By Graeme Thomson & Silvia Maglioni
Lullabye to Language originates from a double encounter. During the first part of our residency at the Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers, researching into minor languages, non-communicative poetic strategies and possible ways of collectively unlearning codified speech-acts (of the kind that are instrumental in power relations and can lead to the hardening of identitarian positions) we were invited to take part in International Mother Language Day, celebrated each year to commemorate the students who were shot dead by police in Dhaka as they demonstrated for official recognition of the Bengali language.
This year, the main theme was the lullaby, those slender, trembling threads of melody that quieten language and bed it down in the voice’s hollows. We had the opportunity to listen to and record a number of lullabies in different languages currently spoken in Aubervilliers, including Bengali, Fon, Khassonke, Lingala, Comorian, Fula, Soninke, Yoruba, Arabic, Korean, Mandarin, Tamil, Spanish, Chinese, Berber… Around the same time we came across Jean-Luc Nancy’s beguiling text, Tombe de sommeil (The Fall of Sleep).
Lullabye to Language draws upon several of these recordings, together with passages taken from the chapter Berceuse (Lullaby) of Nancy’s text. Foreshadowing the opening of our Centre for Language Unlearning at Les Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers, the piece dwells in a zone where lullabies in numerous tongues emerge from a multilayered soundscape of sleep-related musics, electronic textures and field recordings to hopefully give language itself the chance to fall asleep.
Sound mix : Graeme Thomson.
Field recordings : Thomas Bauer, Silvia Maglioni.
Text : Jean-Luc Nancy.
Special thanks to : the lullaby singers of Aubervilliers and all the musicians whose work we have generously borrowed to accompany them into the night.
Production : Les Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers, avec le soutien à une recherche/production artistique du CNAP.