Eva-Maria Houben, Breath For Organ (2018)

A piece which composes breath that expresses ‘how many ways sound can disappear.’ Vibration nearing stillness, at the edge of perception. How does the organ sound decay?


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Presence – Silence – Disappearance 

Some thoughts on the perception of  ‘nearly nothing’

Yesterday there was my piano recital with two compositions of John Cage (works for piano) and two own compositions for piano: klavier (piano) (2003) and three chorals (penser à satie) (2007).

What’s about the sound of piano?

The sound of the piano decays.

It cannot be sustained. I let it loose time and again.

It appears by disappearing; starting to disappear just after the attack.

In disappearing it begins to live, to change.

The piano: an instrument, that allows me to hear how many ways sound can disappear.

There seems to be no end to disappearance.

The sound of piano!

I can hear, how listening becomes the awareness of fading sound.

– Eva-Maria Houben

Raymond Williams, Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society, 1976.

“Organic has a specific meaning in modern English, to refer to the processes or products of life, in human beings, animals or plants. It has also an important applied or metaphorical meaning, to indicate certain kinds of relationship and thence certain kinds of society. In this latter sense it is an especially difficult word, and its history is in any case exceptionally complicated.

Organ first appeared in English, from C13, to signify a musical instrument; something like the modern organ, in this context, appeared from C14. It had fw organe, oF, from organum, L, rw organon, Gk – an instrument, engine or tool, with two derived senses: the abstract ‘instrument’ – agency, and musical instrument. There was a later applied sense of organon, which was repeated in all the derived words: the eye as a ‘seeing instrument’, the ear a ‘hearing instrument’ and so on, whence organ as a part of the body, in English from eC15. But the full range of meanings – musical instrument, engine, instrument (organ of opinion) and part of the body -was present in English in C16. Organic, appearing from C16, followed first the sense of engine or tool. North, translating Plutarch in 1569, wrote: ‘to frame instruments and Engines (which are called mechanicall, or organicall)’. This is instructive in view of the later conventional contrast between organic and mechanical. ”

No.11: Mimicry, Stillness

Tonic Immobility, Self Mimesis, Apparent Death, Thanatosis, or Playing Dead. Figure Minus Fact (constellation No.4: Notations) includes images of plant and animal mimicry, where insects become space via camouflage, or in the case of the shark, self-mimesis, where the shark mimics itself, dead, conjuring its inevitable future. Here stillness alludes to becoming an image, and mimicry trades on the deceptive image. In day-for-night blue, night itself is mimicked, blurring objects’ edges and form. What is evidence and what is animate?

– Mary Helena Clark


Thanatosis: a state that in some respects resembles shock, is characterized by cessation of all voluntary activity and usually by assumption of a posture suggestive of death, and occurs in various insects (as beetles) when disturbed

"Self-mimesis (=thanatosis) is shown by...animals that, when disturbed, suddenly cease to move, feigning death, sometimes after abruptly turning upside down. The dupery hinges upon the animal's making itself uninteresting to the possible enemy..."

Georges Pasteur, A Classificatory Review of Mimicry Systems (1982)

The Glass Note (2018)

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A collage of sound, image and text, The Glass Note explores cinema’s inherent ventriloquism, reflecting on voice, embodiment, and contact. Within the film, the phenomenal world is reinvented through surrogate, inversion and surprise: lithophonic stones ring as bells when stuck, the rubbed mouth of a wine glass produces a human voice. 

Pati Hill, Untitled (Back Brace). 1976.

A copy (back to mimicry). Everything with photography and death. Erotics and the body’s support