Week 2: chopping – a refrain

chopping 12-3-16

This week it rained. As I had scheduled processing banana fibre this weekend,  I worried about the banana plant becoming too watery. Just in time for the harvest out came the sun and a beautiful specimen of whitey pink banana stalk was chopped up and ready for its transformation into banana pulp. (thanks Potts).

Today I chopped the trunk of the banana into small chunks to cook up in a large pot over the fire. There is something alchemical about this process, fire, water, earth and air. The melodic refrain of the chopping action has created a beautiful visual drawing, a ‘paper song’. While it is essentially a hand operated mechanical process it has its own repetitive rhythm which can be seen from the regular lines.

Chopped banana before coooking

Critical theorist Elizabeth Grosz in her book Chaos, Territory, Art: Deluze and the Framing of the Earth, defines refrains as “rhythmic melodious patterns” that “shape the vibrations of milieus into the harmonics of territories”.  Meaning that these sounds are bound to a place, a territory of origin whereas music liberates the refrain and allows it to performed beyond territory. This “dance of forces”  that moves from “rhythm to refrain and then to music” is vibration and resonance.”[1]

She alludes to  Charles Darwin’s theories on birdsong as a method of marking territory which sparked an association with my pleasure from listening to birdsong and that same resonant pleasure I get from the act of making banana paper. It reminded me why I want to undertake this nine month project: to ‘excavate’ the ‘songs’ embedded in the process of making  paper. I’m sure there are many other types of paper which have their own sound, their own ‘song’ but for me its banana paper, maybe with some washi fibre grown in.

Next week I will record the sounds of the paper being made, dripping water in the pulp, the crackling sounds of the paper drying in the sun and then the ‘paper song’ as it is pulled dry from the mould. I’m looking forward to seeing what sort of sonic patterns this will make.


[1] E. A. Grosz, Chaos, Territory, Art: Deleuze and the Framing of the Earth (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008), 31-33.



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