This year’s circle in 12 parts features guest artists chosen by zodiac sign, my guest for Leo is Sianed Jones:
When Jacob asked me to take part in the Leo sign earlier this year I was delighted and I was well. Subsequently I am in a reduced state. Something completely alien to me and to the image I have of myself, my identity, the understanding of the traits of my Leo sign. All my life I have been a performer, revelling in attention, social situations, organising, inventing projects, energised and enthusiastic, embracing inclusivity culturally, politically and creatively.
The day of our improvistion was a momentus one for me. My physical state is complete exhaustion.I am able to fix myself things to eat and drink and then I sleep once more until I have to feed myself again. Walking takes a million muscles, even sitting in a chair is hard work walking upstairs is a supreme effort.
I chose piano as my instrument of the day. I felt that I would have enough energy to press the keys down. I loved the improvisation, floating in and out of Jacob’s soundsapes picking out some similar rhythms even choosing some of the same notes sometimes. I revelled in the idea of echoing the repetitions brought by a stuck record, able to fade in and out, in time, out of time, in key, out of key. There was another quality to my playing brought on by the fact that I had no extraneous energy, I had to flow with gentleness, two handed dexterity almost out the window. The first time in my life I have played without the fizzed up adrenaline of ‘performance’.
You could say that I am the furthest away from Leo that I have ever been in my life. I have to surrender. I have to have patience. I have to adjust my expectations of what I am capable of. Each day is different. Each hour stretches longer than I thought possible. My Leo identity is off with the wind, floating sky high, ungraspable, amorphous.
In my well days I looked at Jacobs collection of records and was suddenly wanting to hear 1970’s nostalgia, No 1 hits when I was in my teens. Totally bizarre! I think I have been reaching back to myself as a teenager, those years where you are finding out who you are, meanwhile developing crushes on androgynous long haired pop stars. I was a weirdo in school carrying my violin to orchestra practice, my father was the art teacher in my school, another unusual circumstance.
Jacob has drawn me a beautiful birth chart full of intriguing marks and signs and symbols. It all seems to happen on one side of the circle. I imagine that might be significant. As my mother has never remembered the time of my actual birth Jacob has taken mid day as the time. I look forward to having a conversation with him deciphering the planetary positions and influences through my life.
I have been told I shall get well again. Perhaps the next time Leo comes around I shall be a subtler, gentler, more rounded and humbler version of my Leo self
This year’s circle in 12 parts features guest artists chosen by zodiac sign, my guest for Cancer is Kathryn Campbell Dodd:
Home is where the haunt is
These days I’m pretty sceptical about astrology, but, in my younger years, I enthusiastically learned and absorbed the traits of my star sign. I think, perhaps, the quasi-scientific nature of astrology satisfies a deep desire within us to see ourselves objectively reflected and to catch a glimpse of our ‘true’ self. Sometimes I wonder whether we are so taken with this mirror to our character that we accept the reflection as the real. We confuse the given traits of our star sign with our own, ’Well, I’m a Cancer so of course I’m a nurturing, slightly over sensitive home lover’.
As above, so below is the credo of astrology. My celestial companion is the moon and I’ve been looking for her reflection in the stuff of my every day.
The ‘typical’ Cancerian feature that seems to have chimed with me consistently throughout my life is a preoccupation with home, and the things of the home. I’m particularly interested in the unhomely and the haunted home, the disturbance of the unfamiliar becoming manifest within our most intimate environment; the way that small disruptions in atmosphere and perception can make the familiar suddenly uncomfortable and alien.
I decided to choose just one record from Jacob’s collection to build sound for the piece, Ghosts by Japan, a piece that cultural theorist Mark Fisher cites in the title of his book Ghosts of My Life: writings on depression, hauntology and lost futures in which he describes its “…sense of enervated foreboding…”:
When the room is quiet, the daylight almost gone, it seems there’s something I should know….
Whilst I’ve been thinking about the work I wanted to make for this project, there have been disturbances at the threshold of my home. For a couple of months, a crow has been coming to knock the windows with its beak and ‘caw’ on the windowsills. Sometimes it comes with a companion who sits on the roof, sometimes it comes alone, but it always follows the same routine, four or five times a day, landing on the same two windowsills and performing specific routines. It’s the kind of encounter that is freighted with folklore and superstition. Whatever its intention, it feels portentous and significant.
During the timeframe of these avian encounters, I’ve also stepped into the last year of my fifth decade. I’m adjusting to a new sense of identity. What does it mean to be an old(er) woman in our culture? The hag, the wise woman, the grandmother, the elder…the overlooked, the unheard, the vulnerable, the marginalised. Where do I fit and who are my allies?
When the room is quiet, the crow and the crone are tapping at my windows in the moonlight.
