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mo[nu]ment. 2006-8. Sebastiane Hegarty


[Silence]

FIRST VOICE [Very softly] 1

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. 

The above paragraph is from, Withdrawn from use: Silence, listening and undoing, a new article published in the latest issue of the journal Organised Sound 26/2 (Cambridge University Press).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.’

secondListening BW

Duet for Vinyl [extract]. 2004

Withdrawn from use: Silence, listening and undoing

Abstract

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.

Organised Sound 26/2 is available on-line here.

  1. Dylan Thomas. 2016. Under Milk Wood.
  2. Steven Connor. 2019. Giving Way

A new album of seven 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.’

Seance_for harp hour hand and bird song film still

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 Cassette and A6 Seance Card
C40 Audio 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.

All digtal and physical media formats are available via: sebastianehegarty.bandcamp.com



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 NowObservations, 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. 

Right Here Right Now is available in a print on demand format from: https://bit.ly/32AAx7X



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 Winchester Piss 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. 


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 Collection at 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


And our ears
Are formed of the sea as we listen [1]

On Saturday the 4th May 2019 a final silence was lost to the sea off the coast of Holy Island, Anglesey. One of four such disappearances, this concluding silence sank beneath the waves of the Irish Sea on a bright spring day, in [plain] sight of the South Stack Lighthouse. The Metadata of a photograph taken at the time of disappearance, positions the silence at an altitude of 72.07 m with the global coordinates of: Latitude: 53,18.1428N / Longitude: 4,41.3708W.



The quartet of missing silence consists (or consisted) of four single-sided records; each cut with a silent groove and lost to the seas surrounding the UK over a period of four years (the Irish Sea, North Sea, English Channel and Celtic Sea). Each record is labelled with a request for return, care of the British Library Sound Archive. A small advert placed in the Lost and Found section of The Times newspaper announces the site of the silence lost. Published on the day of disappearance, this advert functions as both a premonition and record of loss. The announcement, together with a photograph of the sea into which the record disappeared, and an empty, preservation grey, archival sleeve, are the only ‘proof’ of the records existence and its silence being lost.


In his book Sound, Michel Chion considers the ear as ‘a link between different worlds (real and imaginary) and different registers (physical and mental).’[2] Just as the silence lost directs our listening toward an imaginary absence of sound, so too the circumstantial (physical) evidence of loss requires that we imagine and believe silence once existed and has now disappeared. The emptiness of the archival sleeve quietly anticipates return, a return that may enable silence to sound [again]. And in this silence lost, we listen without listening for, we place our ear against the shell of sounds that have not yet been caused to vibrate. [Waves…]

not arriving and then
not arriving [3]

 

With thanks to Trish Bould for her help, photography and metadata.

[1] W. S. Merwin, “Coming to the morning” in: The rain in the trees. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf , 2018), 37

[2] Michel Chion, Sound: an acoustical treatise. (London: Duke Universty Press, 2016), 18

[3] W. S. Merwin, “The Sound of it” in: Garden Time, (Hexham: Bloodaxe book, 2016), 9

 

 

 

 



As the publisher of the artists’ book Silence on Loan (ISBN: 978-1-5272-3880-0), I am required under the Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003, to deposit a copy of the publication with the British Library. This copy must be ‘of the same quality as the best copies which, at the time of delivery, have been produced for publication in the United Kingdom.’ [Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003]

The Act applies to printed publications and excludes sound recordings. As an artists’ book in the form of a 10” vinyl record (or dubplate), the publication of Silence on Loan, poses some questions about what constitutes a printed publication. Cut with a silent groove, Silence on Loan is not a sound recording, but rather, a record of a moment when nothing was recorded. The absence of sound etched into the vinyl, ‘sets a mark upon on a surface’ and may therefore be called a print (but not a reproduction) of silence. Stored without the protection of cover or sleeve, this silent print is imprinted (again) with the plosions and fricatives of harm and damage that materiality asserts.
As a book, Silence on Loan is always being rewritten.


