I hesitate as I start writing, conscious of the limits of the possible.
But I start anyway.
When do I start a journey?
Where do I start a journal?
I’ve just coined the word, a journeying, for something that is a part of my activity. Like a journal and like a journey, but it's not chronological. It's no more or less than a series of notes and thoughts with no defined theme but with lots of connections and maybe some spontaneous coherence. Often it's connected with making new work, thinking about where I've come from and where I'm going. Trying to merge my inner world with my actions to intensify both. It starts and stops, reverses, loops around itself, looking inside as well as out, expands, contracts, inverts, intensifies, disperses, flies, swims, ducks and dives, but always pauses to reflect too, to examine itself. It doesn't recognise time passing. Present, past and future fuse together. That's what I mean by journeying. That's why I make it a noun and a verb at the same time. A journey always journeying but never journeyed. A state of being. Life lived.
start is at a waterfall on the first day of the new millenium with a
group of friends. We make sounds with water, slate and pottery. The
sounds are melodic. Each slate is tuned to a different note and, as
water falls onto it, it activates the resonance of the pottery tube
below. A few days earlier the waterfall had been gently dripping and
encouraged quiet contemplation. But there has been heavy rain and the
drips have become a torrent. I listen hard, but the waterfall is loud.
It masks the melodies but it enhances the gesture of interacting with
elemental forces, making it seem more ritualistic. This pleases me.
It helps me imagine. I imagine our sounds being carried by the stream,
the Cozanne into the river Saône, joining the Rhône at Lyon,
growing bigger and stronger as they are swept by the flow down to the
Mediterranean Sea. I try too to imagine the sound flowing through the
Mediterranean to the Atlantic Ocean, and then to all the oceans of the
world. But the idea, although attractive, is far-fetched and seems a
bit barmy. Somewhere between Ibiza and Mallorca, my imagination fails
me! I pass back to my own journey.
journeys will come together?
Through all this my interior journey continues and as time passes the balance between memory and imagination changes. Sometimes I have to even pause before I am sure if I am remembering something that actually happened a long time ago or if I am remembering something that I imagined a long time ago. And then I wonder if that matters. Is it important to separate my imaginary world from the real world or can I simply sense the whole and embrace it as part of my being? And if my memories are so rich must I also continue imagining the future? But maybe that reminds you of something. Maybe Iíve already written a paragraph like thisÖ Of course I continue. Remembering doing is rich, as is remembering imagining. But I donít want to reach a place where I am also remembering not imaginingÖ
processes are echoed. As my mind fills with memories of dripping water,
scraping slate and tapping wood and their integration with the sounds
of nature these irregular and ever-changing rhythms gradually seem more
interesting than music. So I follow them where they lead me. It may
seem like a solitary journey, but it isnít. The idea is not to separate
myself from humanity but to share my experiences and feelings. If I
can happily spend half an hour listening to six or seven drips going
in and out of phase with each other, why not echo this process in a
human way and with a material that I know well? So I make a group piece
from tapping logs together. But first I try it out on my own. I record
myself sixteen times, each time tapping a simple drip-like beat with
two logs. Then I make a mix in the studio and listen hard. Sixteen,
I decide quickly, is too many. You hear the richness of each sound and
the subtlety of the resultant rhythms much better if there are rarely
more than five playing at the same time. This experience informs me
when I have the opportunity to present this piece to several different
groups I work with. Each of us taps two bits of wood in the steady beat
of a drip of water from a tree, or a gutter, or a leaky tap (thatís
how I explain it to the group). We listen to each other, not so as to
play together but to avoid each other - to make sure that we are not
playing at the same tempo as someone else in the group. To give the
illusion of there being no human intention behind the sounds.
how long can a part of my journey pause and still come to life again?
the log imitations of drips aside I go back to real drips with water,
something I have explored often over the years. Iíve made several pieces
with electric pumps and a network of tubes and nozzles that drip water
on to slate. Even though the pumps are unobtrusive they are mechanical
and technological and make repetitive rhythms. How else can I make my
drips? I decide to work with ice. I suspend several small blocks over
each of ten pieces of slate. The sound is much less predictable. Sometimes
notes repeat, sometimes there are quite long silences; only occasionally
is there a hint of a regular rhythm. The piece, coloured by the speed
at which the ice blocks melt, responds to the conditions, especially
the temperature and, if outside, also to the wind and rain. This gives
it a finite life. Below zero it hibernates. At 4 degrees it is almost
silent. At 10 degrees with a light wind the drips last for 3 or 4 hours.
At 15 degrees inside they last 8 hours.
Most recently, in fact only a week ago as I write this, I performed a new solo piece called Dark and Light Matter. I based it around three of my sound sculptures. My aim then was to let the sculptures be themselves and also to relate to them closely with my whole body, not just my wind and fingers. So I walk very close to Air Sur Terre letting my shoulder just brush against it. I push my way into Standing Steel, enjoying the clatter of the steel bars and then letting the sound subside into a gentle murmur that sounds like voices echoing in a long tunnel, and lasts much longer than I expect. The bars themselves are solid, not hollow, but I imagine the vibrations inside them rushing back and forth from one end to the other, not able to escape and only gradually able to transfer their vibrations to the air.
my journeying makes me wonder what it would be like if I separate my
body more from the sculptures. I place a forked branch on my head, projecting
a metre in front and about the same behind. It constrains my movements.
I must keep my head up and my back straight or it will fall off. I must
not make any sudden movements. I can move fast if I am careful but I
must accelerate slowly. I imagine a stag moving through a forest, its
personal space delineated in part by its antlers. But of course itís
not the same. The antlers are part of the stagís being in a way that
this branch isnít of mine - or not yet anyway - I then think of the
way a backpack can become part of me if I carry it for many days. I
measure my new ďbody plus branch on headĒ against three of my sculptures.
I can turn around close to Air Sur Terre letting the front
of the branch just pass over the top of the sculpture. But I must carefully
bend my head forward if I am to raise the forked end of the branch behind
me enough for it to clear the sculpture.
So in the intensified moment of a performance I try to give a wider, perhaps gentler, impression of my journey, always trying to invite rather than exclude.
my journey takes me to my desk where I write these words, to help me
clarify my thoughts for the next step and
to share them with you.