“STILLNESS” (4:41 mins) © Helen Davey
(for lace spindles, piano and lap-harp)
Bronle Crosby’s painting
One of my ongoing series I think of simply as “ Serenity” since it is quiet images based on conversations with people about what they find soothing and calming. After hearing many suggestions about water, sea, and sky, I spent some time with a camera at the bay here in San Diego. The best times for haunting the bay and waiting for its inhabitants is at dawn and dusk, when the light is so lovely and the creatures tend to be out.
This image was painted from photos I took of a tri-colored heron waiting for his breakfast. It was an overcast dawn, when the senses are confounded by subtlety: colors muted, not a breath of air, not a ripple on the bay, no distinction between sea and sky, and not a feather stirring nor a blink of that strange, reptilian eye.
It was kind of him to select that interesting point of rock to stand on. I saw him take one fish, like a bolt of lightening, which he then bolted down that long, long neck. Efficient fellow.
(See Bronle Crosby’s blog here)
There were many paintings of Bronle’s that I shortlisted for my musical response; it took me a long time to select only one. I am enchanted by the emotional response I experience when viewing her art works and I have been quite captivated by Bronle’s ability to capture visual phenomena such as our perceptions of water, light and reflection.
“Still Waters” had me going back again and again enjoying the atmosphere of quietude, the details of the two entities – bird and rock – reflected in the water; but also the colours guiding our eyes to the definition of the water-line against the rock….
I actually started off this piece using a “hackbrett” (a Swiss hammered dulcimer) for a soft and blurred background mood and chose lap harp for a gentle but detailed sound quality to evoke the reflected image (I LOVE that we can see the heron’s one errant claw in the reflection).
I added the sounds of little lace spindles (inserted between the piano strings, then struck by soft mallets) for the watery echoes of reflection, indicating the layers beyond what we can actually see. Ultimately, I discarded the hackbrett and used the piano instead to paint the atmosphere.
My recorded composition process of sound-painting is often like that: several trials and errors, adding and removing layers until the music tells me “I’m ready now”! It’s as if it wraps it’s own selfhood into a parcel (recorded and uploadable) complete with paper, ribbon and gift tag, ready to post somewhere. Very different from my live, purely improvised sound-painting process, where the music is ephemeral and much more akin to the life of a bubble: it only gets one chance and it lives for the brief moment that it’s present in the performance space, before it disappears into the past.
Trust you’ve enjoyed this week’s art and music combination. So far in project “52 Sound-Paintings”, this is the first painting I’ve made music for. There’ll be more 🙂 Please feel free to share this around to anyone interested in art / music and I’d LOVE to hear what you hear/see in these artworks via the comments section below (or via my Facebook page).
If you fancy just listening, there’s more of my music here
Thanks for sitting a while to enjoy the quiet,