In my recent exhibition
Various Silences, at Winchester School of Art Library, Silence on Loan was exhibited with a ‘copy’ made for Legal Deposit. Submitting the publication for legal deposit, poses questions concerning the reproduction of an original, which is still being written. Perhaps what is needed is not a copy or reproduction, but a doppelgänger: an apparition of silence. The inscription of one surface upon another, generates a silent palimpsest, a haunted silence. Visually the mechanics of rubber stamps mimic likeness whilst establishing difference: the subtle [dis]placement and frailties of ink creating unique traces with each duplication.



A letter written to accompany the legal deposit copy [apparition] of Silence on Loan, was typed on a (Brother) typewriter and duplicated in triplicate using two sheets of carbon paper. The materiality of this correspondence is reinforced by providing only physical address (no mobile number, no email address.) At the post office, silence was weighed, measured and sent (recorded delivery) to the Deposit Office of the British Library in Boston, Yorkshire.
A receipt for this deposit is pending.

 


At the end of January 2019, a silent vinyl record was quietly slipped into the Artists’ Book Collection at Winchester School of Art Library. The latest edition in an on-going series of silent releases, Silence on Loan is a single-sided 10” vinyl disc or dubplate. Cut with a silent groove, this dubplate is not a copy or replication of silence, but rather a record of a moment when nothing was recorded.



Silence on Loan
is shelved without the protection of cover or sleeve so that the harm and dust that comes to its surface, might write an audible trace, a phono-graph, of its presence in the collection. The mute addition to the library stock was announced with a ceremonial playing of the [unrecorded] silent record. The audience was small, including those who had come to listen and other library users, whose audience and listening the silence borrowed. It is intended that this performed silence will be repeated annually, or at least until the damage sustained results in the record itself becoming unplayable and dumb.



Various Silences: 1999 – 2019
03/04/19 – 29/04/19
Winchester School of Art Library
Park Avenue, Winchester, SO23 8DL
Opening Times

Under the Legal Deposit Libraries Act (2003), the publication of Silence on Loan (ISBN: 978-1-5272-3880-0) requires that a copy ‘of the same quality as the best copies’ be deposited with the British Library. The ‘original’ Silence on Loan is exhibited with this dubbed and legally required ‘copy’ in an exhibition of Various Silences at the WSA Library. The exhibition which is open until the 29th April,  includes: two seas, one stylus, four records (one missing), and an altered book. I have written a post about the exhibition for the WSA library blog: here
The earliest work exhibited, Red Silence: for the missing (1998-1999) is a found novel, erased over the period of one year, whilst I was studying for my PhD at Winchester School of Art. In rubbing away at the potential sound of printed text, certain words survived, leaving fragments of left over phrases and meaning on the redacted quiet of the erased page.



The exhibition also includes the empty archival sleeve for Silence Lost: North SeaSilence Lost is a series of four single-sided silent records, lost in the seas surrounding the UK. The exhibited first silence disappeared into the North Sea in 2015; the final silence will be lost in the Irish Sea at the end of April 2019. Each record is labelled with a request for return c/o The British Library Sound Archive. On the day of disappearance, an announcement appears in the Lost and Found section of The Times newspaper. This announcement, together with a digital photograph of the sea in which the record was lost and an empty archival record sleeve, are the only evidence for the existence and loss of silence.

Addendum
On the 26th April, I will be performing a quiet micro-FM transmission in the WSA library. This broadcast will be re-composed live from various silence field-recordings that wait unheard, in the annals of my personal sound archive. The dead air of this discreet transmission will bring Various Silences to an appropriately quiet close.


Silence Lost: North Sea (2015)

At midday on the 8th January 2015, a one-minute silence was held around the world in memory of the victims of a terrorist attack on the offices of the French magazine, Charlie Hebdo. In Paris, under umbrellas and grey skies, a large crowd of people held their silence in the rain. Later that day, the BBC Radio 4 programme PM broadcasted an uninterrupted recorded extract of this silence. As I sat listening to the dripping static of rainfall through the occasional atmospherics of frequency modulation, I heard my own silence becoming part of a shared silent drizzle of withdrawal. In this brief temporal downpour, time became wet; the borders between here and there, between what is and once was, dissolved.

