Composer and artist Mira Calix led a project exploring field recording and sound composition, culminating in the production of experimental sound works made collaboratively by workshop participants. The sound works are published here with the makers’ comments.
Past Sancreed, straight through Mayon, then on until you get to Land’s End – after that Lyonesse will slowly draw into sight.
Simon Bayliss and Finlay Abbott Ellwood will take you on a sonic road trip to a land now forgotten.
“The finest song of long-distance mental travel that I’ve ever come across” – Sennen Coastguard
“A highly original work” – The Armed Knight
Finlay Abbott Ellwood, Simon Bayliss and Teresa Gleadowe
Our piece was based on ‘The Conference of the Birds’, a Persian poem by Attar of Nishapur. Birds were a key theme that resonated with these three Scorpios during the workshop, which provided a focussed period of time and space to detach from our other lives. In the poem, the birds of the world gather to decide a sovereign. The wisest bird, the hoopoe, instructs the others to cross seven valleys in order to reach the abode of the Simorgh, an enlightened and mythical bird. The fourth valley, the Valley of Detachment, was a pivot for our soundscape. It describes a place where ‘reality’ vanishes and all worldly desires and attachments are given up. Our soundscape began with a visual of a swarm and culminated in presenting sound – its reduction and abstraction – and silence, in flock-like clusters. Presence and absence are mutually bound.
As Sholeh Wolpé describes in her modern translation of the poem: ‘We are the birds in the story. All of us have our own ideas and ideals, our own fears and anxieties, as we hold onto our own version of the truth. Like the birds of this story, we may take flight together, but the journey itself will be different for each of us.’ These words reflected our collected experiences of the landscape and activities we encountered during The Cornwall Workshop.
Flo Brooks, Leila Galloway and Lizzie Ridout
Tasked by Mira to make a sound composition formed of field recordings and tracing the immediate landscape, we headed towards Frenchman’s Creek on a footpath that cuts through the woods. But, only five minutes into our journey from Kestle Barton, we came across an underground clay drainage pipe lying just visible, with one end at the edge of the path and the other extending two metres into the leafy undergrowth. This obscure object became a long narrow device for listening, the auditory equivalent of a periscope. From one end of the pipe we listened to the rain, its density compressed and amplified by the form of the pipe. Playful observational accounts of the surrounding landscape and its more than human inhabitants were described from one end of the tunnel to the listener at the other – a voice bouncing off the interior walls, in a private exchange.
Mollie Goldstrom, Emily Hawes and Rachael Jones
All the time we were at Kestle Barton apples from the orchards were being gathered, pulped, pressed and bottled to make juice. We started recording in the bottling room. We wanted to get a variety of tones and types of sound, rumbles, squelching, rattles, slurps and squeals that could span a range of pitches. Then we went to the orchard to record the wind in the trees and the birds, and we ate a few apples. All three of us recorded and before the edit we went through what we’d found only keeping sounds liked by two or more of us. We edited using the same system. We began the edit with the orchard recordings and then brought in the apple processing and because we had a good variety from both we could play, there was scope. It was interesting to see how much emotion we could derive from adding or reducing the layers using sounds that were, separately, every day noise. This piece is a natural procession through industry.
Jane Darke, Andy Harper and Alice Mahoney