Tag Archives: sound

Contrasts

What a difference a couple of weeks can make! Two weeks ago I was in the far west of  Cornwall. After a fantastic first day everything rather went down hill. Firstly, I got a cold (the first for 2 years), and secondly the weather deteriorated into rain (heavy at times) and gales. It made for exciting conditions, standing on the top of cliffs, looking down at huge, rolling waves and being battered by force 8 winds. The conditions meant that I didn’t manage to do as much drawing as I had hoped, however, the rain did stop occasionally, the sun did make an appearance (rarely), I did manage a few walks and some sketching was done.

fullsizeoutput_931

Looking to Pendeen watch from east of Porthmeor Beach. Grey Granite. Green grass. Grey/blue sea. Grey/blue sky is lighter than the sea which has a softly edged dark stripe along the horizon.

The landscape in Cornwall is vibrant.  The colours are strong and the lines and forms of the land and water are dynamic. All around there is constant activity and movement. When I was there the noise of the wind and the waves was tremendous; it filled the ears and was a real presence. I draw fast, moving pencil, pen and paint over the paper at speed: look, scribble, look, scribble. It is an energetic response to a vigorous landscape.

fullsizeoutput_90d

Looking down on a boiling sea and rock stack at Porthmeor Beach. Jade green/blue sea. White/jade waves froth around the rocks.

fullsizeoutput_911

Rocks at Kynance Cove.

fullsizeoutput_910

Cliffs at Kynance Cove.

fullsizeoutput_90f

Deep black gully looking back from Gurnard’s head.

Back here in Wells on the far east side of the country the contrast couldn’t have been more different this weekend as there were clear, bright days with hot sunshine. Sitting at the beachhut early in the morning, I watched the beach gradually fill with people coming to enjoy the summer sunshine. The long horizontal lines of the landscape languidly mingle and intertwine and although the light is brilliant there is still a subtle blue/grey cast to its colour. Everything appears calm.  Even the incoming tide, that creeps slowly over the sand, filling gullies and submerging exposed sandbanks, moves so slowly it is almost indiscernible. There is movement and change but, at the moment, it is a much quieter energy than that of the Cornish landscape. I draw a line, look and then draw another line. I smooth and gently wash the paint across the paper, filling the brush with colour and letting it drip and mingle as it will. It is a considered response to a contemplative landscape.

fullsizeoutput_932

The tide is coming in. The sun is bright with a westerly wind. The sky is cloudless and the sea is a shade darker. A dark line on the horizon.

fullsizeoutput_933

British Sharpie Championship lining up for the star of the race. The sound of the hooter carries (loudly) over the water.

fullsizeoutput_934

Bunched up before the race.

fullsizeoutput_935

A beautiful brown sail boat (runs) sails past the gap in the dunes.

Thankfully the cold has gone!

Advertisements

Simple starting points

I’ve started making a new piece of work. I’m at the beginning of the process and although I’m beyond the first sampling and trying out stage, I’m still in, ‘not quite sure exactly how this will turn out’ mode. I thought I’d write a little about some of its origins and a few ideas I am pondering at the moment.

IMG_2147

The form of this work comes from Minimalist music that originated in America in the mid-sixties. This type of music broke away from the classical tradition to be more chaotic and you could say, less musical.

fullsizeoutput_56f

Some of the features of Minimalist music are:

  • Layers of repeated rhythmic, melodic or harmonic patterns that are repeated many times (the proper word is ostinato).
  • Repeated patterns that gradually change over time.
  • Layered textures

fullsizeoutput_567

Composers included Terry Riley, Steve Reich and Philip Glass.

I remember taking part in a performance of Terry Riley’s In C, when I was at music college and being completely amazed by the way a seemingly simple score could create such complex sounds.

fullsizeoutput_566

In C consists of 53 separate bars of music in the key of C, each with a different melodic and rhythmic pattern.  Players repeat each bar as many times as they wish before moving onto the next. The result is an ever-changing web of sound where complicated patterns and unpredictable combinations of the set bars occur.

