Shh. Shush. Hush. Schtum. Silence is often something imposed, an instruction to refrain, to not participate, something we leave behind when we hold our tongue and keep mum. It seems appropriate that many of the silencing verbs, which are primarily directed toward a silencing of speech, are onomatopoeic in origin; pre-verbal imitations of sounds that hold voice back from language. Even the physical action of the verbs’ pronunciation requires a narrowing of the mouth, a gesture which in the mumble of closed lips and shushed tittle-tattle of tongue against teeth, mimes the physical restraint of utterance. But the refrain of silence need not be a negative imposition, it might be a positive choice, an elective, collective and possibly selective withdrawal from presence.
This extract opens, Withdrawn from use: Silence, listening and undoing, a new article published in the latest issue of the journal Organised Sound26/2 (Cambridge University Press). Edited by the composer, musician and academic, Tullis Rennie the issue explores Socially Engaged Sound Practices. In his editorial Tullis introduces a collection of articles which are:
‘[…] decidedly diverse: in interpretations of ‘sociality’; and in addressing distinct areas and eras of sound practices – the contemporary, canonical and hereto less-heard. Considering this issue as a single entity, the authors thus become united in their aim to diversify the conversation, in decentralising theoretical approaches to the subject matter and in the positive inclusion of a wider variety of voices, experiences, sounding bodies and attitudes to listening.’
I am delighted to be amongst such a diverse and fascinating collection of articles and authors, which includes Catherine Clover, whose article, Oh! Ah ah pree trra trra, extends sociality beyond the human to ‘speculative and expansive interspecies encounters’, Sam Mackay who examines ‘The sonic politics of “Clap for Carers” […] as participative sonic arts practice’ and Chris J. H. Cook whose article, Trevurr: A dialogic composition on dementia, auraldiversity and companion listening, ‘documents important aspects of participatory practice with neurodiverse collaborators, told through the lens of a co-created sound work.’
Withdrawn from use: Silence, listening and undoing
In his book Giving Way, Steven Connor provides a list of unappreciated qualities. This list starts with a capitalised, ‘SILENCE’. Shyness, reserve, withdrawal and holding back accompany silence in a long sentence of qualities, which ‘tend to be marked with disapproval, sympathy or revulsion’, and some of which are, as Connor notes, ‘characterized as a mental disorder, in the form of social anxiety or social phobia’ (Connor 2019: 1).
Silence is often seen as a lack of agency, an anti-social and suspect unwillingness to participate. But as a sound artist working with field-recording, I am aware that silence, withdrawal and holding back can also be a form or method of participation and social practice. Since 2004, my sound work has included a series of physical and imagined silent releases. The article draws on these works and the writing of, amongst others, Steven Connor, Seán Street,Hamja Ahsan, Gaston Bachelard and Dylan Thomas, to explore silence as a potential, shared and communal space; an immediate composition that invites both listener and non-listener into its congress. Listening in on the conversation of telephone pauses and the closed paragraphs of library shelves, silence can be heard undoing purposeful agency, shyly engaging us in the anti-social practice of inaction, so that we might not participate, together.
I am grateful to the editor of Organised Sound, Prof Leigh Landy, Tullis Rennie, Jan Baiton and the peer reviewers for their critical guidance and support. Thank you as always Julia Hall for your insight and patient ear.
A new album ofseven Séances for air guitar hour hand and harp is now available on Bandcamp.
In a concert of paranormal music, notes are plucked from thin air as the haunted strum of votives, hour-hands, and the missing fingers of an amputated doll’s hand, play upon the strings of an electric guitar and abandoned autoharp . Divined in séance with the breeze and occasionally breaking through the interference of a faulty guitar socket, invisible melodies emerge, cluster and evaporate:
teasing […] sound out of
substance: the air paired fibrous with syllables:
Earth as Air. Gustaf Sobin
The ethereal music of aeolian instruments, has long been associated with other worlds and ghostly communication. In his poem, The Eolian Harp (1796), Coleridge refers to: ‘Such a soft floating witchery of sound’. For Coleridge music sleeps in the air:
Where the breeze warbles, and the mute still air Is Music slumbering on her instrument.
William Jones, the 17th century natural philosopher, proposed that this ‘slumbering music’ originated not in the strings of the harp [or guitar], but in the air itself. The instrument operated as a ‘sound prism’ ‘[refracting] the wind,’ dividing [divining] and revealing ‘vibrations […] already present in the air.’
