1492 – Always Coming Home: A sonic journey from Kesh (2020)

Some of the Places and Peoples Known to the Kesh, 1985 © Ursula K. Le Guin. Courtesy of Curtis Brown, Ltd

I finally realized that if I was ever going to find any words in which I could tell stories about my world, if I was ever going to approach the center of the world in my writing, I was going to have to take lessons from the people who lived there, who had always lived there, the people who were the land—the old ones, the first ones, trees, rocks, animals, human people. I was going to have to be very quiet, and learn to listen to them. (Le Guin, 1988/2019: 751)

Music and poetry of the Kesh by Ursula K. Le Guin & Todd Barton was released on bandcamp in 2018

Music and Poetry of the Kesh is the documentation of an invented Pacific Coast peoples from a far distant time, and the soundtrack of famed science fiction author, Ursula K. Le Guin’s Always Coming Home. In the novel, the story of Stone Telling, a young woman of the Ksh, is woven within a larger anthropological folklore and fantasy. (from bandcamp)

The ways of the Kesh were originally presented in 1985 as a five hundred plus page book accompanied with illustrations of instruments and tools, maps, a glossary of terms, recipes, poems, an alphabet (Le Guin’s conlang, so she could write non-English lyrics), and with early editions, a cassette of “field recordings” and indigenous song. Le Guin wanted to hear the people she’d imagined; she embarked on an elaborate process with her friend Todd Barton to invoke their spirit and tradition.

Always coming home is a musical feature by NTS radio with words words by Andrea Zarza Canova, various field recordings and a tracklist based on the above and the book by Ursula K LeGuin Always coming home. Original is here

Upon reading Always Coming Home by Ursula K. Le Guin, one feels as though entering an anthropological museum filled with artefacts from a past civilization; we can discover maps charting where the Kesh lived, drawings and descriptions of the plants, trees and rivers that surrounded them; collections of recipes and descriptions of how they dressed; detailed notes explaining their society, kinship, sexuality, medicine and funerary rites; folk tales, plays, poems, stories and descriptions of rites and rituals, with detailed descriptions of what their instruments looked and sounded like.

Pandora is the archaeologist, historian and anthropologist who describes the Kesh in this ethnographic account of a non-existent civilization. For both us readers and Pandora, also referred to as the Editor, the Kesh exist in the future, in a post-apocalyptic California. A note at the beginning of the book makes us aware of this with a complex use of verbal tenses—“The people in this book might be going to have lived a long, long time from now in Northern California”. This note is one of the few occasions where we hear Le Guin’s voice, for Always Coming Home is instead a patchwork of Kesh voices that come to life through poems, songs, storytelling, oral histories and a novel, collected or recounted by the narrator Pandora. (fragment from text by Andrea Zarza Canova)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s