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

 

The Christmas Variations @ Bara Menyn

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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’

https://www.dayone.co.uk/products/christmas-evans-no-ordinary-preacher

Records & Rivers (2)

Another selection that could be part of the mix at the Afon festival next week…
http://www.may-nard.org/afon

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Picked this up in Tenovus Haverfordwest for the Mix in 2015.  Bois y Felin are from Solva I believe…

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Neis iawn…So many Welsh recors have rivers on..not surprising I guess given how many rivers there are here!

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Not familiar with Caernarfon but pretty sure that’s a river!

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Ahh lovely rendering of Cenarth bridge and the river Teifi…

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Quite liking the stylised river on this.

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Moving away from Wales finally…I assume this is the Thames in the foreground.  Interesting selection of songs from all over the UK on this double album, though none about rivers.

Records & Rivers

A selection of records with rivers on that might make it into a mix at the Afon festival http://www.may-nard.org/afon

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Fantastic cover with a shot of Cenarth bridge and the iconic Teifi coracles.  I’ve quite a few copies of this, though I’m not sure I’ve ever used them..  this might be the time to play them all together.

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Pretty sure this is Pont Allt y Cafan near Llandysul.  Couple of copies, one from Carmarthen Salvation Army shop, not sure about the other..

44122938694_5b6ecbd315_oI got this one in Cardigan market for the Untitled mix for the End of Empire I did last year in Glyn Vivian Gallery Swansea.  The cover design was selected through a competition won by a girl from Swansea.

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Fine Hound.  Signed on the back by Ieuan, this was in the animal welfare charity shop in Cardigan.

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Part of A Mix for Haverfordwest in 2015, picked it up in the Paul Sartori charity shop there..

The Christmas Variations

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.

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Read more on the Oriel Blodau Bach website

Exhibition 24 August // Awst – 12 October // Hydref 2019

The Christmas Variations includes a playlist of videos

Vinyl Connects

Llanina

Approaching Llanina beach 

A few records to connect to place and people..

  • Janet a Glenda – NC Emlyn
  • Dafydd ac Ifan – Aberaeron
  • Cromlech – Pont-Siân
  • Cor Rhianedd Tysul – Llandysul
  • Doreen Lewis – Aberaeron
  • D. Jacob Davies – Alltyblaca – Cribyn – Rhydowen etc. Y smotyn ddu!
  • Côr Dyfed – Llandysul – St David’s Diocese
  • Picture Frame Seduction – New Quay – Haverfordwest
  • Angela Rogers Lewis – Abermeurig
  • Adar Tydfor – Cwmtydu
  • Gwynne James – (Penrhiwllan)

Songs of the Sea