Séance for harp hour hand and bird song. 2021. Film still.
As a premonition of the album’s forthcoming release, a new short film made in correspondence with the piece Séance for harp hour hand and birdsong is available to view on Vimeo.
The full septet, Séance for air guitar hour hand and harp, is available as a digital download via Bandcamp. The album download includes a bonus track, Séance for stones radio mast hour hand and harp, recorded in 2021 at Knowles Farm on the Isle of Wight, and featuring the litho-telegraphy of a pebble tapped on a missing radio mast, choreographed and performed by the movement artist Julia S. Hall. As the former location of Marconi’s radio experimentation station, Knowles Farm was the site of the first ‘over the horizon’ wireless transmission to The Lizard Telegraphy Station, Cornwall in 1901. This track, which featured at the Helicotrema X festival of recorded audio (Venice, Barcelona, 2021) is also included with the hand-rendered, artist limited editions. These physical editions are available in three forms: 1. Artist edition audio cassette + album download; 2. Artist edition A6 Séance card + planchette + album download; 3. Very limited full set of, audio cassette + Séance Card + planchette + album download. Full details below.
Séance for air guitar hour hand and harp: Artist Ltd Edition Audio Cassette C40 Cassette + album download + bonus track Edition 6 An artist limited edition audio cassette. Hand rendered each cassette is individually numbered and signed/dated with an artist edition stamp. Designed and produced by the artist, the cover/insert is printed on tracing paper and each cassette and case hand labelled with individual letters and numbers referring to its position in the edition sequence. The cassette includes the bonus track, Séance for stones radio mast hour hand and harp, recorded in 2021 at Knowles Farm on the Isle of Wight.
Séance for air guitar hour hand and harp: Artist Ltd Edition Seance Card A6 Seance Card + planchette + album download + bonus track Edition 20 An original artist edition A6 postcard, printed on luxurious 600gsm superfine card, uncoated on both sides. This artist edition postcard has three visual variations (readings). Hand numbered, signed/dated with the artist edition stamp, each postcard is accompanied with a free album download and a rubber-stamped hand planchette, which may be used to hold séance with other worlds. The postcards have been shuffled and will be sent out in the order divined by the shuffle.
Séance for air guitar hour hand and harp: Full Set: Artist Ltd Edition Audio Cassetteand A6 Seance Card C40Audio Cassette + A6 Seance Card + planchette + album download + bonus track Edition 5 Combined artist limited edition of A6 postcard (with hand printed planchette), audio cassette and full album download including bonus track.
Please note: Cat is for scale purposes only and not included in package.
I am honoured and excited to have a new sound work included in Helicotrema X. On its tenth anniversary, the recorded audio festival takes place in Venice, with it’s long time partner and collaborator Palazzo Grassi/ Punta della Dogana, before moving to Prato hosted by Estuario, and concluding at Hangar in Barcelona – the first time the festival has taken place outside Italy.
third horizon, is a new soundscape based on field-recordings made during my covert residencies at the Lizard Wireless Telegraphy Station (where the first ‘over the horizon’ wireless transmission was received in 1901), Fog Signal Building on the edge of the shifting liminal spit of Dungeness, and my most recent occupation at Knowles Farm, Isle of Wight – once home to Marconi’s experimentation station from whence that original wireless signal was sent.
The horizon opens with the acoustic beacon of the Lizard Foghorn, sounding out place and providing a locational fix. As this signal begins a duet with the three-beep character of the Dungeness Foghorn, place begins to disperse and mingle. Travelling through air, place, time and substance, sound unveils a spectral landscape, where the geological chat of tapped pebbles, taps away at matter as it repeats Marconi’s Morse code test signal (the di-di-dit of the letter ‘s’). Rapping on the door of substance, this litho-telegraphy reveals and interrogates ]landscapes littered with the architectural revenants of listening and communication history: the hollow volumes of the Lizard Wireless Station, the abandoned echo of decommissioned radar rooms, the unearthed cold war shiver of a redacted subterranean nuclear listening station. of Marconi’s lost transmission mast. The apparition of all these ghostly raps associate with the aeolian hum of antenna, the oceanic loll of broken waves, and automatic morse of rain and loose wires. As the weather comes in and the rain comes down, the foghorns return, sounding a final lament and keeping an audible watch on the horizon as it closes and disappears. At Knowles Farm, the dance artist and maker, Julia Hall, taps out Marconi’s test signal on the hollowed concrete base of Marconi’s lost transmission mast. The apparition of all these ghostly raps associate with the aeolian hum of antenna, the oceanic loll of broken waves, and automatic morse of rain and loose wires. As the weather comes in and the rain comes down, the foghorns return, sounding a final lament and keeping an audible watch on the horizon as it closes and disappears.
