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graphic score

Prepared air harp. Dungeness.

Imagination is the power of appearing things, not of representing them.
The LIfe of Lines. Tim Ingold.

As part of two covert FM transmissions from Fog Signal Building, Dungeness, and Knowles Farm. Isle of Wight (IOW), I ‘prepared’ an autoharp with plectrum of dismantled clock hands and a pocket-sized museum of nautical litter collected from walks along the shoreline (tangles of fishing line, pebbles, shells, nails, feathers). As the sea breezes over the shingle and harp, fragments of text cut from the International Code of Signals are scattered, music suddenly appears, melodies plucked from thin and salty air mingling with the atmospheric static of FM transmission.

In this ethereal concert of aeolian song, music is immediately composed in correspondence with the breeze, melodies occurring neither in the objects or strings, nor even in the weatherly air, but appearing in-between them.

I borrowed this compositional method for a new series of drawings of sound on paper. These drawings or Correspondences, seek not to represent sound but to allow sound to appear, to draw the ear, by way of the eye, toward the potentiality of sound. 

  • Correspondence 2
  • Correspondence 1.

From Correspondence no.1 / no.2.

To compose the drawings, a small cardboard box was lined with two sheets of paper, and ‘prepared’ with relics from the preparation of the harp, together with fragments of charcoal, pencil, and broken ball points. The box was then weighed, stamped, and posted home second class. Three days later, having been handled with varying degrees of care, the box returned and the drawings appeared. 

Composed in correspondence with the systemised transit of her Majesty’s Royal Mail, the drawings are quiet, slight, and insignificant. Occasional dots, hesitant lines, and dusty corners stained with inky stillness, mark time, and motion, providing visible residues of sounds that occurred and ceased.

A Blink From Sonic Eyes, Drawings from the Fleeting Archive of Towards Sound at re:future Lab (Berlin), Installation Shot. Image courtesy Ruth Wiesenfeld.

The composer and curator Ruth Wiesenfeld teaches Awareness Through Movement, at the Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler, Berlin. Ruth initiated the project Toward Sound, which ‘collects visible traces of creative processes geared towards all sound-based arts exploring diverse approaches of rendering sonic imagination tangible.’  As part of Toward Sound, Ruth curates, The Fleeting Archive. This repository for visual ephemera of the compositional process, gathers: ‘Acts of drawing, sculpting, writing, filming, ordering, assembling and taking apart’, which ‘facilitate a deeper comprehension of ones imagined sound.’ Occasionally, selections from the Archive are exhibited in the guise of the ever-changing Rampant Wall

I was delighted to have works accepted into the Archive, and subsequently approached Ruth to see if she would be interested in taking part in a new Correspondence. The drawing would be composed in the space in-between us. I would prepare a drawing and post this to Ruth. On its arrival in Berlin, Ruth would listen to the appearance of the drawing as an appearing sound. 

Correspondence no.4. 2022. (636 miles / 24 days) Winchester to Berlin

The lid of a small box was lined with grey sandpaper and its base with thick handmade watercolour paper. Inside I placed an ensemble of small sculptural instruments constructed especially for this transit, using marine selvedge from Dungeness and IOW combined with fragments of graphite, chalk, charcoal, and cardboard.

The correspondence was digitally tracked, leaving the UK on the 20th April and arriving in Niederaula, Germany on the 24th. It waited some time in non-EU customs for ‘preliminary import checks’, ‘processed’ and marked with a blue exclamation mark it arrived in Berlin on the 15th May. All instruments were broken in transit, but Ruth emailed:

‘I just opened the box, look what was drawn…a whole symphony. It will sit on my desk until sonic responses emerge.’

Sound waits in-between appearance and appearing.

Correspondence no.4. 2022.
(636 miles / 24 days)
Images: Ruth Wiesenfeld

i-am-not-imaginingI am not Imagining. 2022. Sebastiane Hegarty

I am humbled to have had a new work on paper, short-listed for Best Imagined Sound in The Sound of the Year Awards. The other three nominees were poets Jonty Pennington Twist, Philip Burton and Alastair Hesp, who was announced as the winner in May.

