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how lonG is now?

by Tam Lines

Sound exists only within other objects, but it is always in search of escape, bleeding into other bodies, dying as it is born. Rock, on the other hand, stands its ground, sticks around, unchanging. While sound is viscous, wrapping around and permeating the bodies it touches, stone makes its boundaries clear. Go out and try to test the solidity of the cave wall. You might hurt yourself. 

But, we know, rock does change. It is always shifting - only, on a timescale that is invisible to our eye, seen only in timelapse, like a budding flower. It has its own sort of viscosity. Sometimes it absorbs, incorporating water and other chemicals; sometimes it erodes, becomes gravel, silt, and sand, wrapping around and filling up other matter, only to reform into solid rock again. Stone permeates the reality of everything on Earth. From where I currently sit, the sounds I hear, the Thames flowing nearby, the animals living on it, the buildings built around me, the mug I sip coffee out of - these are all shaped by geology. Every body on Earth is from the earth, shaped by changes in the Earth. The ‘mineral’ is quietly present in all activity, be it farming, economics, or music. 


The mineral acts through us in even the most visceral terms. The potential of the animal body transformed around 500 million years ago, according to Manuel De Landa, as the previously soft tissue began to incorporate mineral matter, forming bone. This pact between the organic and the mineral produced hybrids that could access and manipulate their environments in previously impossible ways. Organisms could do more, but on the terms of the inorganic. By “freeing [animals] from many constraints and literally setting them into motion”, the mineral world was able to reassert itself onto animate matter.


So, despite the differences in timescale, rock, like sound, shifts, oscillates, and creates movement in other bodies. In all its solidity, it continues to hum away. And for a moment, if you stand in the right place, you can find the sound in the mineral. If we take a geophone, a device for capturing the movement of the earth, and apply it creatively, music can be found. Last year, I spent a day pressing a geophone against the walls of the Barbican Estate, finding an incessant hum in the concrete. Soaked in human activity, a stone drone.


Vibration, the object defined by transience and movement, can sometimes be made to stand still for a very long time. Maybe we could see the practice of creating drones in geological terms, asking, “What if we could stretch out the now, bring it into a new timescale, and approach the vibratory quality inherent to the mineral beneath our feet and within our bones?” The Earth is constantly spinning, oscillating, churning, even if, to our mayfly senses, it’s as solid and permanent as a rock. However, with a shift in perspective we might hear its vibration.

Tam Lines is a mutidisciplinary artist exploring porous divide between us and the non-human world we are tangled in. They explore queer asides, new forms of materialism, the intimate nooks and crannies of online media in a quest for meaning. They produce music under the moniker Tam Lin.



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