Remains of the original Marconi transmission mast base at Knowles Farm, Isle of Wight
Around 4pm on Wednesday 25th August at Winchester School of Art Library 2, a slim slither of vinyl will be exhumed from between the hardbacks on the library shelf and placed on the platter of a portable turntable. Silence on Loan is an artist book published in the form of a 10″ vinyl dubplate, cut with a silent groove. [re]Turning at 33 revolutions per minute, silence will ‘play’ for just over 9 minutes and the performance will then be over.
This year the ‘performance’ will be prefaced by a short reading from a new essay discussing silence and listening as participation. The full essay, titled, ‘Withdrawn from use: Silence, listening and undoing, will be published in the forthcoming issue of Organised Sound (26/02).
As has become my habit, the performance will begin by rewinding the cassette recording of last years ‘event’, so that it might be taped over and erased (unplayed and unheard) by this year’s recording. Once silence is done, the tape player is stopped, the cassette put in its case and silence quietly returned to its position on the shelf at 741.64HEG.
Postponed due to Covid, the annual performance of Silence on Loan is free to attend, and this year will also be available live and socially distanced via Instagram: @sebastiane_hegarty
Thanks to Catherine Polly and all at WSA Library for their help and support.
a new work for framework: afield. Broadcast on Resonance FM Sunday 13.06.21 11:00-12:00. Listen live via Resonance FM
three horizons, a new work for framework: afield, will be aired on Resonance 104.4fm (London) this Sunday (13.06.21). The programme will subsequently be broadcast on a number of radio stations world-wide and also be available to hear on the framework radiowebsite.
Curated and hosted by Patrick McGinley, framework is a radio programme and listening community that has been broadcasting on the resonance 104.4fm since 2002. The show now airs on twelve radio stations around the world, with editions, streams and podcasts available from the framework website. ‘Consecrated to field recording and its use in composition’ framework acts as a creative frequency ‘a folk-tool in a new folk movement, a community driven exchange point for creators and listeners alike.’ The show operates in two formats, a regular edition curated and produced by Patrick, and framework:afield, ‘a guest-curated series produced by artists from all corners of the globe and based on their own themes, concepts or recordings.’ As an artist interested in the perceptual geographies of sound and listening, I began to tune in around 2005. In 2007, Patrick very kindly aired the 2nd edition of my collaborative project, mo[nu]ment – a 7” vinyl record of the silence held in memory of the Indian Ocean, earthquake, and Tsunami in 2004 (crudely recorded from my bedroom window in Winchester), which framework listeners were invited to re-record directly from the framework broadcast.
My sound-works have been included in several editions of framework since then – my mam recorded an intro for the show around 2006. But this year is the first time I have contributed to framework: afield. The new sound work is called three horizons andis based on my ongoing series of covert micro-FM transmissions at locations along the southerly listening coast. These transmissions began in 2017 with the first of two unofficial, covert residencies at the Lizard Wireless Telegraphy Station, Cornwall, where in 1901, the first wireless radio signal, sent by Marconi from his ‘experimental station’ at Knowles Farm on the Isle of Wight. Not only was this the furthest a wireless signal had travelled at that time, it was also the first ‘over-the horizon’ transmission. Prior to this, it was believed that ‘the operating range of wireless would be restricted to the [optical] horizon.’ But on the 23rd of January 1901, in what became known as ‘Marconi’s first great miracle’ the arrival of three dots, a simple dit-dit-dit, at The Lizard Wireless Station, signalled not only the letter ‘s’, but also an escape from the visible and concrete, a flight from the material into the airy immaterial and unknown.Isolated and remote, the Lizard Wireless Station is on the very periphery of the terrestrial. When the rain comes down and the fog comes in the horizon evaporates. At night everywhere disappears. Each residence concluded with a live micro-FM transmission: Tuned in through an array of portable radios, the broadcasts were based on field-recordings made in a local landscape haunted by the architectural and archeological remains of communication and listening technology.
