I have been involved in a project devised and documented by Kel Portman. A curator on this Walking the Land project, his initial invitation set off a chain of coincidences and connections to do with the passing of time and how we experience sound.
“As the equinox marks the cusp of seasonal changes with the beginning of Autumn in the North and Spring in the South, artists record their reflections on the transition, the changes of light and the passing of time.”
Stretching Time was my contribution.
I walked in Edinburgh on consecutive days, photographing the sunset on the 22nd September, and the sunrise on the 23rd. As the earth’s axis comes perpendicular to the sun which crosses the equator from north to south, we, in the Northern Hemisphere, are traditionally celebrating harvest and know that we are moving into a darker and colder, more restful and reflective period. At this auspicious occasion, we pass through a time of near balance of 12 hours of daylight and 12 of night (equi-nox : equal-night).
I time-ordered my photos, made an equator-axis tip, and then overlaid the images. I had been reading about “light being stretched and becoming redder” in The Guardian (24/9/22), and inspired by the James Webb telescope photo of Saturn, used a bloody tint. On that day, I was on a train crossing from Scotland to England and added some words about my own feelings at this time.
As the sun hits the equator And the earth tilts an iota, I marvel.
As the cells die in my body, And the train hurls itself southwards, I cry.
As the rain stops at the border, And the year passes the baton, I know I must change.
Then in October I attended an opening at the Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop where Alliyah Enyo‘s work, Selkie Reflections, is in the tower. It is an other-worldly soundscape, reminiscent of sea mammals’ song and Tibetan Tonqin Longhorn. She writes about whale sounds taking more time to travel through sea water, but being able to travel far longer distances, and she mentions stretching time:
This is much like the pathos experienced when listening to an audio recording of a person from years ago, as time is stretched and distended by a voice communicating from the past.
I had already been listening to David Haskell describing the way sea creatures hear with the whole body:
If I had a watery fish body, sound would penetrate through me. Aquatic beings are immersed in the sound that they’re in.
David George Haskell on Walk Listen Create
So, as I sat in the tower listening to Enyo’s installation, I imagined I was hearing through my watery, bodily fluids. My eyes were not shut, but I could see horizontal, parallel wavy lines between me and the walls, and there were layers of sound, not just of the composition itself, but of birds from the cycle path, voices from the bench beside me, and people speaking outside the tower.
The more we engage with what we used to refer to as a separate, natural world, the more it is obvious that we are part of that world, that we all influence and have the opportunity to influence each other. Humans are limited in the world of sound, compared to birds (which I have written about before No Birds Land) and dolphins, for example, and I’d be interested to hear if you have tried listening in different ways and if so, how that was for you.