The shortlisted sound is one of a series of new works, which use words and the percussive palpitation of a typewriter to imagine sound [and silence] on paper. The typewriter used is a recently acquired and rather beautiful, cream/green 1959 Imperial No 5 “Good Companion”. The typewriter arrived, fitted with a brand-new ribbon; my words the first to be written in its uncoiling, ink-soaked line of thought. 

In his book Gramophone, Film and Typewriter, Friedrich A. Kittler considers the typewriter “an innocuous device, an ‘intermediate’ thing, between a tool and a machine,” which ‘cannot conjure up anything imaginary’. But as a medium the typewriter corresponds with the silence of thought and noise of form, and in correspondence it dwells ‘at the cusp where thinking is on the point of settling into’ shape and form on paper.(Tim Ingold)

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The noise of these words. 2022. 

In this new series of sounds on paper, the action and restrictions of the typewriter become an inherent component of the work.  The weight, vertical orientation and standardised A4 paper size, are regulated by the dimensions and habits of the machine, whilst the type is set in face and point: this Imperial No.5 types, in a rare Book Type Face, approximately 10 letters to the inch

The typewriter’s mechanical carriage of language is noisy and visceral, words strike out rhythms of sound, whilst the gesture and movement of my digits are choreographed and back spaced in correspondence with the words being formed and the systemised array of the Qwerty keyboard.

In this physical correspondence with language, sounds are both audible and imagined, appearing then in the moment of being written and imagined now in the moment of being seen.

a pin drop ped
A pin drop. 2022

Ammonite dissolving: sebastiane hegartylive: dissolve performance photo Tom Mortimerset from live: dissolve

set: to seat: to place: to put: to fix: to put, place, or fix in position or required condition: to apply: to cause to be: to plant: to stake: to put on eggs: to put under a hen: to spread, lay cover, as a table: to compose, as type: to put in type: to embed: to frame: to mount: to beset or bestow about: to stud, dot, sprinkle, variegate: to form or represent: to imprint: to make to become solid, coagulated, rigid, fixed or motionless: to begin to form: to regulate: to appoint: to ordain: to assign: to prescribe: to propound: to present for imitation: to put upon a course, start off: to incite, direct: to escort: to put in opposition: to posit:  to pitch as a tune: to compose or fit to music: to sharpen as a razor: to indicate by crouching: to lease or let to a tenant: to become befit: conversely to appear to advantage: to sit: to hang in position: to be in session: to go down towards or below the horizon, to decline: to offer a stake: to become rigid, fixed hard or permanent: to coagulate: of a bone to knit: to settle down: to begin to develop as fruit:  to dance in a facing position:  to acquire a set or bend: to apply or betake oneself: to have or take a course of direction: to begin to go.

This section from the set of my live: dissolve, was performed as part of a Sunday afternoon of experimental sound at We Are Collective (Chapel Arts Studios) with Joe Evans (runningonair) and Dirty Demos and organised by Tom Mortimer & David Dixon.

Here, beneath the ancient carbon dioxide of a dissolving ammonite, lies a redacted recording of Andrei Tarkovsky’s film Nostalghia (1983), from which all dialogue has been removed. This silenced landscape of absence and gesture, is employed here as a form of unwritten script for the other sound events that overlay it. This includes the drone and attack of air passing over wire fences stretched out between the beaches and reed beds of Cley Marshes in Norfolk. Synchronised by ear and a graphic score, a wildlife record of birdsong accompanies the host of birds, which escape from the robes of a statue of the Madonna del Parto in the opening scenes of the film. Later, the time-signal of BBC sound effect records introduce a damaged sequence of closing doors echoing in the emptied cinematic spaces of Nostalghia’s vacant landscape. The piece concludes with a chorus of alarm calls as a herd of Cranes is released sonically into the acoustics of the chapel, remembering the escape of birds from the robes of the Madonna.