This description of remembered rain begins my short essay, remembering rain: listening to water and memory [loss].The essay has now been published in the latest on-line edition of Wolf Notes –the publishing arm of Compost and Height. Curated by Patrick Farmer and Sarah Hughes, Wolf Notes #9, features writing by Freya Johnson Ross, Rebecca Glover and Nick Wood, and I am delighted to be in such fascinating company.

Adapted from a paper, originally performed at the Sound of Memory Symposium (Goldsmiths, London) in 2017, the essay is itself a form of remembering. Mingling neuropsychology and the wet reverie of literary oceans, remembering rain, navigates the ‘substantial nothingness’ (Bachelard) of water, sound and memory, drawing in my sound practice – specifically, the installation rain choir (Winchester Cathedral, 2013) and the performed disappearance of Silence Lost  (2015 – 2019) – to commemorate the loss inherent in the act of recording.

Wolf Notes #9 is available here.

I recently visited the Robert Rauschenberg retrospective at Tate Modern and saw for the first time the exquisite and fully unfurled Automobile tire print (1953). Choreographed by Rauschenberg, the print was of course performed by the foot of John Cage and the accelerator of a Model T Ford. The twenty-two foot scroll of tire ‘records nearly three revolutions of Cage’s wheel.’ Haunting the dense black tire of line I noticed another tread; a discreet embossed ghost of the un-inked front wheel. In the same room, quietly cornered by the tire is Erased de Kooning Drawing (1953). Together these works question not only authorship and authenticity but also the limits of the visible: the material or immaterial record of action.
These questions resonate with a number of my recent phonographic objects and actions; the microphone-less field-recordings of a silent tide, for which two silent 10” vinyl records are placed in the North Sea, one as the tide comes in and one as it goes out, and the release of silence lost, in which four silent records are [circumstantially] lost to the seas surrounding the UK.



[silent] tire printing

A few weeks ago a friend of mine told me about an auction she was helping to organise to raise money for the musician and artist Greg Gilbert, who had been diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer on his daughter Bay’s 1st birthday. I wanted to contribute, and so for Greg and in a sonic homage to Rauschenberg’s Automobile tire print, I placed a 7” silent record under the wheel of my 1964 MGB, drove over it, reversed and repeated that action three times (corresponding to the revolutions of Cage’s wheel). I then inked up the front tire, placed the paper record cover underneath it and repeated the action again, rocking the car gently forward and backward three times.
The turntable revolution of the 7″ record mimes that of the tire. The absence of sound printed into its grooves, now offering a silence interrupted by the material inscription of harm written upon the record’s surface.




[silent] tire print is an edition of one and will be part of the auction for Greg, which begins at 6pm on Thursday 9th March at Re:So in Southampton (viewing from the 7th March). You can also donate here to fund treatment for Greg not available on the NHS.

 

sebastiane hegarty: Ecko
Sebastiane hegarty: stylus 1
In 2013 I took two silent records to the coast of the North Sea. I placed each record at the shoreline of the sea: one at Holme-next-the-Sea, as the tide was coming in and one at Cley, where the tide was going out. After seven minutes I retrieved each record from the waves and returned it to its sleeve.

The records have been played, or rather, performed three times. With each performance, the record of the tide changes, the coast of silica clinging to the surface shifts and silence is dislodged by the wave of the stylus. Occasionally the needle gets stuck, and the original 7 minutes of unrecorded silence locks, resumes and endures. The silence inscribed on the surface of the record is rewritten with every utterance and audition: this is not a memory of the tides, but a remembering of them.

tides mix
sebastiane hegarty: stylus 2
In the summer of 2016 I performed a third variation of the tides, using the revolve of two turntables to mingle the silence of the tide coming in with the silence of the tide going out. I am delighted that this variation has been included in the latest edition of the Canadian audio online publication,  
textsound. Curated by Michael Nardone, “Sonic Materialities”, ‘assembles works that blur the distinction between performance, poetry, and the sonic arts. Dialogues, field recordings, talks, electromagnetic arrangements, installations, lyric works, remixes. Nardone writes: “Sonic Materialities” explores the fugitive modes of embodiment, inscription, and exchange in phono poetic practice.’

textsound Issue 21: sonic materialities, listen here.

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