“The word ‘haunt’ and all the derivations thereof may be one of the closest English words to the German ‘unheimlich’, whose polysemic connotations and etymological echoes Freud so assiduously, and so famously, unravelled in his essay on ‘The Uncanny’. Just as ‘German usage allows the familiar (das Heimliche, the’ homely’) to switch to its opposite, the uncanny (das Unheimliche, the ‘unhomely’)’ (Freud), so ‘haunt’ signifies both the dwelling-place, the domestic scene and that which invades or disturbs it. The OED lists one of the earliest meanings of the word ‘haunt’ as ‘to provide with a home, house.” Mark Fisher, k-punk.abstractdynamics.org
An echo of the audio remix process exploring ways of reusing and processing the visuals. I remember trying a few databending techniques some years ago with little success, not sure what has changed and it did take a bit of effort, but this went wild!
This year’s circle in 12 parts features guest artists chosen by zodiac sign, my guest for Gemini is Ceri Owen-Jones:
“When Jake asked me to take part in this project, the first thing I looked into were the origins and myths of Gemini. At my friend Sue’s suggestion, I went from Latin to Greek (Castor & Pollux) and back to Gemini’s Babylonian origins in the Great Horse Twins, and the parallel Vedic tradition of the Twins, the Ashvins, which means the ‘possessors of Horse’. According to Joseph Campbell, the mastery of the Horse brought a new energy and vitality to the dawn of the Iron Age and its symbolism replaced that of the Bull.
There are many horse songs in traditional Welsh music. I chose to play & record a Ceredigion melody, Y Dau Farch. Y Dau Farch is a conversation between two horses, one old, one young, about their past and future, which feels perfect for Gemini, a sign with an emphasis on duality and communication. Keeping Gemini communication in mind, the albums that leapt out at me in Jake’s vinyl library catalogue were the Welsh language learning albums. I wanted to explore communication in a second language, the difficulties of learning and expressing oneself, how comprehension in certain registers and subtle expression can be problematic.
With what I now know is classic Gemini superficiality, I mis-read Jake’s guide to album choices. Once figured out, I was glad to see that amongst his base-line choices was The Planets by Holst and from this I liked an arrangement of ‘Mercury’ (ruling planet of Gemini) by Tomita, a fuzzy soft Moog version. Jake also pointed out that one of his Gemini readings by Melvin J Gunton and Brian Skinner was made in Canada, a great choice for a Canadian in Wales / a Cymro who grew up in Canada. The constant idea in my life is duality.
My birthchart has seven planets in Air signs as well as my Midheaven (I’m Air heavy!). To represent Air, I chose the tracks Air and Listening Wind by Talking Heads, Walking in the Air sung by Aled Jones, and The Dragon by Vangelis (the Dragon, especially in Chinese myth, being a creature of clouds and air and a potent symbol in Wales). I saw that Jake has two copies of this last record in his listing – found at Emlyn Antiques – one with a cover, and one without.
I added a Miles Davis album as we share a birthday. It was a choice between Dr. Jekyll and Decoy. Although the title Dr Jekyll seems appropriate to describe the duality of Gemini, I veered off with the Decoy as the feel of the music seemed good for the flightiness of the ruling planet Mercury. This album was given to Jake by our great friend Peter Stevenson.
In medieval music, each modal scale was associated with a planet. Mercury was hypo-phrygian and as one of Gemini’s characteristics is the enjoyment of improvisation and the ability to adapt easily, I thought I would improvise variations on this mode based on the Welsh melodies Y March Glas and Triban y Cathreiwr (for the Ox in me).
Thinking of form: moving from calm to frenetic is the two parts, yin and yang, of Gemini. This will be based on feel, and collaborating with Jake. It’ll just have to happen as it happens.
Dragons swirl amongst the clouds. The heartsease, Viola tricolor, with its zygomorphic flowers, are like the Twins. A Tibetan singing bowl to clear the space and air, along with gifts given to me and Elsa (musical Twins) from Jake, completes the Circle.
I paired this with Taliesin of the Shining Brow: Canu y Gwynt; a riddle of the Wind.”
Ceri’s record selection: Talking Heads – Air; Talking Heads – Listening Wind; Aled Jones – Walking in the Air; Disciau Dysgu Difyr – Adar; Miles Davis – Decoy; BBC Radio – Welsh for Beginners; Cwrs Cymraeg llafar;
This year’s circle in 12 parts features guest artists chosen by zodiac sign, my guest for Taurus is Rhowan Alleyne:
“The playlist started by looking up people who I share my birthday with. I remembered Grace Jones already but I had forgotten about Malcolm X. I was somewhat alarmed by Pol Pot.
Then I saw Ho Chi Minh. So this is where the idea of doing something ‘revolutionary’ arose. I looked up the soundtrack for Spike Lee’s film, Malcolm X, which is where several of the vinyl choices came from. I’ve always loved The Planets suite since I played in a youth orchestra many years ago so I was really happy that Jake has that as one of his ‘base’ records. Venus transports me every time to a place of calm and beauty.
Being a swimmer, naturally I’m interested in the mermaid side of my planetary ruler. There’s an oceanic turn happening in some parts of the humanities. A paradigm shift towards a more watery understanding of the world that has huge value for the ecological and environmental movements. And our well-being.
My affinity with the ‘blue humanities’ comes from embodied immersion in the seas around the coast of west Wales. It tunes me in to the seasons and heightens environmental consciousness.
