I have been re-reading Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood. He wrote it as a radio play for voices – ‘an orchestration of sights and sounds that conjure up the dreams and waking hours of an imagined Welsh seaside village within the cycle of one day’.
I recently came across a quote from the play that made me think that it could give me insight into my current thinking about connecting place, sound, listening and the passing of time: ‘Time passes. Listen. Time passes.’
The voices of the villagers are punctuated by a narrator who introduces and holds together their thoughts and meanderings. The introduction is particularly relevant. The play starts at late-night, the time just before dawn. The narrator describes the town asleep – (Silence). First voice (Very softly).
He invites us to imagine the sights and sounds of ‘the hushed town breathing’ and asks us to listen to ‘the processional salt, slow musical wind’ and ‘the grass growing, the sleep of birds in Milk Wood’. It is by visualising these silent or almost silent sounds that we are able to conjure up a picture of the village.
‘ Only you can hear the houses sleeping in the streets in the slow deep salt and silent black bandaged night.’
In almost the first sentence he describes ‘the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboat-bobbing sea’. I found myself connecting the blackness to a particular type of muffled and dampened silence. A Cageian silence that is not really silent at all but a whisper of continuous ever-present sounds that are only heard when we consciously listen.
The introduction seems to me to be about the visual imaginings of the sound of night blackness.
These black drawings were done last year. I now connect them to a ‘sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack’ night silence.