Humming

by Suk-Jun Kim

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1.
A Question 01:32
2.
3.
4.
The Passion 13:26
5.
6.
Thin Lines 10:55
7.

about

To me, to you

Humming brings to me one simple question for which I have two immediate answers, answers that I hope will lead us to the secrecy of hums, its structure, its workings, and its aim, once we tease out its seeming simplicity. So here is my simple question: Who am I humming to?

To me: why do I need to hum to me? What is it that makes me need to hear it? Wait, what are you really doing when you hum, are you performing this hum or listening to it? Are you doing both? Am I in need of care, love, and a feeling of security? Am I in a shower? Am I in need of a distraction to avoid or get away from thoughts that resist erasure? What kind of thoughts do I have which I need to have erased? Why are they creeping up on me, so much so that I need a distraction? Why do I feel they are dangerous, and I have no way of keeping them under my control? Why can’t I name them? Is my humming helping me remove those thoughts? Are my hums working, or in vain, useless? Am I really humming to me? What am I humming at? Is this question meaningless? Where does my humming go?

To you: who are you? Are you someone close to me? My baby, son, daughter, grandson or granddaughter, my mother, father, my husband or wife, my love? Why am I humming to you? Do you need to hear my voice to calm yourself, (re-)assure yourself of my love, my commitment, our relationship? Or is it me who needs to hum to you? To calm myself, (re-)assure myself of your love, your commitment, our relationship? But only my hum, only my voice; not my voice proper; not my words, my reasoning, my rationale, the voice-turned-to-language, my thoughts, thoughts in chain, chain of signification? Only my air belching out from the lungs, the larynx, the vocal fold, the vocal tract? Only the guttural noises, heavily muffled, filtered, moulded and smoothed out with the lips sealed so as to bear only the traces of and from the past, assuring and reassuring, promising to commit, but not a commitment in contract, in words? Non-committal, hum and haw, fleeting, significant, but non-signifying vows, for my lips are sealed, my mouth closed, not wanting to or unable to give my words? Is this why my hums are round and round, ever more lingering, so light, floating, in the air, as the air, but never getting to you, to us? Then what am I humming at – have I asked this question before? Where does my humming go?

|| From Humming (The Study of Sound) by Suk-Jun Kim, pp 21-22 ||

Humming is a part of Humming Project, an interdisciplinary research project that combines practice-based, artistic research methods, including electroacoustic compositions, sound installation and public-engaged performance arts, and more traditional research methods through writing.

To examine the significance of humming in shaping private and intimate spaces and sharing individual memories with people that are close to themselves and also to their community, and to explore ways in which humming can bring about the sense of place and of community, I had initially conducted a series of ongoing public sound installations for which I had collected people’s hums (of songs and tunes that would remind them of their childhood) and played them back to the community in a place that might have been either historically or socially significant to them. The first one was In Tune, Out of Tune (Berlin Humming) in 2009-2010 for which I collected hums from some 50 people in Berlin. This led me to conduct two more similar, albeit more expanded, humming projects (in Silver City, New Mexico in 2012, and Aberdeen, Scotland in 2013).

Soon Humming Project has been turned into a more interdisciplinary one. Over the years of collecting and playing back the hums that I have collected, I have come to realise that humming is an interesting vocalic act that has not been thoroughly researched, particularly, its performative, socioacoustic, and ecological impact on individuals and community. Furthermore, as a sonic concept that could be explored in sound studies, humming does exhibit two contrasting (polarising) categories: one that is familiar to us, that we both perform and listen, that is intimately connected to our body, our psyche, our community, our private and collective memory, and the other that poses itself completely at odds with our humming, such as electrical hums, hums of machines, man-made or natural hums that invade our sonic and psychological landscape, hums that keep resounding regardless of our listening. My inquiries into this peculiar sonic concept has led to a book titled Humming, which will be published by Bloomsbury about the same time when this CD comes out.

And then are these series of compositions that are directly related to the book. Initially, I believed (and hoped) that these compositions would be mostly about the beauty and warmth of hums of people that I have gathered, listened to, and experienced over the last ten years. How wrong I was! On the contrary, and just like my book, these compositions on humming took a rather strange turn as I started to compile them. Instead of being ones that would celebrate humming, these compositions kept on looking through cracks, gaps, openings that pulled me down – those deafening silences which all hums seem to gaze at and emanate from. If my compositions are monolithic in their form, it is not by design or intention, definitely not by habit; because they are the shape of the drive of humming.

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released October 27, 2019

VXR0006 - VOX REGIS, University of Aberdeen

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Suk-Jun Kim UK

Sound artist and composer, author of "Humming". Born in Korea. Lives in Scotland.

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