Thursday, February 5, 2009


There is an interesting way in which emergency recordings can tune people in to ambient poetics. Consider, for instance, one comment in the Times article concerning the air traffic control tapes from US Airways Flight 1549's water landing in the Hudson River last month:

For a recording with so many long dead spaces, the suspense is oddly gripping. Just reading the transcript doesn’t capture the tension surrounding “we’re gonna be in the Hudson” and “radar contact is lost”.

That was one cool pilot.

This description of the recording evokes synaesthesia: the "long dead space" is in fact no more and no less than silence; the "suspense" that 'grips' the listener is felt in a bodily way; the visuality of "reading" is both called attention to by the quotation marks and yet put under erasure by the "just"; finally, the comment is temperature-controlled by the "cool pilot." Many senses are fused together in this heavily mediated recording of a feeling of a recording...a recording that, finally, is meant at some level to communicate an actually felt experience in a 'real time' of the past.

Writing lesson: While "just reading" may be insufficient for feeling the liveliness of language, perhaps writing—which necessarily rereads—is a way to "capture the tension" that always surrounds communication.