Attending to the Sounds of Sonorous Stones
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Smith, S. . (2023). Attending to the Sounds of Sonorous Stones . IMPACT Printmaking Journal, (1), 21.


Readers will probably understand from written instructions that the task of preparing lithography stones can be slow and physically demanding. A detail in the recently updated Tamarind Techniques for Fine Art Lithography also worth noting is that ‘careful attention is needed for this and all other aspects of lithography’ (Devons, Hammon, and Lagutta 2008, p.126). Reflecting on the significance of this sometimes lengthy process, my tentative proposal is that, if understood as a form of contemplative labour, limestone graining may offer a way to think about the quality of the ‘careful attention’ needed for lithography. However, far from a silent meditative activity, graining stones is also noisy. Likewise, in this account attention and noise are equally present as the indivisible aspects of a mode of perceptual awareness that I propose is familiar to lithographers. This paradoxical coupling, I suggest, might also reveal the nature of the language engendered by the synchronic vibrations between inscribing flesh and limestone matrices.

A fragment from ongoing research that tests the generative intersection between stone lithography and language, infiltrating the seemingly mute pixels of the text that follows, is the sensory phenomenon of sound: both as the protagonist for an interdisciplinary narrative that brings lithography into dialogue with a tour of the world’s sonorous stones and in a rhetorical method of disparate parts that invites the reader to experience an equivalence between listening carefully to the ephemeral, and attending closely to the particular. Alongside geologists, musicians, and acoustic engineers, shaping the terrain of this speculative coupling of lithographic and lithophonic worlds are the voices of Simone Weil, Cynthia Bourgeault, Ashon Crawley, Cecile Malaspina, Michel Serres, Salome Voegelin, and the life and work of Birgit Skiold.
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