"!" [Hollywood Blues] July 2013 - Page 11

A half-chorus of dancing youths, on an Attic vase for mixing wine, c. 500–480 BC. Antikenmuseum Basel und Sammlung Ludwig ‘Goddamn it!’ ‘What did you say?’ ‘Oh, my God!’ Immediately, voices are loud, like a shout, sometimes a scream. Yes, these people are moved. Anonymous, they appear – at first sight, at first sound – as an ensemble or a collective, sharing something that we, the audience, can neither see nor hear. Whatever it is, it comes at us in fragments of speech, in the expressions of a face and the timbre of a voice: ‘Oh, my God!’ ‘Aah!’ ‘And don’t worry ... Worry? About what? ... And uh, you don’t need to worry either.’ Struggling to catch up with whatever is happening, you might wonder: Was that a dialogue? Are these people talking to one another? Perhaps. But probably not. No-one looks at anyone else. Speech accumulates, peremptory, interrupted, unacknowledged: ‘Probably dead before she hit the sidewalk.’ ‘No.’ ‘Yeah, its very important.’ ‘The 227th heavy transport batallion.’ ‘You’re out of your mind.’ It’s like listening to one side of a conversation – or, more precisely, of many conversations. Mobile speech. Emergency speech. Words are describing, instructing, criticising, reassuring, complaining, repeating, exhorting, bemoaning, questioning, panicking and announcing: ‘We interrupt our regular programme to bring you a special bulletin ...’ The media are here. ‘This is an emergency.’ Walls are collapsing, water rising, gas is poisoning the air. Someone asks how to feed and shelter four million people. Is this the end of days? Suddenly, terribly, the ensemble speaks with one voice: ‘Help me! Oh God, help me! Help!’ 11