All Over the Wax is a feature about the sounds heard by the Odysseus boaters as they were passing the Sirens island.

Read the Transcript

00.00

Female voice
To the left. Yes, you can go now.

Vladimir Kryuchev (narration)
It’s Monday, 9 am, and I’m going to see the doctor.

Yuri Prilutsky
Vladimir (Vyatcheslavovich)!

Vladimir Kryuchev
It’s me!

Yuri Prilutsky
Right. Come in, have a seat.

Vladimir Kryuchev
Here’s is my health record.

Yuri Prilutsky
Ok. What seems to be the trouble?

Vladimir Kryuchev
Actually, nothing. I go for a regular hearing test.

Yuri Prilutsky
Uhm.

Vladimir Kryuchev (narration)
This is the authentic record of a dialog at the otolaryngologist’s. The doctor is Yuri Prilutsky.

Yuri Prilutsky
When have you noticed the first signs of a trouble?

Vladimir Kryuchev
No, I’m fine. I just want to make sure my hearing is ok. To be sure I’m not losing it, and my auditory acuity is ok, and…

Vladimir Kryuchev (narration) It could easily be the same Monday but some 3000 years ago when a person was looking at the other person’s ear very closely. And he could be saying something like…

Yuri Prilutsky
The right one is ok, the left one is ok.

Vladimir Kryuchev (narration)
That was Odysseus wadding his oarers ears with wax as their ship was passing by the Island of the Sirens. The Sirens, those half-women, half-birds, half-fish were known for their hypnotic voices, that brought death to any human. Odysseus knew that, he blocked his men ears with hot wax, and they tied him to the mast in return. That is how they passed the island and survived.

Vladimir Kryuchev
What will happen if I put some hot wax into my ears?

Yuri Prilutsky
What for?

Vladimir Kryuchev (narration)
Now it’s time to put cards on the table.

Vladimir Kryuchev
I’ve told you the half-truth. I’m doing a feature that will try to recreate what the Odysseus oarers have heard when they got their ears stuffed with hot wax.

Yuri Prilutsky
Well, they’d rather hear their own body sounds — the pulsation of blood.
Yes, that’s what they’ve heard. The nerve and the blood vessel are very close to each other at the bone canal. When the blood pressure goes up, the sound transmits onto the nerve. Hot wax temperatures can be tolerated by the body, but the eardrum is different. It would be ok to do it with local anesthesia.

Vladimir Kryuchev (narration)
Odysseus is known for a number of labours, but he is not a one-dimensional superhero. He can afford to be afraid of the Laestrygonians — the Ancient World bad guys. He can admit his faults getting stuck at the Polypheme cave. He can even cry on public. But his boatmen are neglected. We know almost nothing about them — neither what they felt, nor what they heard.

Alexander Solodovnikov
Taking into account the time they were away, the oarsmen were anticipating the joy of reuniting with their families. The good things like that — it was all they could think about.

Vladimir Kryuchev (narration)
Alexander Solodovnikov is the canoe coach with a long distance rowing background.

Alexander Solodovnikov
Sometimes you have to cover a distance really fast. It’s not only about those oarsmen passing the Sirens island. But this is what it’s all about. That’s when your body starts to act as a single mechanism — and the heart starts beating heavily. Boom! It’s not in your chest at these moments, it’s in your head, in your temples. Your only wish is to keep the pace. Row! Row! Row!

Vladimir Kryuchev (narration)
The oarsmen may have heard not only their body sounds but the low frequency beats coming up from the water below and the water-bed.

Alexander Solodovnikov
We were rowing in the Sayan Mountains with lots of healing water springs all around. It was raining all night. But suddenly the powerful beats and a rumble reached us from the river. I didn’t get it at first but my coach said — lads, these are the 3-meter stones rolling through the river-bed. That’s what we’ve heard.

Natalia Sidortsova
The Sirens…

Vladimir Kryuchev
This is Natalia Sidortsova, a singer.

Natalia Sidortsova
Those voices are a mystery for sure. Now, armed with the laws of physics, we may suppose that their vocal cords were producing some sort of extra low or extra high frequencies, inaudible to us. A direct hit at the subconscious. That’s what I think about it. Well, there should be something beyond the laws of physics. Some sort of magic.

Vladimir Kryuchev (narration)
The singers can be a Siren and a boater at the same time. This happens when they are on stage.

Natalia Sidortsova
I used to work with in-ear headphones, those stage monitors that block any sound outside and send you only the sound of your voice and the music. I can’t stand them — I got such a nasty feeling of being isolated from the world outside with in-ears on. I don’t think those sailors were happy with that ear wax. But at the same time it was something that saved their lives, right?

Vladimir Kryuchev (narration)
There’s only one track on Alexey’s Michkov playlist. Here it is — it leaks from his headphones. Alexey doesn’t know the performer’s name, he’s not aware of the title of the song. And even it’s origin is obscure to him.

Alexey Michkov
I have no idea. I’ve just stumbled across it one day, and I liked it. That’s all. Later, I recalled this song, and when I played it — that was it. My headphones save me from the people around me when I can’t focus on my work. I press play. This tune repeats for a half-an-hour. I don’t pay much attention to it but it prevents any sounds that could trigger my reaction. It’s an unusual way to escape the sounds that irritate me. I may not be the only one, but I’ve never met anybody else escaping the reality the same way.


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It focuses on the neglected Homer’s characters and puts life into them. This piece recreates the ‘inner’ sonic environment they were in during those minutes in history with their ears blocked by hot wax.

Sirens by J.W. Waterhouse

Let’s have an insight by looking for the Modern Age boaters and sirens, from the canoe coach and pop singers to the person doing just the same – wearing ear plugs to escape the torturing sound. The story starts with a routine check at the otolaryngologist’s and a question — what will happen if someone puts hot wax into his ears?

All Over the Wax got second prize at the Prix Marulić Radio Drama festival in 2016.

Images: The Ulixes mosaic at the Bardo Museum in Tunis taken by Giorces/Wikimedia, Ulysses and the Sirens by J.W. Waterhouse at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, StockSnap/Pixabay, the Solodovnikov family archive, Natalya Sidortsova, an ancient Greek vase, Vladimir Kryuchev.

Music used: Taking Dark Matter Lightly by Alan Singley (Creative Commons)

Posted by oontz.ru

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