Although based on field recordings the residencies began to bring sounds into the landscape, not only through transmission, but also in the fields of sound recorded. These fields include sounds hidden from audition and unavailable to human ears: the muted harmonic hum of antenna and automatic Morse of loose wires. But they also include instruments and technologies that might contribute to, and compose with the landscape. The air harp, a second-hand autoharp, prepared with the flotsam of things found and discarded, conspires to pluck voices from thin air, whilst the litho-telegraphy of pebbles collected from the localities of transmission, and used to tap out the dit-dit-dit of Marconi’s test signal. This geological intelligence tests substance and briefly brings into presence the absences of landscape. Sounding out and listening in, on abandoned radar rooms, the cracked silence of sound mirrors, and redacted subterranean hollows of cold war surveillance. On the Isle of Wight this palpitating tap, transmits the extinguished light of a 14th century lighthouse, once attached to St Catherine’s Oratory, whilst the rap of a pebble on the remains of a concrete base, lurking in the field behind Knowles Farm, summons forth the lost signals of Marconi’s transmission mast1.
The micro-FM transmitter has little power, and the signal is so weak that no one can tune into to hear. I am broadcasting to no one, and no one is listening. For Framework afield, I have re-composed three horizons from the four broadcasts. Appearing in reverse chronological order each horizon corresponds with the three sites of transmission, remembering signals received and sent through the landscapes of the Isle of Wight, Dungeness and Lizard peninsular. Beginning with extracts from this year’s micro-transmission from the room at Knowles Farm where Marconi had conducted his early wireless experiments, the first horizon appeared with the misplaced bellow of Lizard Lighthouse foghorn. In the original Knowles broadcast, I used this acoustic beacon as a focal point, to locate the broadcast frequency and tune in through an array of radios dispersed into the landscape of the room.
The sound of the foghorn is a lonely voice, in a lonely place, which seems to empty the landscape where it appears. In her fascinating recent book, The Foghorn’s Lament, Jennifer Lucy Allen, refers to Ray Bradbury’s ‘evocative and florid description of the foghorn’ as: ‘a voice that is like an empty bed beside you all night long, and like an empty house when you open the door and like trees in autumn with no leaves.’2 The audible hinge of a door opening into the first of horizon, welcomes in the empty loneliness of the misplaced Lizard foghorn, here haunted by the absent voice of the St Catherine’s Lighthouse foghorn, an instrument visible through the room’s window, but whose signal, ‘discontinued’ in 1987, remains now unheard3.
The three horizons are haunted by the apparition of places unseen and sounds unheard: on the Isle of Wight, at a disused radar station, rain taps catastrophic messages into the water of a cattle trough, beneath which lies the abandoned secret of a cold war listening station. Whilst in roughs above Hythe near Dungeness, a crumbling sound mirror, tapped out into presence, keeps an ear out, for sounds yet to arrive.
The Lizard foghorn looms and lows over the horizons, returning to close the second horizon, it opens the third in a brief characterful4 duet with the three electronic beeps of the Dungeness fog signal. This final horizon disappears in an echoic flutter of geological telegraphy, as pebbles tap out the acoustics of a derelict World War 2 radar room, and the Lizard foghorn returns to signal absence. Lost in an empty sea, this sonic beacon keeps vigil, calling out for a response that never comes. And in this lonely [depressive] position, sound remains, pining for the lost, forgotten, and unheard.
I would like to thank the dance artist, Julia Hall for her creative participation, choreographed telegraphy and critical ear. I wold also like to thank Patrick for providing this opportunity and his relentless commitment to field-recording and the listening community.
Post transmission at Knowles Farm, Isle of Wight, May 2021.
three horizons will be broadcast on framework: afield on Sunday 13.06.21 from 11:00-12:00. You can listen live via Resonance FM
You can also listen again via the frameworkwebsite
framework always needs support to continue its commitment to field recording audio. You can help by becoming a patron via: patreon.com
The wooden mast was rumoured to have been sold, cut and appropraitely repurposed as a ladder.
Allen, J.L. 2021. The Foghorn’s Lament. London: White Rabbit
The St Catherine’s Lighthouse foghorn has had several voices. In 1948, Aubrey de Selincourt, described its changing tones : ‘[…] formerly it was a sick bull’s iterated bellow; now it’s a ghoul-groan ending in a grunt.’ A sound he ‘bears’ because he ‘cannot forget the ships and the men on them … listening.’ Aubrey de Selincourt. 1948. Vision of England: Isle of Wight. London: Paul Elek Publishers.
