monologues of a hydroörganon

by Noor Naga

they call the ear an instrument—I giggle-burp
tin bubbles—they call it an organ—ha!—say all subaqueous
sound is dulled subdued while their young sit on the floors of swimming pools
cross-legged screaming sexual obscenities singing figarofigarofigarooooo! till
the water beetles in the filters shed their legs in fright till algae dislodges
from the underside of the grate and floats hairily-fairily so
grassly-greenly in the direction of the drawing drain

they descend from above skinned in rubber
iron-lunged disbelieving they shake the heads on their necks—if noise
is only the quiver they admit to if they cannot hear a dog whistle the wisdom
of flies rubbing wants off their eyes or how applause-like is evaporation from any water
surface—proteins sizzle-hiss in the caustic pools of their own stomachs—blood slams a
thousand valves a minute—they cannot hear more than a shrimp more than
a wax moth—the twats!—but shake the heads on their necks in doubt
when I sing from many brass- and copper-lipped mouths

the difference is oceanic is more than philosophic
between I cannot hear and there is no sound

Composers' Note:

"monologues of a hydroörganon" by Noor Naga presented a rather unique challenge it appears to be written by an actual Hydroörganon, and a rather crotchety one at that! The use of similar vowels and consonants in this poem pushes the reader along, like a rip current. A rip current which drives its subject along with a powerful force, moving this way and that, darting into different worlds without warning. It was this drive, which slows, picks up speed, and then moves into another place altogether, that we wanted to capture. We did this by using various samples from the St. John's Wolff organ to parallel the variations and similarities of the vowels and consonants with different releases, timbres, and registers.

(Listen to the composition by Adrian Foster and Joel Peters inspired by Noor's poem.)


Noor Naga is an Alexandrian writer and amateur hydroörganologist. She was born in Philly, raised in Dubai, studied in Toronto, and currently lives in Cairo, where she is conducting research on the phenomenology of subaqueous sound in the Nile River.