March was to be the start of a year long series of improvisations exploring parallels between creative and ritual practice, the symbolic power of the circle, the zodiac, repetition and magic. Working with musician friend Jay, we were planning a monthly live webcast performance from my studio, me playing records, Jay taking a feed from the desk, sampling and treating with Ableton and sending it back into the mix.
We have been talking about this for a while now and rehearsing since January.
It’s been a fantastic listening exercise, trying to find balance between the analogue and digital and working out ways of creating structure within the performances based on some fundamental astrological ideas i.e signs, houses, modes, elements and decans.
In choosing records, I was inspired to seek out spoken word astrology ones having found a copy of ‘Tetley take you Stargazing with Maurice Woodruff: Aries’, in the Ty Hafan charity shop in Cardigan some time ago. Thanks to Ebay and Discogs I almost have the whole zodiac by a number of different astrologers.
There are also a number of musical interpetations of the zodiac signs and several copies of Holst’s planets.
Mixing in with those are a few tracks refering to magic in different ways. So far the only one thats made it into the mix has been A Kind of Magic by Queen, I have a few others in mind which will no doubt make later mixes.
Given the current Covid-19 restrictions we are unable to start the project as planned and im still not quite sure what this will mean for it. While we are finding a few extracts from our Aries rehearsals to post soon and work out how to proceed, I am posting this video of a vinyl only mix to be going on with.
The overlay is a sketch created in After Effects exploring wrapping a few circular images around a sphere. The images are photos of my mother’s crystal ball in the sunset light from the studio window and a version of my birthchart drawn by my mother back in 1996.
A mix of records leftover from a Zoom party where people chose vinyl from my databases and I played their requests – like a slow, unreliable, shit jukebox.
Ambrose & his Orchestra; 5000 Welsh Voices; Frankie Laine; Blondie; The Pentangle; Bois Y Felin; The Maple Leaf Four; The Dubliners; Max Boyce; Neal Hefti; Dire Straits; Dean Martin
A mix of leftover records selected during Rowan’s Zoom birthday party last weekend. I sent out links to my vinyl databases and played requests – like a slow, unreliable jukebox.
KLF; The Proclaimers; Adamski; Max Boyce; Bert Weedon; Wendy King; Dean Martin; possibly others…
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.
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.
A collection of vinyl first shown in Oriel Blodau Bach earlier this year.
Born near Llandysul at Christmas in 1766, Christmas Evans grew up in Bwlchog, in the parish of Llanfihangel-ar-Arth and went on to become one of the most well known and influential preachers in Wales.
“Christmas Evans (1766-1838) was described by D. M. Lloyd-Jones as ‘the greatest preacher that the Baptists have ever had in Great Britain’. This remarkable one-eyed Welshman came from humble beginnings to exercise powerful preaching ministries throughout Wales..”(1)
The collection of sleeves with their different designs attest to his status and continued popularity as a preacher, receiving several re-issues on the Qualiton label. The sermon itself was first delivered on July 1st 1835 in Bangor and the recording is of Rev. Jubilee Young some 118 years after Christmas Evans’ death.
As well as the covers on display there are a number of audio/video works using the records
(1) ‘Christmas Evans – No Ordinary Preacher’
This new work for Oriel Blodau Bach is a collection of ‘Pregeth Christmas Evans’ vinyl record covers. Born near Llandysul at Christmas in 1766, Christmas Evans grew up in Bwlchog, in the parish of Llanfihangel-ar-Arth and went on to become one of the most well known and influential preachers in Wales.
Read more on the Oriel Blodau Bach website
Exhibition 24 August // Awst – 12 October // Hydref 2019
The Christmas Variations includes a playlist of videos
6.30pm on Tuesday 13th August I’ll be playing some sounds in Llanina church with the lovely Deuair – Elsa Davies and Ceri Owen Jones. I made this short video with them a few years back.
The video was filmed in Elsa’s grandparents old house just outside New Quay. When I described the place to my mum she told me that she knew the place and had been there when her and my dad were moving to our house in Gilfachreda, that they had arranged a private mortgage with the seller and had to visit their home in Pentregarth to sort it out. That would have been Elsa’s grandparents and the house we moved to was called Dolau.
Dolau – That’s me in the cage on the right about to grab a chicken
Llanina church and woods is just not far from the village of Gilfachreda.
Llanina stream and woods
When I was young we used to go and collect conkers from the woods there, home to some of the best horse chestnut trees in the area. It was a favourite place to walk as it has all you could want on a walk – woodland, ruins, a stream, a mansion, a churchyard and a beach!
In 2012 I was invited to make some work for an exhibition in Aberystwyth on a theme of climate change. Thinking on my family and our journeys and impact on my local environment I decided to make a series of recordings between New Quay and Aberystwyth and included Llanina as a connecting point to my dad whose ashes were scattered at Llanina.
For pretty much all of my childhood my dad would travel daily to work in Aberystwyth, sometimes driving, sometimes car sharing with work colleagues, for financial not environmental reasons. I too, for all my years of secondary school regularly traveled by bus up the coast to Aberaeron. So for the exhibition I combined field recordings made in New Quay, Llanina, Aberaeron and Aberystwyth with vinyl records related to music from Aberystwyth and sounds of the Welsh countryside. I also included the voices of the other artists exhibiting and fragments of some of their work. Below is the recorded work and the writing from the exhibition.
Reflex – 43m 48s loop, (with 3 turntables)
The work is composed from various recordings made by myself and the other artists involved in the ‘predicting a climate archive’ exhibition. The primary sound source is a recording made at Llanina, treated in different ways within the work. One instance is created through repeated saving as MP3 and re-saving creating compression artifacts within the audio, adding rhythms and peculiarities which are enhanced by normalising, time-stretching, pitch-shifting and filtering. The corruption of the data through transfer, compression and conversion reflects the potential distortion allied to the continued updating of archival practice.
Familiar natural sounds emerge combined with fragments of vinyl records introduced by an electronic voice reading it’s database entry, while voices of the other artists discussing issues, ideas and intentions surrounding this installation create a connection to current daily activity in the area. Submerged within other sounds, they occasionally surface, displaced and out of time they could be anywhere.
(Additional turntables place sounds used within the composition, and other local recordings, in discrete locations in the space allowing the visitor different listening experiences according to their position.)
I am currently working on some new work for this gig in Llanina next week using field recordings from the area, a cassette of my mum reading tarot, some trombone recorded on the beach, music relating to my Uncle Dave (session musician and Black Lion denizen), and a number of locally connected vinyl records.
Me & my brother with Uncle Dave
A new selection for the season installed in Bara Menyn this morning.