oblique and meandering conversation. So this story conveyed these same feelings over an unnecessary number of pages and I thought to myself: this emotion, this place, is much better conveyed in a painting, visually. Such a competition between media frustrates me, but ultimately pulls me in deeper to investigate why.

Lately, I have been reading the works of Gert Jonke, particularly his novels where music and sound play a distinct role (Homage to Czerny, The Distant Sound). He approaches sound in text not as onomatopoeia, not as a sensation to be described via representation and simile, but as a force and a unique being. It makes you want to read about sound, not throw down the book and listen to sound instead. It’s not simulacrum, and it shows profound appreciation and respect for what sound is capable of. I think this is the non-cochlear as well, and as such…

2.) Although sound is explicitly mentioned in the text, this is secondary to the feeling of being of sound as it is manifest in the text. And I think the feeling is brought to the fore via the context of the exhibition. If this piece was in a show about poetry, one may not even consider the cochlear/non-cochlear elements of poetry or of the piece. However, within the context of the exhibition and its curatorial objective, one approaches the piece with the ear in mind and the detourning becomes a musical instrument of sorts, not only a textual tool.


Matthew Mullane is a musician, writer and student of art history from Cleveland, Ohio currently living in Chicago. His work for “Non-Cochlear Sound” is representative of a continued body of work exploring the processual intersection of hearing and writing.