listening to — notes on a song


Three conversations.
With pairs who appear to be speaking to — duos dueling — rather than with. Even if they might well be attempting to;
perhaps especially as they are trying particularly hard to.
A triptych — of cacaphony, as it were.
Perhaps then,

‘We’re not in the same pot.

But we’re still bound together.
It’s difficult to be together and not be able
to — be — together — as one.’
(Song, “—”, 34)

You don’t know what it’s like
Baby you don’t know what it’s like

To love somebody
To love somebody
The way I love you

— The Bee Gees [1]

And it opens the question: if one listens, tries to listen, does it, does the sound — what one considers, perhaps even calls, a sound — come from what, who, one attempts to listen to, or is it a sound because one hears it, hears it as a sound.

Perhaps only because one calls it a sound.


Why is the call thought of as something which, rather than taken, taken down, or taken in — be it from a specific agent, subject, principle, preferably a moral one — will be given? And if each call which issues is destined to make demands on the one who is called (but this is also questionable), is it already settled that I will hear, that I will hear this call and hear it as one destined for me? Is it not rather the case that the minimal condition to be able to hear something as something lies in my comprehending it neither as destined for me nor as somehow oriented toward someone else? Because I would not need to hear it in the first place if the source and destination of the call, of the call as call, were already certain and determined. Following the logic of calling up, of the call … and along with that the logic of demand, of obligation, of law, no call can reach its addressee simply as itself, and each hearing is consummated in the realm of the possibility not so much of hearing as being able to listen up by ceasing to hear. Hearing ceases. It listens to a noise, a sound, a call; and so hearing always ceases hearing, because it could not let itself be determined other than as hearing, to hearing any further. Hearing ceases. Always. Listen …
— Werner Hamacher [2]

To listen —
to open oneself to the possibility of another,
the potentiality of being in communication with another;
an other that might be completely other not just to one, but to itself.
Where the otherness of another is perhaps what keeps this communion from being a consumption;
even as both are attempting to touch.

To speak;
is to converse, to be in conversation.
Bearing in mind that to converse is to live with, to turn about (vertere) with (con). But, not necessarily in agreement: for, to converse is also to be the exact opposite. Which means: to converse is to be with whilst also possibly turning around (conversus), turning about(convertere). But, even in, even when there is, disagreement it is an opposition that continues to maintain the relation; that still agrees to be with. That even in divergence, even as one is momentarily turned away from or even against (versus) the other, there is always already an openness to the possibility of changing one’s mind, one’s position, an openness to the possibility of conversion.

‘Where is your father? Is it time for us to go for a walk?
No, Mother. But I’m here.
Where’s your father?’
(Song, “Absence”, 17)

yet always separated;
separated only insofar that it is connected.
Keeping in mind that “it is space that is first required to touch.” (Jean-Luc Nancy)
For, a space — a dash — gives one space.
Which opens the possibility of touching. Yet, at the same time, allows for a run up, opens the possibility of velocity—of the touch being a dashing. Where one might well be ruptured.


Misguided angel hangin’ over me
Heart like a Gabriel, pure and white as ivory
Soul like a Lucifer, black and cold like a piece of lead
Misguided angel, love you ’til I’m dead

— Cowboy Junkies [3]

‘Uncle, even though you have left,
I can still feel your …’
(Song, “Presence”, 51)



Song, Geraldine. Absence—Presence. Singapore: Metonymy Press, 2014.

Jeremy Fernando

[this review was first published on 10 December, 2014 at the Singapore Review of Books and can be found at]



[1] Gibbs, Barry & Gibbs, Robin. ‘To Love Somebody’ in Bee Gees 1st. London: Polydor Records, 1967.
[2] Hamacher, Werner. ‘Interventions’. in Qui Parle: Journal of Literary Studies 1, no. 2, Spring 1987:  37-42.
[3] Timmins, Margo & Timmins, Michael. ‘Misguided Angel’ in The Trinity Sessions. Toronto: RCA/Latent, 1989.

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