Sometimes, sound producers can be very annoying.
We ask you to turn off your cell phone.
You can move your hands as much as you like, but don’t move your foot…
We may even unplug your fridge.
Or you can move it, just don’t lift it off the floor.
Then, when everyone else has left, we stay there still, quiet, recording the silence of the room.
That silence is called “Room Tone” and we use it later, in the editing process, to make the silence sound more natural.
When I started thinking about this podcast, I asked some of my friends to send me their room tones.
This one is from Joaquín, in Ushuaia.
This one is from Federica, in Boston.
And this one is mine, after an interview in Guadalajara.
Listening to so many room tones together made me realize several things. One is that all silences are similar. Another is that no two silences are the same. Perhaps that is why there is also another word for room tone: we call it “presence”.
And suddenly I realized that it was the best way of explaining this podcast: our silences are full of presences.
My silences began at home.
My mother died when I was eight years old. She had been sick, but her death was very sudden and unexpected. As I grew older, I began to realize that I knew no reasons that explained her death.
And when I started asking questions, my family and my mother’s friends tried to dissuade me. Why did I want to know? It could hurt me. And it’s not like they were trying to hide anything from me. In fact, they didn’t know either.
This is my sister, Blanca
Of course I’m missing information, of course there are pieces missing. But… I have learned to skip those parts, those missing pieces, I just skip them and go on to the next one. That’s all. I’ve created my own story, filling in those gaps in my own way and that’s it.
For many years I thought that not knowing was a family custom. Slowly, I realized that if it was a family custom, it was so for many, many families. This is my friend Emilio.
When my grandmother heard her children — my father and his siblings—talking about the past and she sensed that, at some point, they might talk about their father, my grandmother would bang on the table and it would only take them a few seconds to change the subject. Right? Because there were matters that could not be discussed.
Emilio’s silence and my silence are not that different. They are both silences of the present and they are both silences that come from the past: from a past of dictatorship, that lasted 40 years, where our parents, our grandparents, forcibly learned that talking too much, or knowing too much, or asking too much, was dangerous. If you did so, people could know what you thought and, if they knew, they could report you. And if they reported you, they could take away your house, or put you in jail or they could kill you.
It’s called repression, or political violence. In other countries, they call it “white terror”.
Like white noise.
White noise is a random signal in which all frequencies have the same intensity. One is never higher than the other. Not one of them stands out.
In Franco’s Spain, our parents, our grandparents, learned how to be just that: white noise.
This is when the expressions “Don’t make yourself noted”, “Don’t stir the wound”, “We don’t talk about that” were born.
[white noise interrupting]
That is how they learned to be silent.
Of course, this is all in the past, right? Franco died in 1975, then came the Transition and then democracy, and this is where we are today. It’s simply that, the founding pact of that democracy, which meant leaving the past in the past and looking forward, was remarkably effective.
Many of us were raised with the same phrases that our parents and grandparents were brought up with.
This is my father.
Isabel: Do you remember telling me, as a child, something similar to “don’t make yourself noted”?
Father: Not using that expression, I wouldn’t talk like that, “don’t make yourself noted”. [What I did say to you was] Don’t be the leader of anything… You don’t have to wear your Sunday clothes every day, just stay… Calm, because… Don’t be in the front line, because if there is violence you will be the first one to get hurt… That type of thing.
In the country I come from, silences are born out of fear. Out of inherited fear.
That’s why many of us become diggers.
Some dig literally, piercing the earth, breaking the soil.
[Sound of an exhumation]
Others dig in a more metaphorical sense.
But we are all trying to break a silence.
Today I started to talk a little. I mean, four days, today I started to talk a little, all the rest…
Unfortunately, now I regret not having asked more questions,
It was all so enigmatic and evocative…
But at the time I didn’t feel the need to, did I?
It seems to me that, although it was an open secret…
I’ve kept quiet. I haven’t talked to anyone at all. Today I’ve started talking a little.
It takes many hours to explain this. Many hours.
Your memory can betray you.
Day by day, I feel more convinced that it is absolutely necessary to talk about secrets…
I would mostly listen to them, if someone wants to talk, I would listen to them.
And that’s why I’m here.
Isabel: Recently, a friend told me about the “son syndrome”, or in my case the “daughter syndrome”. She told me that when your parents die young, you spend your entire life terrified of reaching that age. And when you finally get there, you dare to do things that you would have never done before.
My mother died when she was 38. I just turned 38 in this weird 2020.
Isabel: I am Isabel Cadenas Cañón,
Laura: I am Laura Casielles,
Paula: I am Paula Morais,
Vanessa: and I am Vanessa Rousselot,
Isabel: And this is where De eso no se habla begins. A podcast that connects the dots between individual silences and collective silences. Every other Sunday, we offer you a story about silences and of how we break them.
We will begin on September 27th, that is this Sunday. Find us on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podimo or whichever platform you use to listen to podcasts.
See you soon.