Every foghorn signal, like every lighthouse beam is designed with a distinctive ‘character’, which enables it to be identified as belonging to a specific place. In fog signals this code is, the number of blasts and silent periods in each minute. The character of the Dungeness foghorn echoes Marconi’s test signal, with a succession of three quick blasts.
Piss Walk№ 6 is the first of my stained perambulations to be published in the form of a limited-edition set of 13 purchasable A6 postcards. Printed on uncoated 600gsm card and seamed in ‘sunny yellow’ the photographic sequence retraces the sixth of my early morning ‘lockdown’ walks, as I sniffed around the back streets of Winchester and along the river Itchen. Each card is rubber stamped on the reverse, with the date of the walk and numbered with its position in the sequence of damp patches encountered that day. As discussed in a previous post, my lockdown walks had no predetermined purpose other than a modicum of exercise and time away from the paralysis of Zoom. Rebecca Solnit notes that the casual acquaintance of a meandering stroll ‘allows you to find what you do not know you are looking for’. My meander, coupled with the quiet physical vacancy of the ante meridiem environment, acquainted me with the occasional and previously unnoticed, damp trails of urine left by the toilet of local hounds. It became my habit to follow and photographically collect these moist encounters. A habit that has resulted in the creation of an unintentional archive of (to date) thirteen Piss Walks.
On the leash of the dogs’ morning privy, I tail the stained criminal records of an intimate act in a public space: an evaporating souvenir of corporeal presence. The obsolete technology of the picture postcard would therefore seem to be an appropriately ephemeral method of recording and mapping these trails. Sent back to where we are not, addressing those we are apart from, the cheap, disposable souvenir of a postcard, announces presence whilst confirming absence. As it passes visibly through the public body of the Royal Mail, the postcard reveals a dysfunctional relationship with intimacy, a mischievous liaison, characterised by the saucy offence of seaside communique and an obsession with bodily function.
The 13 postcards of Piss Walk № 6 have now been sold and sent. Protected and concealed by the hard-backed buff of a manilla envelope, each postcard has passed modestly through the systemised transit of national (and international) mail. Extending the scent of canine territories from Winchester to Brighton to Bristol, Wolverhampton and beyond the sea to Canada, the postcards are a souvenir of an evaporated walk, a memory dispersed, fragmented and lost in the post.
In a second limited-edition, Piss Walk № 9 has been published as a complete set of ten postcards. Archived and preserved in an ironically acid free box, the postcards will remain enveloped and unsent as part of the Artists’ Book Collection at Winchester School of Art Library.
I am also delighted that the damp traces of Piss Walk № 4, have been included in Right Here Right Now, Observations, Speculations & Hallucinations; a new book gathering together the personal lockdown of numerous artists, designers and writers. Published by Book-Lab 2020 (isbn: 978-1-71680-539-4), designed and edited by Danny Aldred, RHRN is ‘a kind of visual atlas [providing] multiple perspectives of the same moment.’ There are plans to exhibit the book at the Design Transfer Gallery (Berlin) later this year.
I have thought I might ‘celebrate’ the end of the pandemic by offering a Piss Walk Tour of Winchester. In direct competition with English Heritage, Jane Austin’s House and the public tours of private education, the WinchesterPiss Walk Tour would meet beneath a plague flag on Water Lane and proceed along the river Itchen, through the Water Meadows, around the u-bend of Winchester College, before passing down the cloisters of Winchester Cathedral and finally through the Water Gate, past The Quaker Meeting House and back across the bridge to rejoin Water Lane. Along the way I would recount stories of infamous stains and perhaps leave a trail of Piss Walk postcards in our wake. DM to reserve your place.
Peter Christopherson: Nothing here now but the recordings
Constrained Radio, a weekly show for SoundArt Radio in Devon, is curated by the writer, artist, and teacher Mark Leahy. For the latest edition, Nothing here now, Mark and I collaborated on a montage of found sounds, field recordings, documented paranormal voices and experimental music. With a title shamelessly cut from the Industrial Records album of early tape experiments by William Burroughs, the co-curated hour invokes and divines the unseen, uncanny and ethereal landscapes of the unknown. Radio is a perfect channel for such sonic divination. Steven Connor writes, ‘what is heard in the atmospherics [of radio] [is] the fracture and fluctuation of time; […] a time out of joint.’ Marconi himself believed that his wireless signals might ‘pick-up the sounds of long-dead men […] drowned in the Atlantic.’ In the magnetic ether of radio transmission, the past and the future ‘leaks through’.