In prehistoric times sea levels were lower and the larger wild mammals were not yet extinct. Swimming at Whitesands I took my GoPro into the sea and recalled the horn of the wild bull that was found on the beach after a storm one winter. The poem about it is kind of a layering of time and experience. But it’s also about Venus, about knowledge that comes from the sea and about the only thing that’s worth doing when all else is lost, and that is to love the world and love each other unreservedly.
Sea monsters I don’t see as villains anymore but as the ultimate disrupters of human hypocrisies and vanities.”
Rhowan’s vinyl record selection: China Crisis – Performing Seals; Tracy Chapman – Talkin’ bout a revolution; Marvin Gaye – Inner City Blues; Ariel Ramirez – La Peregrinacion; Lionel Hampton – Flying Home; Herb Alpert – Surfin Senorita; Velvet Underground – Venus in Furs; Public Enemy – Revolutionary Generation; Grace Jones – Pull up to the Bumper; KLF – Justified and Ancient; Panic Allstars – Change is gonna come; Holst – Venus.
Born in the Foam
Sinking and Extinction
Big Pink Bells
Selkies aren’t the Enemy
Born in the Foam
How do the ocean born love? As though we’re the last ones left alive on Earth
or like aurochs swimming through flooded forests whose lush understories swish and sway in the undercurrents
or like navigators who chart course by memory of shearwaters flocking and shoals of silvery herrings that fly across the darkest night skies
without fear of the depths or turning tides
At the beach, on the shore, in the sea
is where I am most in touch
with the Earth’s
In spray hanging in the air
above waves peaking on an offshore wind,
sunlight splits and rainbows flash fleetingly,
just inches away.
Time is layered
in the sediments that rise slowly above sea level,
and in the sand that is building around the marram grass.
One night a storm surge will slice through it all
and in the morning we’ll marvel at the cliff falls,
the strata, the root systems tangled and dangling.
The river in spate loosens a dinghy from its tether,
pushing it to the black rocks
where the sand sucks it down
but its red and blue stern juts out,
just like one of the jagged stones.
A tree trunk that’s drifted down the estuary
is dragged from the tideline and burnt
on the edge of the dune,
its smoke seeping into the clothes
of dancers bopping to simple minds on a bluetooth speaker
whilst waiting for a comet’s tail to fan itself
like a swan’s wing across the northern sky
Each thing it’s own thing
in time and space,
its own momentum, trajectory and tangled relationships with others, and us.
shifting winds, tides, sunset and sunrise,
cliff falls, rainfall and currents
re-sculpt the Earth and how we know it.
Sinking and Extinction
Are sea levels rising or earth levels falling?
Either way, we better learn to swim.
The skills we need for the future
work with the ebbs and flows,
swipes of tail flukes,
racing fins, rips, drifts and seal snorts
of a more watery world.
Of letting go of solid ground.
Of humility and fearlessness.
Of sinking into, or out of, extinction.
Walking, swimming and other things that put us back in touch with our bodies, are the times when we’re in touch with our becomings. Swimming, which combines streamlining with intentional instability and surrender of total control to the forces in the waters, disrupts our usual ways of moving and thinking. Body surfing forces adaptations to our bodies and minds through gentle and crashing action. Getting slammed and scraped, sucked out and slapped in the face, pumped and dumped are all part of the battle and the fun, if you own it. A swimmer’s language is slippery, becomes fluid and mutable. Swimming re-wilds us. We submerge and we subvert. We submerge to emerge. We’re divers and freedom fighters. Sea swimming is a radical practice in flow, with the uncertainty and heartbreak of a broken world.
Big Pink Bells
You can’t think about swimming without thinking about
and the sensory experience
of touching, hosting, interacting and empathising
with other bodies.
As water sculpts the earth,
so it reshapes swimmers’ bodies;
re-enchanting us to the beauty of change,
to the thrill of connecting
and blurring our boundaries with
urchins, dorsal fins,
sand eels, jellyfish,
rope zombies, dead crabs,
the sun, the salt.
I’m a swarm of big pink bells,
a mussell on the perch,
spider crabs spawning,
an octopus observing that it’s being observed,
a razor clam,
a forest of sandmasons fanning their tiny branches,
a lugworm cast forming,
a walrus balancing a starfish on its nose
A pebble bored by an angel wing.
My skin is as mottled as a seal pelt
as scarred as a bottle nosed dolphin’s
Crushed oyster shells, leaf mould, silt and algae cling to my wrinkles
is a swimsuit an intertidal zone?
Selkies Aren’t the Enemy
leviathan, atargatis, scylla the cracen medusa cthulu godzilla ursula jaws the meg
sea foam hissing and shining, dissolving and reforming with every wave
Other records in the mix: Roger Christian – Discover yourself through Astrology; John Dankworth – The Zodiac Variations; Cosmos – Your Stars for 1968; Norrie Paramour Orchestra – The Zodiac Suite; Cannonball Adderley presents – Soul Zodiac; Cosmic Sounds – The Zodiac; Madame Francesca – Your spoken Horoscope – Taurus