A drawing of birdsong and piece of writing about it were published by Psykick Dancehall up in Glasgow at the end of last year. It’s a bit of a meditative memory exercise in response to one of long list of questions posed by Dancehall.
See below or here in published context; the text layout and way it interacts with other contributes is worth seeing.
- Recount a family anecdote that the sounds you are hearing now put you in mind of.
Not so much an anecdote but a sense of place and sounds where family is. I am listening to and drawing bird sounds in my parents garden. The idea of drawing sounds is inspired by work I’ve done in the last year or so with Naomi Kendrick and Dan Bridgwood-Hill. Dan and myself improvise and Naomi draws what she hears on huge sheets of paper; it works as a really exciting process for us all, working collectively across implied boundaries presented by form. It’s made me think differently about the possibilites of sound, drawing and mark making and led to situations like the one now: I’m actively listening to my surroundings and drawing as automatically as possible what I hear.
Being in the garden of the house I grew up in presents an overwhelming sense of childhood memory, warmth and belonging but also subtle changes and dislocation since it has been a long time since I lived here and was part of the daily rhythms of the house and garden; I am a visitor now. It lies squarely in fairly nondescript surburbia, the multiple possibilities of the city of Leicester just to the south: music, gigs, records shops, rehearsal studios, pubs, smoking, drinking, curry, walking home after missing the last bus…. To the north the gentle rolls of the midlands countryside: woods, fields, fields bisected by roads, birdsong, mechanised farming, small knots of council estate added to villages, looming power stations, distant motorway drone, pylon hum…
Considering the birdsounds from childhood: blackbirds song and their nests, blackbird trapped in the old chimney, its distressed flapping amplified through the walls, it’s really injured we discover once my dad has coaxed it out; later he has to finished it off, my sister and I don’t realise at the time. Finding the tiny wrens nest much later on in winter once the leaves had fallen, wood pidgeons demented with a tiny black pupil in the middle of a huge white eye, huge swooping flocks of chattering starlings waiting to fly south gathering in the swaying poplars, geese honking overhead in a V on their way to raid a cornfield for supper, thrush listening with its head sideways for worm sounds just below the surface, kestrels sometimes…
Hearing some of these birds and sounds again and pencil scrabble as I try to keep up with the pace and rhythms flying in from all sides; the mixture of turn taking and intuitive entry and re-entry into the overall soundscape fascinates me, with so many individual voices present, there is much more listening going on than actual vocalising; a vital part of collective music making. I stop drawing once enough layers of memory are present in the density of the pencil marks.