‘What I say goes.’ writes Connor. Our voice leaves and takes the air. According to Konstantin Raudive, the vocal entities of EVP, expressed a preference for communication via the airwaves, with one voice proclaiming, in what I like to imagine is an accent somewhere between the Carry-on of Kenneth Williams and vaudeville of Frankie Howard: “What a rascal, switch on the radio!” Raudive believed radio was so popular on the other side: ‘…various groups of voice entities […] operate[d] their own stations.’
Nothing here now, opens with a premonition, during which various sonic entities breakthrough: Edison taps out a spiritual telegraph, whilst a mother speaks with her departed son, a fragment of Radioland is found as a test signal tap, tap, taps on the wooden shell of Marconi’s Lizard Wireless Telegraphy Station in Cornwall.
In three movements the broadcast mingles the possessed voice of children and EVP excavations of composer Michael Esposito, with airs of animal spirits recorded in Xingu in 1975 and looming ‘disturbed trance’ of Alice Kemp’s ‘A Gold Blade To The Back Of The Head.’
The second movement opens with Sally Ann McIntyre’s, Collected Huia Notations (2017), which ‘re-collects’ from several western musical transcriptions, the extinct voice of the Huia bird. Transcribed to wax cylinder these vanished ‘songs’ can be heard quietly disappearing again. Stephen Cornford’s, Electrocardiographs of a Cathode Ray Tube (2016), medically and methodically surveys the surface of expired technology. This section also includes a recording of my performance of Séance for six radios at the John Hansard Gallery in 2019.
Sally Ann McIntyre
Seance for hour-hand and harp
The final movement opens with the paranormal music of Séance for hour hand and harp: the tapping hour-hand from a dismembered clock plucking music from thin air. A found answerphone message from my own archive of found recordings is followed by Gwen’s Prayer (2005) from David Clegg’s Stories from the Trebus Project, a project where Clegg worked to capture the stories ‘of people living with dementia; stories ‘from the edge’ that would otherwise have been lost.’ The broadcast concludes with Alice Kemp’s Secret room accessed by a passage written in green ink (2016) and Psychic TV’s Proof on survival. Recorded without microphones, using Zuccarelli Holophonic, Proof on survival records the sound of soil falling on a coffin as, ‘Ringo’ (a skull, which is also the transmitter for the Zuccarelli system) is buried ‘alive’ in a grave in Farnham.
Nothing here now is broadcast on SoundArt Radio at 12pm on Wednesday (24/06/20). If you are in Totnes you can tune in on 102.5 FM or you can listen live on-line at: soundartradio.org.uk There is a full track list on the soundart radio website and the programme will also be available in the soundartradio archive.
Coincidently, the cover of “Nothing here now but the recordings” (1981), was designed by Peter Christopherson and the album curated by Genesis P-Orridge, who also wrote the sleeve notes. Genesis ‘dropped he/r body’ in March of this year.
The arrival of ‘lockdown’ allowed me to indulge in daily early morning walks. My regular walk around Winnall Moors Conservation Reserve was unavailable, the Moors being closed due to recent flooding, so my journey had to take another path. Leaving home, I followed the meandering course of the river Itchen, down Water Lane, along the Riverside path, passing mam’s bench out to St Cross Hospital and then back along St Faiths Road to the water meadows, past Winchester College to Inner Cathedral Close, through the Water Gate toward Water Lane and home. With occasional variation this transit has become my habit.
At this early hour the streets and paths of Winchester are relatively empty, my solitude broken by the occasional key-worker, a competitive dribble of runners in pursuit of a personal best, and the hesitant, stray perambulation of dog walkers. Perhaps it is the quiet vacancy of my journey that focused my attention on the wet trails left by the toilet of dogs. Or perhaps because the piss was so fresh, it left a conspicuously dark trail, a trail which later in the day may have evaporated. Pulled by gravitational force, each stream of dog piss flows away from its source, immediately discovering and tracing its own unique path of least resistance. If this pee were a river, it would be running toward another body of water; a lake, the sea, an ocean. But this melancholy flow, rarely makes it home, the stream of piss, meanders, pools, dwindles and expires.
Piss Walk 6:14 08.05.20
Piss Walk 7:8 10.05.20
As part of an ongoing series of piss walks, I started to photograph the urine trails. These photographs draw a map of my daily promenade, but also that of the dogs. You might even say that the dogs are taking me for a walk: I am on their tail, visually sniffing after their presence. The dogs too are following, inhaling the wet perfume tales of absent mongrels and pedigrees, which linger in the air. Steven Connor, considers all walking ‘a kind of self-ghosting.’ The dogs and I walk invisibly with each other, haunted companions following the ghosts of presence recently departed.
