Footnotes, Mirages, Refrains and Leftovers of Writing Sound

Ephemeral, F.M.R.L: A collection of fragments and essays recording accidents of hearing and detours of thought in response to the peripheral nature of listening and reading.


Listening into writing, reading into writing take shape in F.M.R.L. through a collection of short texts, fragments and ‘deranged essays’, with attention to pacing and linguistic derives. An archive of books, notebooks, events and records prompts the texts in these pages, responding to encounters with Michel Leiris’s autobiographical fictions; concerts and events at Café Oto and the Swedenborg House in London; visits to museums such as the Pitt Rivers in Oxford and exhibitions such as Ice Age Art at the British Museum, among the others.
F.M.R.L. is a book constructed across sonic patterns, assonance, repetitions, comprising texts that intermittently drift from sense to sound and to nonsense and back. A flip from the immateriality of sound to the sounds of letters and words as material, a call from reading to voicing.


Writing about sound is no easy matter, particularly in a second language. Daniela Cascella’s accomplishment in her second book, F. M. R. L.: Footnotes, Mirages, Refrains and Leftovers of Writing Sound (Zero Books), is to take the receptive reader far beyond sound, music and listening into the fragmented recesses of memory, the infinite subtlety of encounters with intangibility. Times Higher Education, 'Books of 2015' https://www.timeshighereducation.com/books/best-books-of-2015 ~ David Toop, web

fragments, miracles, recurrences and likenesses (a review of f.m.r.l. by daniela cascella) by C.D. Rose (Read the whole review at 3am Magazine) ... Fifteen short chapters begin with a playful dialogue between sound and a writer, as Cascella seems to work out what she’s doing on the page before you, and then moving straight into the tangled yet lyrical description of that Scelsi quartet. As soon as you are oriented to that, Cascella moves again, to the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford where a brass amulet triggers a moving memoir of her Neapolitan grandmother casting her final spell. And so it continues. Cascella, an Italian now resident in London, has worked as a curator, lecturer and writer working largely in the field of sound and uses her experience as the mulch of F.M.R.L. Her first book, En Abîme circled similar areas, using personal experience as trigger for reflection in listening, reading and writing. Yet F.M.R.L. takes the approach a step further, defiantly becoming even more fragmentary, picking up on tiny clues and memory traces (those ‘footnotes, mirages, refrains and leftovers’), piecing them together to make a book which is ultimately more successful than its predecessor. There are several reasons for this. First is the sheer fact that Cascella writes so well. This is even more of a feat when remembering that English isn’t her first language. Reflecting on this very fact she writes: “Deprived of proper words and of horizon I have no voice here, nor song, but a tongue tied to a thick rope of hemp right in my throat. It chokes me inside the barrel of my every London morning, in sawdust days of tea and tar.” Her writing draws on the models she refers to throughout the book (de Filippo, Malaparte, Rhys, Lispector), yet her English has a demotic edge, a journalistic sharpness and no truck with international artspeak. This lends the writing a directness, avoiding the occasional vagaries of her influences, which in turn gives the book another reason for its success: its emotional heft. [...] Added to this, Cascella is a great storyteller. Her process moves toward the abstract, theoretical or intangible from a close engagement with the sensual and with lived experience. [...] And yet, the book avoids what is at its centre: there are no gushing descriptions of being rapt by sound, no blog-standard music crit thinkpieces. Cascella instead reveals the ghosts that the haptic experience of listening arises from, the gain and loss of their translation into the written word. I would contest Cascella’s idea that “if I believed that these words could stand forever on their own, and keep any experiences of sounds still within, I would be beaten: they are eroded by what they do not say. Like sounds, words won’t outlast me.” F.M.R.L. — a book of fragments, miracles, recurrences and likenesses, findings, memories, revenants and lacunae — is far from ephemeral. ~ 3:AM Magazine, web

Review by Tomoe Hill http://minorliteratures.com/2015/09/10/f-m-r-l-by-daniella-cascella-tomoe-hill/ ... In some ways, to say it is a book does it a disservice, although of course it takes the physical form. Words in lines, on pages, familiar structures. But there is a magical disorder to all of these which reveals the logic from its listener-writer as well as creating a new one from the reader’s perspective: those of sound and word, meaning and memory. To read, in this instance is to open someone’s mind and play with the thoughts within, and then delve into your own to discover a kinship.... ... In the beginning of F.M.R.L., Cascella mentions Bataille on how we should approach primitive art with emotion rather than logical reduction to gain meaning: he urges to consider instead the feeling of their burning, fiery presence that strikes us. Feeling is the temporary release of logic to gain understanding, the complete exposure of oneself to the in-between spaces, the offering of physicality to absorb meaning. It is how we connect with objects, sound, writing, memory, and what gives us the ability to communicate with others about them. It is like the norn’s thread, but eternal, binding us together. ~ Minor Literatures, web