sebastiane hegarty: Graphic Score (2_1) from live dissolve performance

sebastiane hegarty: Graphic Score (1) from live dissolve performance

In recording this set, I place the live moment in digital aspic (a word whose ancestry recognises the fatal consequences of such attempts at permanence, evolving as it does from the Old French basilisk: ‘a serpent…said to kill by its breath or look’).
In contrast the graphic score, although setting the sounds in a determined sequence, also provides the potential for error, variation and change: it prepares for use and sets in motion, events that are otherwise solid.

set: to put somebody or something somewhere; to become, or cause something to become solid; to cause something, or somebody to begin doing something, or begin to do something; to become permanent or fast; to arrange, place, or prepare something to be used; to portray something as happening in a particular place or time period; to heal up and become solid after being broken; to cause somebody to sit somewhere; to fit in a particular way; to come to a gradual end and pass into eclipse or obscurity; to move below the horizon.

 

 

Sebastiane hegarty: Xerox score #1 (punch-hole)

Sebastiane hegarty: Xerox score #1 (punch-hole) detail

Sebastiane hegarty: Xerox score #1 (punch-hole) detailXerographic score #1: full image and two details

The Xerox machine or photocopier,  is one of my most favoured drawing instruments. If time, and credit permit, I take full advantage of its ability to, replicate, generate and damage visual information. The dry (xeros) writing (graphia) process of electrophotography is of course intended to reproduce: to copy and duplicate quickly. However, the copying process introduces its own artifacts, through the mechanical and chemical degeneration of information, scratches and dirt on the glass plate, and banding streaks of diminishing ink. Such inherent loss has the potential to transform a copy into an original copy, which is both unique and singular. The forensic study of such blemishes of reproduction can actually be used to identify specific brands and models of photocopier. Such unintentional errors constitute a form of steganography or concealed writing, inscribing a hidden message, available only to those who know it is there: visual notes that only some can read

It would perhaps then seem appropriate to use Xerography as a method of creating or rather, [re] producing a graphic score. The reproduction process feels distinctly hand rendered: the touched weight and texture of each sheet of paper, the gestures of hands choreographed by the feeding and retrieving procedure. Although immediate, there is a hesitant, analogue delay, as the photo-chemically scored ‘copy’ arrives concealed, face down and late. The optional manual feed allows for the use of different (‘thick’) papers and the reorientation, repetition and layering of inscription. For me the actual labour of making the copies regenerates memories of etching and the traditional printing process.

Sebastiane hegarty: Xerox score #2

Sebastiane hegarty: Xerox score #4

Sebastiane hegarty: Xerox score #3 (detail)Xerographic score #2
Xerographic score #4
Xerographic score #3 detail

The xerographic scores are not made in response to sounds, like some of my other graphic scores (for example, the (mono)printed, ‘drawn’ & copied score for Yvon Bonenfant’s Masz project (see below) made in response to Diamanda Galas’s Plague Mass, or the traced, Letraset score for three landscapes and a river, made in response to my own soundscapes). The copier scores are intended as a method of making sounds yet unheard, available to hearing. They offer poetic, visual organisations of sound, open to the error of reproduction and indeterminate of any prescribed sonic response.

‘My favorite music is the music I haven’t yet heard. I don’t hear the music I write, I write in order to hear the music I haven’t yet heard’ (John Cage).

Theresa Sauer’s excellent book Notations 21, explores the graphic scores of composers such as Cage, Earl Brown and R. Murray Schafer, allowing an insight into the compositional strategies of the musically adept. As a non-musician, who cannot read musical notation, the graphic score allows for a dialogue with sound in which visual and aural information enter into correspondence. The dry writings of the Xerographic scores, offer an opportunity for not only the interpretation and organisation of yet sounds yet unheard, but also an appeal to the ‘unstruck sounds’ (Schafer) available to the imagination. Might they also allow the eye to adopt the perceptual inclination of the ear? The eye, so concerned with isolating information and bringing the indistinct into solid focus, may become draw into the unlimited rhythms of attention and hesitation, more normally allied with listening: allowing the visual to take on the perceptual ‘condition of music’ (Walter Pater).

sebastiane hegarty: graphic scoreGraphic score for Yvon Bonenfant’s Masz project (detail)

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