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Breathing has been one of my favorite topics both in sound and text for years. “Breathing into the Tubes” project  that I made a couple of years ago with a visual artist friend has been haunting me since, in a way or another. We visited several times at the neonatal intensive care unit in University Hospital of Helsinki,  in order to record the sounds of the neonatal ventilation machines and to film the spaces (no babies in the film though).  Our aim (I guess) was to explore the fragile intimacy encapsulated in this overwhelming environment: bright lights, loud machine sounds, flux of diverse people in their endless caring acts.

Right after the visits and the movie editing process I wrote about the recording sounds in this environment:

“The frenetic struggle between breathing and non-breathing (from my flute-playing past) invades my flesh again in the neonatal intensive care unit.  Listening to the exhalation. Recording the exhalation. Sensing the exhalation. Anticipating the exhalation. Anticipating the inhalation, which will happen. Inhalation always happens. Finding myself swaying to the rhythm of the cyborgian inhale-exhale flow that is generated by the ventilators. The beating of mechanical air creates a particular tangible space around the tiny neonatal baby lying anaesthetized on the bed.This space diffuses its tactile-aural care-control nurturance in the air, which makes the doll-sized naked chest tremble softly.

But I cannot look at the baby.

Instead, I try to concentrate on recording. I force my ears to listen to the frequencies and the timbres of the machine pulse between us, the baby and me. I protect myself with the microphone and headphones. With them I dare to encounter the cyborg neonatal, at least in those sound vibrations. With my microphone and headphones I form a fluid coating, a mucous membrane that gently touches the fragile lines of flight between the neonatal baby and the ventilator. As a mucous membrane I can tamper the dense, intense and limpid extension of air that moves through the tubes and reaches the miniature lungs of the neonatal baby. As a mucous membrane I am able to feel what the nurse tells me about this particular trembling ventilator machine, how it subtly pushes the air to the lowest parts of the baby’s lungs. The streaming meshwork of air nourishes the medical machines and prostheses that nourish the baby.

At the moment of recording as sensing, the cyber-projected vibrating of the neonatal visceral depths with their adherent genesis and digital interiors contaminates me. My breathing infiltrates the air that steams through the plastic tubes. “

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