The idea that one simple form, when repeated over and over again, can produce complex and multifarious patterns is very beguiling and is also very relevant to visual art. The work I am making at the moment is made up of a simple, repeated form. When assembled these forms will create an altogether new and more complex work. I think that this work is the simplest interpretation of the idea…..

fullsizeoutput_569

….but already my mind is moving on to how I could make an even more complex work from the simplest of ideas: very, very, simple repeated, rhythmic layers that slip in and out of sync with each other to make a complex work.

However, for now, it’s on with the sewing – there’s a lot to do.  More on this project later as I progress!

 

 

And again the wind

fullsizeoutput_4ee

On the beach a stiff wind.

But in the pinewoods – stillness.

 

A slow crescendo. A gust gently swells

And its hastening rush journeys around from treetop to treetop before quietening.

 

Again the wind touches the trees, but its voice comes from another direction.

In the woods it is difficult to pinpoint its bearing.

 

Again the wind swells.

The sound of dry, cracking wood as its intensity peaks.

Dropping pinecones. Trees crack.

 

A wood-pigeon flies past and lands clumsily with flapping wings and a clatter.

Then, coo-coooo-roo-cu-cu, coo-coooo-roo-cu-cu.

 

And again the wind swells.

Trees gently sway.

Far away, seagull cry, and traffic rumble. Dog walkers walk wordlessly past.

 

And again the wind swells.

Above, a longer, more sustained gust dies and builds repeatedly.

On the ground – stillness.

p1030776

Hurray!

DSC_2744

I have finished sewing the last Sluice Creek Cloth for my gallery at the Knitting and Stitching Shows in the autumn ….. phew! This last cloth is a twin to the very first cloth I made in the series this time last year. Both these cloths are based on the regular and rhythmic sound of halyards knocking against the masts of boats in the wind and they focus on the way the sound of the chattering ropes shifts slowly in and out of unison.

DSC_2745

I took the cloth down to the beach in the evening to give it its first dip in the sea. At the moment this cloth is clean and unmarked and the unpainted part of the linen and the stitched rings are pristine white. It won’t be like this for long! I intend to dip this cloth into the sea and dry it around five times so that the rings rust and mark the cleanness of the cloth. I want the look of a utilitarian tarpaulin or work cloth that has been used, is dirty and has had a life.

DSC_2759

This Masts and Halyards cloth has been quite a task. There are about 250 rings sewn into it. I average about 5 rings an hour …. you can work it out!

DSC_2748

It was a beautiful evening for sea dipping at the beach.

Looking one way ….

DSC_2773

and the other.

DSC_2778

I will write more on all of the Sluice Creek Cloths in due course …..

 

Gun Hill

P1000718

Despite the fact that it has rained just about everyday for the last few weeks the paths along the edge of the marsh are dry. In winter they are permanently wet and muddy – too muddy to walk along without wellies. However the irregular intervals of warm sun and wind at this time of year, coupled with a week of small tides, means that the paths have dried out to a crazy paving of cracked mud and they are now negotiable.

I reach the hut (portacabin) where I was hoping to sit and draw but someone is there before me, perched on a convenient ledge, face up to the sun and quietly enjoying the heat. This is a favourite spot and I have sat here and drawn many times. I move on and find a dry, sand-pebbled spot at the end of the point overlooking the Scolt Head channel.

P1000720

The tide is out and there are many birds poking about in the mud. A group of oystercatchers chirp continuously with their ‘peeping’ call. They run around on short, red legs and then suddenly rise up, black and white stripy wings flashing in the light, only to land a few yards away, to continue feeding, talking and bickering – a typical family.

A streak of white comes in from the left and lands. Elegant legs and a crooked neck. A little egret stands out brightly against the dark mud. These egrets are a common sight here now on the marshes. At this distance I can’t see its bright yellow feet.