Although the intention was to document rather than curate, there was some aesthetic pleasure in the wandering form of particular trails: the piddle finding its course, as it seeks out the guttering cracks in tarmac and paving slabs. Whilst some trails fade over time, the stain of others remains conspicuously strong. They become familiar landmarks in the landscape of my walk, surviving until the rain pours down and the stain erased.
Piss Walk 7:10 10.05.20
Piss Walk 9a
There is a rhythm to the piss walks. Certain popular locations offer a sudden glissando of wet notes, interspersed by long periods of dry silence and the occasional damp patch. The reason for this melodic popularity is perhaps more architectural than bladder related: the perpendicular elevation of post or wall offers a place for the urine to mark. Perhaps the mere sight of an elevation incites a call of nature, or perhaps the fragrance of that call induces others to reply. The walls of Winchester College are a very popular – I like to imagine that the mutts of Winchester are using their kidneys to pass vernacular comment on the inherent inequalities of the private education system.
Piss Walk 1:10 15.04.20
Piss Walk 4:7 15.04.20
The perpendicular is not the only landmark of preference. The corner of a path or road also seems attractive. In the Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard considers the corner a haven: ‘we take refuge in a corner’, it encloses us in ‘an imaginary room [rising] up around our bodies.’ An intimate, interior space of solitude: ‘in our corners we remember […] the silence of our thoughts.’ In opposition to the security of this poetic right angle, the reflex of a corner in the road, is an edge-land, a non-place, where the familiar meets the unknown: we do not know what is around the corner. Perhaps the profusion of pee is a way for the dogs to cope with the anxiety of this displacement, a method of owning and knowing where they are. Or perhaps it is more thuggery in intent, each dog scrawling a stinking tag on the perimeters of their manor and telling the rest of us to ‘piss off!’
Throbbing Gristle at the Winchester Hat Fair (1976). Photo: Judith Blake
In August 1976 Genesis P-Orridge and Cosey Fanni Tutti performed as Throbbing Gristle at the Winchester Hat fair in Hampshire, England. Earlier that day, Genesis had been seen ‘preparing’ in the High Street outside Boots: ‘bandaging half a peach to his lower leg.’
Encircled by an audience of parents and their young daughters, the gig has been mythically ascribed to the creation of the song: WE HATE YOU (Little Girls). TG returned to Winchester a year later to perform at the Art School, a set which included A Nod and A Wank,Feeling Critical and (possibly) Dead Ed. Both performances were recorded as part of the TG 24 HOURS Cassette [suitcase] (1979).
This year marks the 150th anniversary of Winchester School of Art (WSA). In commemoration of this and in celebration of the TG performances and wider art college alternative music culture that provided a space for such experimental work to occur, artist and musician David Luff organised Art Throbs at The Railway Inn, Winchester: an evening of experimental music, film and happenings.
SluGristle Placards: David Luff
Formed partly [and partly formed] for the Art Throbs happening and in positive reply to the question: ‘Fancy being in a TG tribute band?’ Slug Pellets combine the found tapes, field-recordings and dissolving fossil fuzz of Sebastiane Hegarty with the home-made cardboard synth and mute coronet of David Luff. The Slugs (as they have yet to become known) pilfer their name from the early TG murder ballad, Slug Bait, performed live at The ICA and Nuffield Theatre (University of Southampton). Variations of the ‘song’ appear on the first [official] TG album, 2nd Annual Report (1977): an album described by Michael Bonner in Uncut as “a dystopian churn of smoke and asbestos dust.”
