The Futile Knocking of My Heart

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By Sasha Opeiko + Martin Stevens. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

"The Futile Knocking of My Heart" is a collaborative sound project by Sasha Opeiko and Martin Stevens, with contributions from guest artists. Each episode is an experimental rumination of melancholy, loss or speculation. Each artist is asked to find their inspiration using the sampled and modified sounds of the Deathwatch Beetle (Xestobium rufovillosum), a creature of myth and destructive reality.

The deathwatch beetle is a woodboring insect which occupies ancient buildings, tunneling into the structural timbers. The beetles batter their heads against their tunnel walls with a heart-like rhythm as a way of attracting mates, producing patterns of an echoing knock that resonates through the structure of the dwelling. The knocking is an individual signal to a potential mate, the louder the knocking of the male, the more response it receives from a female. The beetles pair up sonically and approach each other over relatively great distances.

Archaic superstition holds that the deathwatch beetle is a harbinger of death, likened to a clicking of the reaper’s skeletal fingers, and, the deathwatch beetle is named for the vigil (watch) kept over the dying or dead. Medieval myth conjured omens in a demon-driven world, both peasants and kings dying in their beds with this dreadful sonic accompaniment.

The superstition is no longer applicable, though the lore survives through the beetle’s eerie nomenclature. The romance of the insect has also waned as living with a contemporary infestation of these beetles makes domestic existence extremely disquieting.

The proliferation of parasitic life forms is incrementally self-destructive in that the beetle devastates the host’s habitat or dwelling, as well as its own. Coexistence with the deathwatch beetle can be likened to an uncanny 24-hour immersive inhuman sound installation designed and carried out by parasites.The response of someone subjected to a deathwatch beetle infestation is sensory, an embodiment of the uncanny, a psychological sensation of something familiar but estranged, a primal relation to the echoed stuttering heartbeat of the insects’ calling. .

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We are curating submissions for future episodes on an ongoing basis; please contact us to apply opeiko.stevens@gmail.com All Podcast artist receive a free T!

To cover publishing, we offer printed beetle logo t-shirts for purchase at - opeikostevens.bigcartel.com/

To access the live stream of a virtual deathwatch beetle infestation, "Structural Timbres: A Generative Infestation", programmed by Montreal artist Andrew Bradt - https://www.twitch.tv/andrew_bradt (There is also a recorded selection of this infestation as a podcast episode).

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Originally produced for and presented by Opeiko + Stevens at “Speculative Figures and Futures: Our Uncanny Postapocalypse (Part 1: Sights and Sounds)”, The 52nd Annual Convention of the Northeast Modern Language Association, on March 13, 2020.

13 episodes