P1000719

Gulls wheel on the thermals and a skylark rises up from the dunes behind me. Its melodious song strengthens as it flaps its wings and climbs higher and higher. It is still singing half an hour later as I get up and walk on.

Words

I’ve been thinking about how I record and document the experience of my surroundings.

P1230381

Of course I use my eyes, and at first looking appears to be the dominant sense.  As I walk I’m mindful of what is going on around me  – I literally have to look where I’m going – but it is only when I sit still that I really begin to pay attention.  Stillness allows me to take time to search out detail and choose what is worthy of recording. I look, but I also listen and feel and smell (I don’t taste very often!). My senses shift from listening, to looking, to feeling as I become aware of the change and movement around me. It seems that one sense always dominates and the other senses back it up. If I hear a sound I look for it. If I see a movement I listen for evidence of it. If I stub my toe I look for the cause. Nothing happens in isolation and I need all senses to fully comprehend.

P1230391

‘wind in the reeds sets them waving and shifting – red/green movement – a huge continuous rushing and swooshing’.

So how do I record these sensory noticings? Drawing? Photograph? Sound recording? I do all of these things. Although texture is visually referred to in drawing and photographs and a visual picture jumps into your mind of what is being listened to in a sound recording, I like to complement these documentations with words and my sketchbook has as many pages of writing as it has drawings.

P1230392

‘the tide has moved the mud into ridges along the sides of the meandering rivulet. The sun catches them and casts deep shadows. A curlew calls’.

Sometimes I write down simple facts: the weather, the sounds I hear, colour and changes of light. I have a great fondness for lists: lists of birds I’ve seen (if I know their names), lists of objects found and just lists of words. I love a Thesaurus and I frequently write a list of synonyms for one word  (I find it can spark new ideas) and I love it when I discover a new word. Often I write a single sentence noting a change of light or how a bird calls as it takes off from the marsh. Finally I write pages of noticings that are a stream of consciousness – observations (not great works of literature) that I scribble down as they occur.

P1230384

‘Sea Roar – white noise

Higher sssssh – continuous – slightly wavering

You can’t hear the waves breaking.

There is no rhythm.

There is no source – it is enveloping.

The higher and lower sounds come forward and recede so that neither is more prominent that the other.’

P1230384

Words are a complement to my drawing and although I seldom make work that comes directly from either of these activities, the discipline of recording ensures that I stop, take notice and fully document each phenomenological observation. I am always searching for something new and the knowledge I gain through the process of documentation widens my scope and gives me a greater understanding and thus more possibility as I start creating.

Sound Holes

Music and sound are for me inextricably linked with playing a musical instrument. In my case it is the flute. Playing an instrument is a very physical experience that incorporates the senses of sight, sound and touch.

P1220969

A flute is not grasped tightly but is balanced lightly between the joint of the left index finger, the tip of the right thumb and under the bottom lip. The other fingers need to be able to dance freely over the keys and your posture needs to be upright with the arms away from the body so that it is possible to expand the chest and breathe deeply. You inhale and breathe out slowly filling the flute with air. The air vibrates and the sound waves can be felt pulsing up and down the flute. My favourite notes are the ones where all the keys are pressed down: low note D and E flat and E flat two octaves above, as it is here that the fingers can really feel the sound.

P1220973

A flute is basically a tube that is open at both ends with holes. The player blows across the mouth hole and the stream of air strikes the far edge bouncing it in and out of the tube causing turbulence and setting up vibrations in the column of air inside the tube. The tube acts as a resonator that amplifies the vibration and by opening or closing the holes the vibrating portion of the tube will lengthen or shorten to change the pitch of the sound heard.

P1220970

The holes (and the keys covering them) therefore are the focus of all the sound wave activity. As the vibrations pulsate up and down the tube an open hole stops them in their tracks and releases them – essentially the tube becomes shorter. The hole is an opening that frees the sound waves enabling them to be heard.

P1220983

As I sew hundreds of holes into this cloth I can’t help wondering what kind of noise they would make if  they were able to pulsate and resound with sound.