I spend the last few days in Pembrokeshire, right by the sea, listening to purely natural sound, perhaps the odd tractor of a nearby farm.
Natural sounds that I became aware of were the wind, birdsong, waves, water ‘licking’ rocks in the sea as water spiralled in a seesaw motion around them.
Every now and then when the path dipped low inside the land, the sound of wind stopped…momentary stillness rising…birdsong and the watery rhythm gaining clarity.
These sounds have something soothing, even the wind whilst up on a cliff.
Absence of human activity.
Big day…the whole team ‘Sound-Installation-Gloucester-Cathedral-Crypt’ met in the crypt, slyde, whispering gallery of Gloucester Cathedral thanks to Helen Jeffreys our contact to the cathedral we were able to freely start exploring sound, song, voice and the acoustics of a variety of those special places.
My brain was fizzing by the end of it all, filled with new discoveries and the excitement to start this journey with fellow collaborators Simon McCorry, Eleanor Holliday and Sid Wells.
All of us bring a variety of tools to this and together we are now developing what is going to be a sound-installation to be experienced by many later this year.
Simon a fantastic cellist unpacked his cello soon after we arrived in the crypt and Elle had her beautiful strong voice on the ready, soon the crypt was filled with sound, harmonies, discords. I let it all flow through me, the door into a new way of hearing opened wide. Sid, expertly putting sound-scape-samples on a speaker to test the quality of sound that was emitted and how different rooms and positions within the room alter sound.
Ideas bubbling of how algorithms can be worked out for the installation, practicalities of where to position speakers….Whilst Elle’s voice and Simon’s cello animate the walls and spaces around them.
So now is time to trust that the path is unfolding bit by bit.
Exciting times ahead!
Over the last few years I have observed light and have accustomed myself to its characteristics.
Light is there, present with its different states, direct, defused, blinding or flipping into night…moon light being a whole other thing.
Most of all I notice how fast and cruel sound around me is but then these sounds that I hear right now outside the window are the sounds of a city so it is sound made by humans.
Natural sound is perhaps very different, I want to explore this and luckily can in the next few days.
Light to me is slow, natural light as it moves through the day, I tried so hard to be able to notice how it shifts from one millimetre to the next, taking human made markers as my guards but it almost seems I can only notice a change by looking away for a few minutes after being continue where the light was when I last looked.
Was I perhaps always looking at this movement more than other aspects? Yes, I think so.
My recent installations are concerned with just that, the light moving and the shadows making that very movement possible.
Now as I try to observe sound I again tapp into its movement but I notice how I can not really cope with its speed and variety, it is too much too fast.
It is interesting to compare materials in this way and I think immediately that perhaps for the sound-installation in the crypt I want to focus on exactly this and play with time and compare, swap, intersect the movement of natural light with the movement of sound natural or human induced…
‘Sound Map’ May 2019
Light travels 186282 miles per second
Sound 343 metres per second
So there is something not correct here with my experience or say I have not fully grasped it as I am viewing the movement of the sun around the earth as the speed of light and human generated sounds as the speed of sound.
The speed of light is so fast that in a vacuum it can travel around the world 7.5 times per second whilst in that same time sound will have travelled 343 m….that explains why we see lighting before we hear thunder.
As children we often stood on the balcony with our father watching thunderstorms and we had to count the seconds from the moment we saw the lightning…the seconds counted resembled the kilometres of the distance of the thunderstorm…less seconds meant the storm was very close.
Excitement…fear…anticipation…waiting for the moment when light and sound collide.
My first memory of sound being recorded are the recordings my dad made.
I remember the clicking of the recorder as he pressed the buttons, ready for me to answer some questions into a microphone after he tested it ‘Eins Zwei Drei’.
I was just about able to put some sentences together resulting in some hilarious recordings; talking about what I saw during the day which often involved reflections on church visits, for example my thoughts on why Jesus had blood on his feet whilst hanging on a cross.
Hearing my own voice out of a machine was strange, how can that happen?
How can it be preserved and I can still hear myself today speaking as a 3 year old?
My father has one of those machines that takes two spools – one full of tape, the other one empty, ready to gather the sounds once played…it has as well as the sound of the recording the sound of the machine playing, the tape being rolled up, often the end of the tape scratching on each turn against the spool.
Singing was a big part of a catholic childhood, but I was also lucky to be a part of a children’s choir that had nothing to do with churchy songs… I had trouble reading music, but memorised songs after a while, tune and rhythm being equally of importance to me.
So from an early age I was able to understand that words are stories to listen to and songs are moving words that can trigger emotional responses.
Time to explore sound, music, voice, recordings.
Quickly, I am putting all my things together this morning, I could not bare thinking about leaving last night…the train leaves Pietrasanta at 8am.
I just about manage to fill the last bits of space in my bag with freshly baked pizza for my family.
Ticket from the tobacco shop, I am nervous and don’t manage to ask for it in Italian.
The person in front is the priest who closed with a friendly smile the duomo on the day I arrived.
Closure…and yet it feels like leaving home.
There is something here that has slipped under my skin, others said the same….’this place grows on you’.
I think from what I can make out so far, it is the history of sculpture making that has lived here since roman times, a network of everything sculpture…from material to highly skilled artisanos to sculptors from all over the world travelling here, living here, working here. I can imagine being myself here and having the framework needed to realise ambitious work.
I am rushing to not feel to upset which works well until I sit down on the train and put my headphones on.
In a cloud of music and overtired sadness I walk on the plane.
Bristol arrives under us in no time.
I will be back.
Of the how and when I am not sure yet.