Yan Tan Tethera is now complete; that is to say the main audio is now recorded, edited, mixed and rendered. Whew! Now all that remains is to spend the next months taking tally of all the other things I’d love to have included. Every strand of this piece made me want to follow it off in its own magical direction. I’ve ruthlessly abandoned folklore, weather-lore, knitting and textiles, weaving, shipping, and umpteen methods of counting, measuring and categorising. I’m trusting that visitors here will help me to remember all the things I left out…:o)
I’m now going to move into a phase of using this space for navel-gazing re- all the things I would have included, given infinite time and budget for the project.
As it goes, the piece is as it needs to be; full enough to be interesting and create its own sense of space, community and buzz, while, I hope, remaining spare enough to give space for each element to come forward, sufficiently to be heard and recognised. That’s the theory: we shall see…
…Oh yes, and it’s 5 minutes longer than I intended, too.
Some genuine stocked bells, borrowed from various individuals and pics of the flock wearing the bells.
These are two files I have recorded and edited, but am now almost certain I’m not going to use in the piece. They are still part of the process though, so I’m figuring it might be good to have them online, just to add to the conversation.
I set out with this work, intending to simply draw together different methods of counting, measuring and categorising. I imagined the finished work would sound like lots of numbers, rhythmic words and phrases, lists and definitions. The developing work does have some of these things in it, but the exploration has, from my perspective, become more profound, more emotionally meaningful. I have moved beyond curious interest, to deep, spine-tingling fascination.
More than once my hairs have stood up as I’ve learned something historical which feels like it makes a direct link between we modern folk, with our computerised census and statistical analysis, and our “home-spun” forebears, with their sticks, bells, bobbins, threads and songs.
My piece, Yan Tan Tethera, now coming together structurally, in the studio, is sounding more like a medieval village square than a straightforward inventory of counting systems. It has women talking about the pass-times they love, and about their trades. The shepherd both informs and entertains with his poem and his description of the ways of his work. The musician talks to us about how we have moved from using a bell as a cheap and practical means of locating livestock, into the means of bringing people together, in music, over thousands of years. We have the cycling year, spoken of in both English and Slvenian, in the old callenders, reflected in the cycling spinning wheel, measuring and marking the generations in hard work and solid purpose.
The piece is both simpler and more complex than I expected. It is taking itself in hand and telling me which way it’s going, now. I knew I was aiming to shine a small light on the lives of ordinary folk. I did not understand, to begin with, that the most immediately effective way I could do this was to get alongside people doing ancient crafts, trades and pass-times, down at ground level, in my own part of the world. I have worried, as one recording after another identifies itself, through the voices recorded and the words spoken, as being focused on the Lincolnshire and Yorkshire part of England. I have been concerned that I’m not fulfilling the multi-cultural nature of the What Counts brief.
However, as I’ve become immersed in the gentle rhythms of the material, sinking my consciousness in delicate evocations of lives so far removed from our modern city bustle, I’ve realised that, for me, and for this piece, at this time, the point is that it’s the ordinary folk, in every part of the world, who raise livestock and use their output in the making of food, clothing, chelter and wealth, on which communities rely,most fundamentally.
I did not plan to specifically evoke a village scene, and I don’t think that’s exactly what I’m doing (there are no traders crying wares, and no vehicles passing, for instance), but what I am doing, I now realise, is evoking the continuity of the lives of “ordinary” people, from one generation to the next, and from one nation to another. Insularity is tradition, all over the world, as is making yarn, or singing in time with the rhythms of life and work.
A description of marking the watches, at sea, using bells, and a short reflection on how it is to live with those bells, tolling the watches that mark the sailor’s days.
A mock-up of a ship’s bell. I don’t have a ship’s bell, personally, and in the time available I haven’t managed to locate a real one, so the file here is simply 4 strikes on my Tibetan Singing Bowl’s rim, which I was planning to process into a passable ship’s bell, in the studio.
Annie is a lady who spins yarn. In this interview she is describing how she was involved in the project of recreating some of the images from the Luttrell Salter. What she discovered, with her colleagues, in the course of doing the exploration feels magical.
These photos were taken while I was recording church bell ringers in a beautiful little old belltower in a village called Hackthorn, in rural Lincolnshire.
I’ve been focussing on collecting recordings, in the last few days.
I now have my lovely bell-ringing lady recorded and edited, and will post the audio file later today.
I also visited some bell-ringers, practicing their art in a beautiful little old bell tower. It was magical. Today I’m going to edit the sounds and voices collected from it, so those will be online before the end of play. Some photos too, all being well.
I’ve also recorded a shepherd, and a sailor (they are actually the same person, but I don’t think this matters as the material is brilliant).
This lovely chap has been both a shepherd, using the old systems for counting sheep, and a sailor, living by the ship’s bell, toling the watches. Today’s schedule also includes editing this material. I intend to have it ready to post by the end of the day, also.
I’m still short of some crucial bits to join up my little circle of logic:
I have the phone number for a lady who runs something called the Wool Gathering. I love this name, wool-gathering being a term for day-dreaming… Anyway, this group is focussed on spinning, and wool textiles. I don’t yet know exactly what; am hoping to meet with them within the week.
I also have a contact for a weaving person, so I’m hoping to grab them, too. Will post my progress.
I’m still also trying to source some traditional stock bells to record. I’m told by my helpful shepherd that we call them ‘Beasting bells’. This strikes my purile self as sounding somewhat pornographic, but leaving aside that shamefully childish thought, I’m looking around for some. My part of the world, here in Lincolnshire, doesn’t have much of a tradition of using beasting bells, as the landscape is relatively flat, meaning there’s little need to attach audio clues to the stock at pasture. I’m working on it though.
I’m also looking for a ship’s bell. Am thinking of drafting in a Tibetan singing bowl to do its naval duty, as I don’t have a ship’s bell to hand, and don’t want to use a sampled one. I’m a little snobby about using sounds other people have recorded. Seems a bit lazy, to me,unless, of course, the recording has been made new, especially for the project in hand. I was considering seeing if anyone noticed my singing bowl standing in, but posting this will, of course, blow my gaff entirely. Does it matter? What do you think?