How Rocks Levitate // Como Levitan las Rocas
– a radiophonic piece by Lourdes Silva and Pol Villasuso –
For the construction of the Escollera Sarandí, a crane of German origin called Titan was used. It weighed 270 tons and was moved by the power of three electric motors fed by a 260 volt steam dynamo.
During construction in the early hours of 1903, the crane collapsed; hours before the collapse, it had been seen to tilt with a certain vertiginousness. Nobody said anything.
In the days following the accident, there was a public controversy about the disaster caused by the weight and the uncontrolled, predicted movement. The breakwater continued to be built but with the help of a floating crane: Hercules, of which there is almost no record, but it is known that it came after being used in Mar del Plata, Argentina.
The rocks for the construction of the breakwater came from the quarry of La Teja and were first transported by railway and then by carts, mostly driven by black men; although slavery in Uruguay had been abolished in 1846 under the influence of the independence movements – they were granted freedom if they joined the revolution – it is known that most of the population that loaded and unloaded the rocks were of Afro origin. According to the mandate of the Spanish crown, only slaves of African origin were allowed to enter these lands, as their skin colour made them easily identifiable as different from white men.
The history of the breakwater is marked by the extraction and movement of heavy objects, which were removed from one site and placed in another – not a site – to build a defense, and marked by exploitation and singing. According to some chroniclers, at the end of the working day, these men from countries such as Mozambique, Congo, Benguele, Angola, Guinea, among others, retired to dance and sing: The “chica” and the “bámbula”, two of the old Afro-Uruguayan dances that under the generic name of “candombe”, “calenda” or “tangos” were danced in the old Market Square located in Sarandí and Mercadito Viejo.
Twenty-eight years later in Paris the opera Anfión by Paul Valery and music by Honegger was premiered, a poetic without slaves, but with objects that shout and also sing and dance.
Some years ago we found lost at a fair in the seaside resort “Las Toscas” – Tosca is a type of porous limestone formed by the precipitation of lime dissolved in water or by the accumulation of ashes – the Montevidean edition of the book Anfión, dated 1947 and illustrated with drawings by the visual artist Amalia Nieto.
In the prologue to the work, Valery points out the importance that architecture and music have had in his existence, understanding that both are fundamental for construction, insofar as they admit the repetition of movement, resort to the physical effects of size and intensity and are evocative of landscapes and counter-landscapes.
Here is the germ of Anfión: Anfión moves the rocks by grace of the sound emitted by his lyre, makes them levitate and subtly builds the city of Thebes; Nieto’s drawings show a being emerging from a rock – like a fossil – and emitting sounds that provoke the passage from disorder to order and vice versa. Cioran called these operations by Valery: Opera Chaos, which anticipated the scheme produced by Henry Kjellson, to explain the levitation of rocks, where one sees on the right the mountainside, in the centre the block of stone and on the left, priests and musicians with drums and trumpets:
“When the stone is in position, the monk behind the small drum gives the signal to start the concert by beating with a very sharp sound, which is heard above the terrible noise of the rest of the instruments.
All the monks chanted a prayer, gradually increasing the rhythm of this incredible noise. For the first four minutes nothing happened, then, as the speed of the drums and the noise increased, the large stone block began to move and shake, and suddenly rose into the air with increasing speed in the direction of the platform in front of the cave at 250 metres above sea level, where it landed after three minutes of ascent.”
In the radio piece presented here, the exercise consisted of intervening the text Amphion, with a set of other textualities and sonorities that explore three aspects: mineral memory and the so-called medial archaeology. The stones here are understood as living testimonies of the human and non-human footprint on the earth, since they carry within themselves the torsion of space – they function as satellites -, they are folded objects, immortal conjunctions of fire and water, thicknesses visited by time. On the other hand, we were interested in the piece being able to explore aspects associated with mobility, the phenomena of migration and hybridisation and a certain question associated with the colonial origin of these lands and their fragmentations. As well as the different port plans developed by engineers of German, French and Italian origin. Finally, to relate the idyllic Valeryan landscape, full of vapours and light sounds, with the voracity and environmental violence of construction, the tearing as an initiatory, catastrophic, oxidising action that has been deepening.
Finally, in this piece we tried to create a montage that had as its axis the thought about solidarity, as spectral politics, proposing permeable limits between things and phenomena, between characters and stories, that is why: Como Levitan las Rocas, is proposed as a conversation-noise, at times uncomfortable and ambiguous between the mineral world, the electronic world and the human world, all living worlds, non-orientable, like Moebius tapes.
Lourdes Silva – Pol Villasuso
Texts and Voices in Spanish: Lourdes Silva
Field Recordings, Noise and Sinthesizers: Pol Villasuso
Sound Edition and Mixing: Pol Villasuso
Contains the next friends sound contributions:
Field Recordings by Lukas Kühne.
Muted Piano by Fernando Godoy Monsalve recorded at Casa Tatú – Montevideo, November 2021
Claudia Campos: French Voice
Niklaus Strobbel: German Voice
Atlas pintoresco. Vol 2:los viajes, Iñaqui Ábalos
Piedras de Roger Caillois
Acoustic levitation of stones de Bruce Cathie
La grua se vino abajo. Sobre la construcción de la escollera Sarandí en Caras y Caretas
Las técnicas perdidas de Henry Kjellson (1891-1962)
Atmósfera, Atmósfera de Bruno Latour
Historia del puerto de Montevideo de José María Fernández Saldaña
Una geología de los medios, Jussi Parikka
Descripción de un naufragio, Cristina Peri Rossi
Orígenes de la musica afrouruguaya, Beatriz González
Humanidad, Timothy Morton
SESION DE ESCUCHA COLECTIVA de COMO LEVITAN LAS ROCAS // COLECTIVE LISTENING SESSION of HOW ROCKS LEVITATE- ESCOLLERA SARANDI : 11/11/2021 at the sunset hour // DURACION / DURATION : 22 min
HOW ROCKS LEVITATE : TEXT for the RADIOPHONIC PIECE