“Toca toca toca… Goooooooal!” “Gee Bob I think you’re getting the swing of it!”

Bruce Chatwin, in Songlines, describes a theory held by some anthropologists that Aboriginal songs sung in the Australian outback— and which, for their sacred cultural role, few westerners have been privileged enough to hear—are a map. A set of directions for day-long Walkabouts that preserve historically significant travels. Aboriginies, after all, have 40,000 years of culture behind them. (They’re our oldest remaining culture.) Songs articulate and capture the footsteps over land, up hillsides, down and across riverbeds… Animal songs, too, are territorial refrains, either marking territory or describing it (as in the case of whalesong).

Soccer commentators have the choice of describing action, or accompanying it. I prefer the Spanish style of commenting, which does the latter. One hardly needs to see the game; commentators dribble dribble dribble, cross, dribble, pass, shoot their way through the action, giving it rhythm, capturing its pace, modulating speeds in their speech to mimic the game’s action. Mimetic soundtrack, in the world of film making (where soundtrack corresponds to action seen). American commentators, instead, talk about the game, providing insights to strategy, player biographies, tactical analyses… Voice over, in the world of film making.

Sound is a medium of movement. And in commentating as well as in sacred song, it sounds better when it unfolds movement rather than suspends and captures it for analysis.

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