Reflections on the river

FLOW – A morning stream of sonic interactions, river songs and vinyl.

Collective connective musical memories emerge from an assemblage of old record players, vinyl records, local recordings and sound pictures. 

FLOW seeks to connect people and places through a process of listening, participation and response.

I wanted to create a work that followed the river Teifi’s journey, taking a sonic walk along the river through field recordings made between my home town of Aberteifi and the festival, while drawing on local recordings of mine from previous projects based on the river (Deuair & Peter Stevenson – The Talking Tree), vinyl records referring to the river and other places on it’s route (Vernon a Gwynfor – Taith Teifi), and recordings of my late friend Lou who loved the river and was inspired to write a number of songs relating to it.  I walked along the river Teifi, reflecting on its journey and mine, both geographically and temporally.  Recording along the way, gathering a variety of sounds – the water, the trees, the wildlife and myself in the landscape.

I used to walk the footpath along the river with Lou talking and listening and I remembered a song she wrote called ‘Bright Rivers’ and thought perhaps to use that in some way.  While looking for that I found a song simply titled ‘The River’ in an archived folder labelled 11 early tracks.  It was from Lou’s first ever demo recording session, recorded at Fflach studios, Cardigan in around 1992.  Simple, a bit rough, and unique those recordings are the only ones with Lou playing her own guitar accompaniment.  It has an energy that reflects her youthfulness and her passion for singing and writing songs.  There was also a version of ‘Moon River’ with Katherine Crowe, recorded in Cardigan with Jon Turner at Backbedroom studios in around 1998, it’s particularly poignant as both Jon and Kathryn have also died in the last 10 years.

Through this the work took on a theme of loss, of constant change, movement and personal reflection.  Forming as the body of source material grew, a sequence of sounds started to suggest itself.  Starting with local recordings and those personal memories and sounds, the idea was that it would becoming more national and collective before reaching out toward international and universal.

Starting the work with a precomposed track made from field recordings and my local recordings, for about 10 minutes it played through the local area towards a collection of records.  The records were selected using my database, searching for words connected to rivers – river, stream, brook, afon, creek, nant etc. and names of rivers – Thames, Tyne, Avon, Teifi, Usk, Severn, Mississippi, Colorado, Niagara, Nile, Danube etc.  Others were selected because they had rivers on the cover (see below and previous posts).

From this eclectic collection of vinyl I selected and mixed a few choice bits before allowing the work to become less structured and deliberate, embracing random loops from the collection.  At about 20 minutes I opened up the mix to the audience and invited them to come and join in the selection and playing of the records for the remaining period.

All the while the room was lit in one corner by projected video of water reflections and ripples of streams, a series of 3 screens with headphones played video of previous works made on the Teifi, Wye and Severn.  One included new videos made for the festival, 3 vinyl records playing videos, 2 filmed playing in the locations pictured on their sleeves (Cwm Allt Cafan & Cenarth) and one the Vernon a Gwynfor song ‘Taith Teifi’ playing in the studio.  Another screen showed ‘Sometimes I live by a lake’, a slideshow of photographs taken during my years living in Llechryd, mostly looking out towards the river and Abercych.  Adjacent to the installation of turntables and screens was a stream of vinyl records pooling then winding across the floor, inviting careful steps to explore its journey through the space.

Vinyl Floor_Andrew Filmer

Vinyl stream – Photo by Andrew Filmer

The process and legacy of the work has, for me, created a keen sense of connection to the river and the surrounding area, a feeling of being part of the artistic continuum existing in the teifi valley.  A community and practice connecting us all both locally and to the wider cultural landscape.

The following were either shown in the space during the installation or were used in the composition.

Thinking on rivers as a theme I also remembered one of the last poems written by my Mum during her last year, a difficult but rich time of reflection filled with creativity and kindness.  https://lizwhittaker.wordpress.com/more/the-dancer-on-the-river-of-light/

 

For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.

Khalil Gibran

 

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