"A SOFT TONGUE BREAKS THE BONE" (c) Raquel Gomez, 2022

Boris Jöns

Boris's residency was part of the MUSART program initiated by a scholar group of the University of Hamburg researching the MUSAR, a large body of Jewish Moralistic writings. Thinkers from all over the world have enjoyed a long tradition of debating how to give believers an orientation on how to apply appropriate ethical behaviour, as written in the Torah.

The participatory sound installation A SOFT TONGUE BREAKS THE BONE, shown at the OPENHAUS in November 2022, invited the audience to approach the Musar by commenting on it.

Ten wooden (2 x five symmetrically ascending) panels with selected phrases (painted by Linda Schwarz) from the MUSAR corpus confronted the recipients with the mindset of prayer, belief in and fear of God, death and its relation to sleep. Aligned with the text panels, two sets of stairs allowed the audience to climb and confront themselves eye to eye with each of the panels. At the peak of the panels, an electroacoustically enhanced zither (built by Ole Wulfers) produced a version of the Hasidic rhuzim niggun chant.

Via smartphones and a webform, comments were be sent to digital infrastructure, where the comments were classified into five categories: praise, dissent, insinuation, lecture and concession. Not only were the classified commentaries then displayed on a projection, they were also then used as sound and musicmaking impulses.

A dynamically input of comments resulted into the open-ended, ever-changing sonic interaction from the zither sounds and the sounds of the commentariat (the audience).

The installation A SOFT TONGUE BREAKS THE BONE was a preliminary manifestation of Boris's long term interest in formats that reflect speech acts, especially relation-making speech acts, where actors manage their relation to one another through more or less manipulative utterances. 

The exchange with the scholars of the MUSAR group had a significant influence on the conception of the installation. Reading and discussing the passages provided by the scholars gave Boris an idea of the intensity, depth and entanglements of the Musar mindset.



"A SOFT TONGUE BREAKS THE BONE" (c) Raquel Gomez, 2022
"A SOFT TONGUE BREAKS THE BONE" (c) Raquel Gomez, 2022
"A SOFT TONGUE BREAKS THE BONE" (c) Raquel Gomez, 2022
"A SOFT TONGUE BREAKS THE BONE" (c) Raquel Gomez, 2022
"A SOFT TONGUE BREAKS THE BONE" (c) Raquel Gomez, 2022

Funding information

MusART is an artist-in-residence program developed by the Emmy Noether Junior Research Group “Jewish Moralistic Writings (Musar) of the Early Modern Period: 1600–1800” and funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG).

MusART ist ein von Emmy Noether Junior entwickeltes Artist-in-Residence-Programm Forschungsgruppe "Jüdische moralistische Schriften (Musar) der Frühen Neuzeit: 1600–1800“ und gefördert von der Deutschen Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG).