Category Archives: sound

a post by the road to Craigowl


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A friend recently suggested that many of the things I make have something of the spirit of the Japanese idea of wabi-sabi – had I had the term? I had, but I wasn’t sure exactly what it meant so I looked it up.

Wabi-sabi is a term rich with many layers of meaning, but could be summed up as an aesthetic celebrating the beauty in transience, impermanence, and imperfection. Well, yes, I thought, many of my photographs are about looking for beauty in moments embodying much of this.

I’ve been intending to do some more work with found audio for a while, and this post has a little sample. Ironically, it is just that – a post! In this case – a metal gate post beside the road up to Craigowl hill in the Sidlaws. I’ve often noticed that when the wind is in the right direction, this particular post has a lot to say. I suppose this is not surprising, the post is basically a meter high metal tube with a couple of holes placed rather like those on a flute.

As I set out on a windy afternoon to see if I could capture some of this sound, it did cross my mind that a slightly baleful, but (to my ears) resonant and interesting sound encountered only when the wind blows a certain way in a particular place in the middle of field usually occupied by at most some sheep or cattle was definitely a stab at finding a fairly transient and imperfect fragment of beauty: wabi-sabi.

Bashō on the Path to Hanging Bridge
by Hokusai

If there is a poet of the idea it must surely be the great seventeenth century traveller and haiku pioneer, Matsuo Bashō. A master whose work sometimes makes me think of photographic ways of seeing, although written long before the invention of photography.

The wind is mentioned often in Bashō’s haiku. Here is one to consider, with some alternative translations, perhaps while you listen the piece of sound I made (lower down) using the plaintive voice I heard calling from a post by the road to Craigowl.

 

蜘何と 音をなにと鳴 秋の風
Kumo nan to ne wo nani to naku aki no kaze
Matsuo Bashō

Spider, say again!
It’s so hard to hear your voice
in the autumn wind.

Spider, I say!
In what voice do you chirp?
An autumn wind
(Tr. Makoto Ueda)

Old spider! What is your 
song? How do you cry
to the autumn wind 
(Tr. Sam Hamill)

source: http://matsuobasho-wkd.blogspot.jp/

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More: A history of wabi-sabi (YouTube)

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En route

En route

I tripped on some kindly light,
where fallen cones eroded by birds
echoed the labyrinth.

From site A to building B
busy at work passing directly
through Kinburn Park.

Light prefers straight line shadows,
though 
indirect paths, still and  cool,
might enlighten more.

Hand scored benches keep the goal:

George Fox 1658
‘Be still and cool in thy own mind and spirit’

In spirit my fingers follow the spiral sign,
tracing the miniature way, and
I stop to think that I would like to be that.

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Struck

Very pleased to have ‘Struck’ published at the Poetry Shed. 

This one was inspired by an object shown to me many years ago by the very knowledgable Sandy Edwards, who was curator of the Bell Pettigrew Natural History Museum at the time. Since then I have (amongst other things!) spent many years being fortunate enough to do ‘media odd jobs’ for researchers involved in studying the scope and meaning of sounds made by marine mammals. My knowledge of what they do is slight, but I continue to find what they discover remarkable and inspiring.

Struck


the shortest night

the shortest night

Nearly eleven p.m., dry and mild,
bright enough for reading outdoors.
Warm intimations of honeysuckle,
lemon balm, tiger lily’s sharper bite.

Sleepless through three thin hours undarkened,
fortified tea brewing dusk spun verses,
I fidget dust my tiny cabinet of
keepsakes found and curiosities kept,

rearranging these unsure talismans,
certain enough what each is, less clear why.
I find and re-read some childhood chapters,
and discover though changed they move me still.

Until, like a birthday dawn, bird sung dews
condense fresh light from thin and unslept airs.

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a tree speaks

In November there will be an exhibition at St Margaret’s House in Edinburgh called Grown Together. Timed to coincide with the launch of the Tree Charter, this will feature the work of nineteen artists with a shared interest in trees.  I’ve been working on video material for a loop which will be part of a small installation.  The videos combine ambient audio captured in some local woodlands with animated  text and readings of some of my poems from the small collection called Drawing breath.

Here’s a test piece for one of my videos.  (Please ignore the headphone graphic near the start – it’s just there to indicate that there is audio to passing visitors).

The poem takes a tree’s-eye-view of passing humans, coming around to memory and how remembering works, or doesn’t…

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eyeline

I originally wrote this intending to send it in to Visual Verse for a great image of a horse by Bruce Connew. I never got around to it, and I’d forgotten about the poem until I happened on it today. Anyway, I still kinda like it, I hope you will too. As often from me, there’s also some sciencey inspiration – see below…

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Karen McComb, who heads the research group and co-lead author of the study, said “Horses may have adopted an ancestral ability for reading emotional cues in other horses to respond appropriately to human facial expressions during their co-evolution. Alternatively, individual horses may have learned to interpret human expressions during their own lifetime.”
Source: ‘Horses can recognise human emotion, study shows’ Guardian 10/2/2016

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eyeline

scary sounds tinder
my right brain.
my left eye
flares.

you. your voice. angry. anger. danger. is it?
do i? do we? does the herd?
set, set, set.
my heart revs.

a dren a lin.
ready, twitch, ready.
muscles cinch.
ears prime.

time made your mood our threat.
your anger the wolf on the prairie.
your impatience an adder under-grass.
your oath hard iron in flight.

so if you don’t need to, just don’t.
step calm. breathe gentle.
speak less. listen more.
hear. my. gaze.

quietly.

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Sounds of rain

drops

click to listen:

Sounds of rain

     Staccato taps syncopate
           justification on your cautious hood.

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