l'art d'être · laureen andalib

“Mahmilahpinatapai” – My Favorite Word, My First Soundscape

Click play button above “soundscape”

Recorded, ambient noise, composited into a chaotic soundscape. The definition of Mahmilahpinatapai is barely audible; rather, I imagine and invent the culture of which it belongs to (not much is known about the Yaghan) and hope for the background to come alive and obnoxiously impose over the delicate definition of the extinct word. Some situations in the background include a live recorded Gamelan performance, the meshes and chit-chatter in a coffee house, a typewriter, night noises outdoors, a fire crackling, etc. I manipulated the pitch of my voice to make myself sound like different people, even though the entire recording is my personal perspective and liking of the word, stressed through spoken word.



The word Mamihlapinatapai (sometimes spelled mamihlapinatapei) is derived from the Yaghan language of Tierra del Fuego, listed in The Guinness Book of World Records as the “most succinct word”, and is considered (for example by Austrian playwright Clemens Berger) one of the hardest words to translate.[1] It allegedly refers to “a look shared by two people, each wishing that the other will offer something that they both desire but are unwilling to suggest or offer themselves.”[2] A slightly different interpretation of the meaning also exists: “It is that look across the table when two people are sharing an unspoken but private moment. When each knows the other understands and is in agreement with what is being expressed. An expressive and meaningful silence.”[3] It is also cited in books and articles on game theory associated with the volunteer’s dilemma.[4][5]


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“Mahmilahpinatapai” – My Favorite Word, My First Soundscape

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