January 2023 will mark the fourth anniversary of the publication of Silence on Loan and its subsequent inclusion in the Artists’ Book Collection at Winchester School of Art Library. Published in the form of a 10” vinyl record, Silence on Loan sits shyly on the library shelf at 741.64 HEG: Four years of dust and silence have now come to rest in the silent groove cut into its surface.
Every year there is a free performance of Silence on Loan at WSA Library, which this year will take place on Monday the 16th of January; coincidently the birthday of my mother, who died twelve years ago. In 2022 the Silence was performed without an audience there to hear. This year the performance is open again to the public and to the arbitrary ear of all library users. As with previous iterations, all those there to hear and those who’s listening the silence borrows, will be offered a commemorative hand-made pin badge, produced exclusively for the ‘event’. As an ‘event’ the performance of Silence on Loan is unremarkably low noise and low-key: an uneventful twenty minutes in which Silence is taken from the shelf, placed on a portable turntable, and rotated at 33 revolutions per minute. The arm of the turntable is swung gently over the edge of the vinyl ellipse, and the needle dropped damply into the silent spiral of the groove. Nine or so minutes later the needle is lifted out of the locked rut of the run-off loop and Silence taken from the platter and returned to its place on the library shelf. This small inconspicuous ritual marks the end of Silence for another year, and is occasionally greeted with a closing, discreet ripple of bookish applause.
Silence on Loan annual performance with free badge
15:00 Monday 16.01.2023 Winchester School of Art Library Park Avenue Winchester SO23 8DL
To make Silence available to listeners around the world, the performance will also be broadcast live via Instagram: @sebastiane_hegarty
With a knowing nod to Alvin Lucier’s, I am sitting in a room (1969) the invitation was to participate in, The: the third word and part, of Christof’s annual dozen. Like Lucier’s magnetic room, The, composes its form from an instructed action:
Room you are not in. Room where you usually make (sounds, images, objects, etc.), but that is currently running on idle. Idling in unintentional sounds. Room is lit but faded in and out after the fact (I will do the fade in fadeout). Camera captures room or detail (up to you), only one position throughout. Presence might be felt but is not present. You were there and you will be there again, but you are not there now.
The room where I make is spare, small and recently painted. It’s also the place where I keep and shelve the things I made and make with. On a desk in the corner there is an iMac with one Sonic Egg studio monitors on either side. An old straw hat perches ergonomically on the left-hand egg.
The room has one window. When the iMac is on stand-by or off, the window is reflected in its screen; the dusty emptiness of the room behind made visible through the glass darkly. On sunny winter days, the light from the window casts shadows on the wall opposite, shadows that breath slowly in and out of perceptibility. I use these shadows as an opportunity to stop and stare and let myself dawdle in their idleness.
I made two films in response to the instruction. In the first and selected film, the stare of my iPhone is fixed on the wall where shadows appear. I pressed record, left the room and closed the door to. Twelve minutes or so later I returned to press stop. The twelve minutes recorded are uneventful. Shadows are slight and fleeting. The distant spin of a washing machine whines through its cycle. A draft from the open window, pushes and pulls the room ajar, creating spontaneous creaks, which occasionally synchronise with the fluctuations in light and less light.
In a more composed second attempt at idleness, I fixed the stare of the iPhone upon the iMac screen. I muted the microphone, and started a metronome before leaving the room, to return twelve minutes later and press stop. Visible through the blizzard of dust which covers the screen, the reflection of the metronome keeps time silently. An occasional particle of dust, drifting through the air is caught in the sunlight of the silenced room. This silence is replaced with the audible draft of the previous twelve minutes. The silent metronome announces and measures loss, whilst time creaks and idles in the dust.
In the late winter of 2021, sitting in front of the dim mirror of the iMac screen, I started to experience a bright and recurring flash in my left eye. Unlike the stained-glass spiral scotoma of a normal migraine, this light was briefly white and peripheral. Some days later drops of liquid dilated the aperture of my pupil and the attentive lens of the optometrist found a small tear in the retina of my left eye. As if to celebrate my visual field was immediately flooded with millions of black dots. That evening in a small, dark and automatically locked room, small bursts of a laser welded a line around the edge of my retina, the light so bright that my left eye seemed to lose the notion of sight.
Through winter 2021 and spring 2022, there were four more tears and four more laser surgeries to weld my retina back into place. This has left my vision full of floaters, the remains of cells, casting their shadows on my retina. Like the wall and iMac screen, my visual field is full of dust and the idleness of shadows.
Emergency Eye Clinic: Southampton General Hospital
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.
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 subsequentlyapproached 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.’
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)
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.
Silence on Loan. 2022. Performance broadcast live on Instagram
On the last Monday of January 2022, the annual performance of Silence on Loan, took place at Winchester School of Art Library. It was performed alone in the early morning before the library opened to the public and without an audience present. During the silence I wore industrial Ear Protectors, so even I could not hear the silence as it occurred.
The annual performance was announced in advance on social media and this blog, which included an invitation for people to not attend or listen. The performed silence was however, broadcast live (and mute) via Instagram, so that those who wished, might watch and not listen, together. The Instagram recording of the broadcast was unceremoniously deleted (by accident) immediately after the performance.
In order for those not listening to inform others of their lack of attention, a limited edition, I Am Not Listening, pin-badge, was available to purchase and wear on the day. The 1” pin sold out, adorning the lapels of people not listening, as far apart as New York and Keyhaven, Australia, Berlin and Wolverhampton.
This year, Silence on Loan was unheard by what could have been its largest audience to date. A big thank you to all those millions of people around the world, who were not listening.
Last year the annual performance of Silence on Loan, was postponed by the ‘silent epidemic’ of COVID. In January, I had hoped to perform a socially distanced version, completely alone in the Winchester School of Art Library, where the publication is held – a lonely withdrawn silence, performed but unheard. But lockdown restrictions meant that visiting the library was not permitted and the annual performance had to be rescheduled, eventually taking place in August 2021 – coincidently in the same week as the publication of my essay Withdrawn from use: silence, listening and undoing, in the journal Organised Sound 26/2 (Cambridge University Press).
This year silence has been recalibrated, returning the annual performance to January so as to synchronise with the original month of publication and the inclusion of Silence on Loan into the Artists’ Books Special Collection at WSA in 2019. But this year’s performance is different to the previous three. In remembrance, perhaps, of the socially distanced, isolated performance which never occurred, the 2022 performance will take place behind the closed magnetic gates of WSA library 2.
On Monday 31st January, around 8:30 am, before the library opens and without visitors or audience, the unpaginated spiral slither of Silence on Loan, will be taken from the shelf and placed on the turntable platter. The unheard audio cassette that has documented every silent anniversary will be rewound. Last year’s silence will be simultaneously erased and recorded over with this. I will keep vigil as silence rotates, my ears defended from it: silence occurring with no one there to hear.
There is strictly no admittance to this performed anniversary of Silence of Loan. But you are invited to not listen with me. You may not listen wherever you are, at home, at work, alone or in company. You may also watch but not listen via a live muted Instagram broadcast at @sebastiane_hegarty
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 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.