In discussions of how Slug Pellets might conspire to pay homage to TG, David and I agreed that we would not attempt to recreate specific ‘songs’, but rather respond to the form and content of the combined performances and our personal TG ghosts. Echoing TG’s use of found sound and dubious tapes, I searched through the spontaneous sound archive I had developed during my PhD at WSA. Many of these found sounds were recorded through the surveillance of a lapel microphone attached to a pocketed mini disc. Constently held in pause, my ear lay in wait, listening in and baited to record. The archive revealed a paranormal pallet of transient encounters, forgotten sounds and departed voices: the wet percussion of a library gutter, a crushed glass stroll through the acoustics of an abandoned meat packing [death] factory, the posthumous vocal acquaintance of Ron Purse, a much-loved local eccentric: recorded in 1998, Ron approaches [returns] pushing his pram. Seeing me he speaks briefly, then disappears without goodbye ‘home to bed’ and silence. Ron died in 2006. The apparition of these untreated field-recordings is mingled with the fizzle and whine of dissolving ammonites, the looped pulse of raindrop, engine hums and deceased answerphone messages. David worked in response to this soundscape, using his extensive engineering skills to build a hand cranked Intonarumori, utilising cardboard boxes, wire, paper and ply. This was accompanied by muted Coronet and modular tones chewed up through the Gristler.
At the very bottom of a set list that included The Ba and the Architects of Frome, the stage presence of Slug Pellets was industrial glam, with silver rain jackets (Ikea), mirror shades and the vibrant postiche of Genesis (Breyer) bobs. As a landscape for our TG homage I composed a film for projection: a [g]Litterbug of forgotten fragments found lurking in the memory of my iPhone library.
In keeping with early TG concerts the shell-less sound of Slug Pellets was introduced to the Art Throbs audience by way of a found cassette (a verbal warning from Adult Bedside Tapes: Gay Girls no.1). This was followed by a performed poem based on the group name: a synchronised spoken cut-up plagiarised from a rhyming dictionary, which produced a number of profound collisions: Snug / Pelmet, Tug / Helmet, Smug / Ferret.
Unfortunately no recordings of the concert are currently available, but the [dead] edits above are from the three sections of my soundscape before David overlaid his mute Coronet and rotated his cardboard intonarumori.
Genesis P-inOils: David Luff
It was with shock and sadness that one week after our performance at Art Throbs, we learned that Caresse & Genesse P-Orridge had announced that their father, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge had ‘dropped he/r body’ on the morning of Saturday March 14th, 2020.
TIme will see us
Time will free us
Time will be us
We are everywhere
On Friday the 31st January 2020, I arrived at Winchester School of Art Library to find a table ‘reserved for activity’. It had been one year and one day since Silence on Loan was added to the Artists’ Book Collectionat the WSA Library. Held without the protection of cover or sleeve the book (a single-sided 10” dubplate cut with a silent groove) is shelved at 741.64 HEG. Wedged between the hardbacks, this mute slither of vinyl is easily overlooked, but once a year it is taken from the shelf and placed on the platter of a portable turntable. [Re]turning at thirty-three and a third revolutions per minute the dubplate slowly pronounces the dust and harm that has come to its surface: the silence that has been lost. Once played the silence is put back on the shelf, where it is left un-sounding for another year.
As a performance, this annual audition is rather disappointing; nothing much happens for slightly more than nine-minutes. Those who are here to hear (and those library visitors who’s listening the silence loans) listen to silence being broken and unheard. Perhaps the tables are turned, and it is the listeners who perform the silence rather than the record player’s stylus. For many of those who came, this is a return to silence, having been here last year when Silence on Loan was performed at the moment of its inclusion into library stock. Just as the dust collects in the groove, so silence returns and gathers in the ear of those who come to listen and remember listening again.
Everyone who is, and now was, there to hear, receives a souvenir in the form of a Silence on Loan 2020 pin-badge, whilst a paper wristband and UV hand-stamp, temporarily confirm admission and attendance.
I had been inclined to record each performance, so that I might document and measure the changes that time brings to the silence. But such calculating permanence would surely imprison that which does not sound, that which is fragile, fugitive and evasive. Silence, is more concerned with the potential for sound than its absence, most [in]audible when we imagine what we don’t hear. The analogue frailty of a physical recording can be used to augment this un-sounding potentiality. The performance on the 31st was documented using an old portable audio cassette recorder. Such obsolete media is characterised by a distinct lack of [hi] fidelity, recording its own imperfections and imposing its own magnetic patina upon the sound it records. This failure to create a faithful document is enhanced by the recording not being monitored – the tape can be seen slowly winding from left to right, but no lights or needles visibly meter the units of volume.
The quantity of tape used measures the duration of silence recorded, transcribing [no] sound into a spatial length, but the cassette is never played, and the silence remains unheard. Paused at this distance, the silence waits next year’s anniversary, when it will be re-wound and next year’s silence recorded over this. An [un] sounding and unfaithful record, this audio document, simultaneously returns and erases the silence of another year.
The next performance of Silence on Loan will be in January 2021