Sound may effect a shift in registration, as its voice continues in narrative. As such, quotation often registers sound as an agent, a voice that compels one to act differently.
For example, I had been out recording sounds of the Siuguluan River early one June morning in 2017. Rahic Talif had earlier told me that my recordings had captured the force and murky quality of the Taradaw but lacked a feeling for clear, still water. Conditions that morning were right, with the sun glinting off of the south wall of the canyon as it burned away the morning fog; I managed to record the sound of dew as it dropped from leaf to leaf. Excited to share these recordings with Rahic, I sent him a text message with an excerpt.
When we met for lunch later that day, ciRahic told me a story that quoted dew falling in the mountains.
Rahic’s grandfather had served as a police officer in the Japanese colonial administration. In the early 1930s, Japanese officials, anxious to suppress the remnants of the Wu She Uprising, sent many police officers upland. Sent on the mission, Rahic’s grandfather trekked upriver along the Taradaw toward the “Cold Mountains” (Kasienaway a Lotok Central Mountain Range). As he entered a narrow gorge, he felt homesickness. He lit his pipe, smoking as he walked through the gloom of the canyon, wading through the river or scrambling over rocks. It was in the afternoon. Soon the sun reflecting from the walls of the canyon filled it with light. The canyon walls were of a brilliant white stone, almost like crystal, with ferns and trees sprouting wherever they could gain a roothold. Grandfather was not far from his destination. Far above him, near the rim of the gorge, the enemy—Iwatan or Tayen hostile to the Japanese—smelled the tobacco smoke as it drifted upwards.
“What is this enemy we smell, coming near us?” asked the Iwatan. They mobilized their youth to intercept whoever was walking up the canyon toward their village.
Just then, as Grandfather walked through the shimmering canyon,
tela’ saan ko matela’ no aresing
a drop of the coldest dew fell from the leaf of a tree far above him. Tela’tela’tela’ saan
it fell from leaf to leaf and into a pool of water where the creek rested, radiating outward, to:ng saanay.
Tela’ tela’ sa
the dew fell on Grandfather’s face and on his chest. At that moment, Grandfather’s heart cooled.
“Aya! What am I to do, tela’ went the dew as it fell, cooling my heart. Why am I going to attack the Iwatan? They are people, not my enemy,” said Grandfather.
However, the Iwatan had already discovered him. Soon they were blocking his way. Grandfather had no way to communicate with them except through song. He began to sing of his journey and of the dew.
“Aya, Widang-aw! Ma-tela’tela’ to ko ‘o’ol
Ma-fasaw no tela’ no ‘o’ol ko faloco’ ako, widang!”
saan ko A-Kong
Aya, Friend-VOC! UV-tela’ tela’ ASP NCM.NOM dew
UV-cool NCM.GEN tela’ NCM.GEN dew NCM.NOM heart GEN.1S, friend!
QUOT NCM.NOM Grandfather
“Aya, My friend! Tela’ tela’ went the dew
The tela’ of the dew cooled my heart, friend!” Said A-Kong
The Iwatan replied in song and took him back to the village. He was nearly certain that he would be decapitated, but he thought:
“These are people. They are not my enemy.”
He slept in their village that night following a banquet. Although he thought, “tomorrow morning my head will be gone,” he woke the next morning –
tela’tela’tela’, satala’ta’ sa ko tela’ no ‘orad–
to the sound of early morning rain falling from the straw roofs of the village houses. He knew this sound from rainy days in his youth. His hosts brought him a basin of water to wash his face. The cold water reminded him of the dew. It was water from the dew, after all. It opened his eyes.
Aya! What am I to do? These are not my enemies. Why must I do the bidding of the Japanese to attack them?
Warning the village of the Japanese advance, Grandfather left his mission to wander with them, befriending Iwatan, Manuwan, and Tayen in the mountains.
CiRahic quotes the sound of dew falling from leaf to leaf and finally to a pool between rapids in the deep mountain canyon as a way to depict Grandfather’s transformation.
In his discussion of this story, ciRahic tells me that the sound and the tactile qualities of the dew were most important. Both changed his grandfather’s understanding of his relationship with the Iwatan, who had been traditional enemies of Pangcah. Rahic underscores the importance of this quotation in direct discourse, animating the speech of his grandfather (tela’ tela’ sa ko ‘aresing nani papah, matela’ no ‘aresing to pising no mako), which registers the sound of dew falling in both the grandfather’s interior monologue and sung discourse to the Iwatan. Moreover, the sound both indexes the moment of transformation and iconizes Indigenous life (the architecture of thatched roof houses). Just as the sound of dew falling from the thatched roofs in the Iwatan village resembles the sound of rain on / from thatched roofs in Makota’ay, the Iwatan are “people” and not “enemy.”
Rahic’s story registers the transformative power of sound—tela’ tela’ fell the dew, and my heart cooled—but it is also interesting that the prompt for this story was my recording of dew falling from leaf to leaf in the Siuguluan River Canyon toward Kiwit.
In telling the story, ciRahic gives me a way to situate the sound of dew within a Pangcah sonic memory, one connected to uses of dew in traditional ritual life, in which dew expels malign influences. A sonic event like dewfall, as registered in direct discourse, encodes a memory of Pangcah responses to occupation, a call to conscience when one might saddle too close to colonial power. Thus an environmental sound becomes available as an alternative history, complete with its own ethical imagination. Punctuating the diffuseness of occupation, sound abets ethical transformation.