SO! Reads: Daniela Cascella’s F.M.R.L. (Finding Materials for Remembering and Listening) by Kyle D. Stedman Before I read F.M.R.L., I didn’t know Daniela Cascella or her work. I hadn’t read her first book or her blog or her Tweets; I hadn’t seen any exhibits she had curated or attended a reading. Instead, the words in her book introduced us. Here’s how she was introduced, here in this exploration of how sound and writing intertwine: A wanderer, traveling the globe to meet friends, attend conferences, read books (and more books, and more books) An archivist, saving physical and digital boxes of sounds and words and quotes, all blended with her own notes and ideas A listener, noticing the sounds of words as much as their meanings A cave-explorer, digging ever deeper through layers of earth to find echoes of what has been buried—which is another way to say a wanderer, an archivist, a listener [...] How can I tell you anything at all, when all I know are sounds? But still, you want the point. You want to know what this book will do for you, for your art, for your scholarship. How can I tell you anything at all, when all I know are sounds? But ok. You’re not here to be moved. (Are you? I hope you are.) But if you’re not: what will propel your ideas, what will inspire your work after reading Cascella, what the take-aways are: “Writing away from sound” as a different way to “write about sound” (44). That is, instead of explaining, to let the nature of sound itself inspire the kinds of work you do. “Writing Sound” as an “encounter,” as “transcience” (54). Acknowledging our archives and inviting them to the forefront of our writing, even when those encounters are messy or confusing. Considering what we’re really doing in our art/theory/writing/sounding. Cascella says she’s not “a writer, a theorist, a critic” but “a handler of words, a listener, a reader” (90). Who are you? Who am I? But how can I tell you anything at all, when all I know are sounds? Read the whole review at: http://soundstudiesblog.com/2015/05/18/so-reads-daniela-cascellas-f-m-r-l-finding-materials-for-remembering-and-listening_/ ~ Sounding Out! Blog, web

Daniela Cascella invites us to listen. Her new book bypasses the usual descriptions of venturing into the world, rapt by sound (although she wants us to do this, too), and instead allows for an intense, internal stream of sounds to collide with words on paper, enveloping the silent reader. Cascella is a London-based reader-writer-thinker-in-sound. Like her compatriot, Calvino, she seems to ascribe to the notion of ‘translator, traitor,’ a catchphrase imagined to mean that nothing translated from one language to another (from one listening experience to another) is ever without compromise. Cascella suggests her text is a proposition: a way of thinking and writing through listening and reading. Writer becomes channel; book as transmission. Joan Schuman, Earlid READ AND LISTEN: http://www.earlid.org/posts/cascella_intro/ ~ Joan Schuman, web

Review by Marcel Cobussen The Journal of Sonic Studies http://sonicstudies.org/cascella2015 … F.M.R.L.: 15 chapters, rather different in tone. Different voices, different styles, different genres. The book consists of scraps, leftovers, a series of beginnings, research and diary notes, many of them not directly related to sound but (also) to literature, drama, film, sculpture. I expected something else. But what? And why? I also ask myself if it is suitable for JSS. Why not? The attention paid to sound art, Daniela’s (implicit) invitations to read some pages aloud, the various rhythms of her thinking, the subtitle telling me that the book is about writing sound – sound is present (and absent) in and through the book in all its variety … ~ The Journal of Sonic Studies, web

Cascella might have reached 'language at the edge', sometimes with poetic power, but the horizon of her own experiment is not void. ~ The Wire Magazine, magazine

Daniela Cascella is the most literary listener I know. In the frenzy of ephemera collected here, she catches echoes between films and philosophy, sculpture and drama, music and novels. Grounded in French surrealism, Italian narrative, and American poetry, F.M.R.L. auscultates books by some of the most magical writers from the past century: Clarice Lispector, Gert Jonke, and — above all — Michel Leiris. In the process, Cascella investigates the very logic of sound: its recursiveness; its decay; its interference patterns and resonant sympathies. Attending to the blur of voices into noise at the borders of understanding, Cascella gives back the songs of sound's extended techniques, transmuting noise back into poetry at the borders of these pages. F.M.R.L. is a Passagen-Werk of the inner ear. ~ Craig Dworkin, author of No Medium (MIT Press 2013)

In F.M.R.L., each reader enters a different labyrinth. Frictions, murmurings, resonances, laconisms. Retune your listening. Fractures, metamorphoses, residues, lingerings. Reconcile yourself with the ephemeral nature of sound. Fabulations, marginalia, recollections, labyrinths. Revel in invention based on error. Daniela Cascella's F.M.R.L. is, to turn one of her citations into an emblem of her project: “a site of confusion and heightened perception, a site of deep time.” Against the cognitive traps of syllogistic discourse she offers a celebration of the sundry accidents and errors of listening, each one an inspiration to write. She asks: “And what shall I do with my heritage of listening?” I answer: “Continue to share it with us!” ~ Allen S. Weiss, author of Varieties of Audio Mimesis (Errant Bodies Press, 2008) and Zen Landscapes (Reaktion Books, 2013)

This is writing in its most present sense. Writing that, true to its tense, enacts a continual process of thinking and perceiving. Writing that, spinning its words from sound, gathers up referents in a loose weave. Expansive in scope, and intimate in scale, this is writing where reading dwells in the reverie of detail -- and deserves our full attention. ~ Kristen Kreider, author of Poetics and Place (I.B.Tauris, 2013)

Daniela Cascella
Daniela Cascella Daniela Cascella is a London-based Italian writer. Her research is focused on sound and literature across a range of publications and projec...
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