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So Here We Are

In 1994, I directed Nou daar zitten we dan, a piece based on the short story Here we are (1931) by Dorothy Parker. Two people in a train car, newly-weds on their honeymoon. He has only one thing on his mind, and so does she. He can’t wait for the moment to finally arrive; she wishes it would never come at all. Neither of them mentions the issue at any point, and yet it is the only thing they are talking about. It’s absolutely hilarious, the timing is perfect, and the atmosphere is simply delectable. Somehow, I am reminded of that piece and that atmosphere. The meaningful silences, the absurdity of the situation, the not-knowing. Being inescapably stuck in a small room together.

I love silences. Especially silences that tell a story, that require you to find a deeper layer, to tune into a different frequency in order to understand what is really being said.

What implicit gesture, what intention is it that is speaking? Whose voice?

In this time of corona, I find myself led to such silences. I find myself called to listen – to listen in a new way. It’s as if my own tools of observation are being invited to recalibrate themselves.

The buzzing of Zoom meetings is increasingly distracting. The digital bustle, the TV consolation, the email and WhatsApp initiatives…

And yet, at the same time, new spaces are opening up. For the first time ever, I can hear the new-born blackbirds in the nest in my yard. I’ve lived here for thirty years, and that has never happened before!

I close my eyes and listen to the silence. My ears tune into my surroundings and perfectly pick up every vibration and frequency.

The world begins to sing, and my ears delight in the music.

Deep in my body, life composes its song. The treble frequencies of squeaking blackbird chicks harmonise with the calm beats of my heart, the bells of the Westerkerk church join in and my intestines grumble loudly during the interlude.

The insects buzz, the plants respond with inaudible vibrations. An electric drill ramps up its insistent whine until the wind takes over and whistles its own tune.

It’s a unique concert, on just another Friday morning.

by Marjolein Baars

What’s going on behind the silent facades of the Jordaan district during lockdown? Verhalenfestival Jordaan – the Jordaan Story Festival – asked residents to submit their stories. What’s going on in their heads and in their lives?

Eight of the stories were read and recorded by local actors and used to create the audio walk Niets te zien (Nothing to See).


met dank aan: Gemeente Amsterdam West Soundtrackcity Het huis van Amsterdam