Why do I want to participate?
Much of my art is already inspired by the emotional landscape of music and sound. By participating in Noise Intercepted, I'll find out if I can meet the challenge of creating in response to stimuli chosen by someone else.
On the rim of the North Downs, I sounded my barbaric yawp.
Was it fun? Liberating? Exhilarating? Not really – embarrassing is more the word that springs to mind. And alarming for the unsuspecting man snoozing nearby. Lucky I have some CPR skills.
Was it art? Certainly not! But who needs art in a place of such natural beauty?
So long, Noise Project, it’s been grand.
It is said that Lewes’s High Street follows an ancient ley line, accounting for the proliferation of churches: from west to east, St Anne’s, St Pancras, Westgate Chapel, St Michael’s, the Holy Sepulchre site (Britain’s first Templar church and the alleged resting place of the Holy Grail), the Friends Meeting House a block to the south, Eastgate Church and the Jireh Chapel half a block to the north, and finally St Thomas’s. All this in a pretty straight half-mile stretch. That’s a lot of bells.
I am not a fan of bells. Wedding day peals and the doleful tolling of funerals are one thing (not that I am a fan of weddings and funerals either). But the marking off of life in 15-minute intervals I cannot be doing with. I once spent a few days in a very strange household in Scotland, where the gentleman of the house had recently been making a hobby of collecting and repairing chiming clocks. Throughout the day and all through the night these many clocks chimed the quarters, all of them telling a slightly different time, with the result that, two days later and psychotic with lack of sleep, I fled, never to return.
J Alfred Prufrock had the right idea. If one must measure out one’s life, best do it with coffee spoons.
No time to post. People keep texting.
I sat and listened to the surrounding hubbub – voices, chitchat, laughter, clinking cups and glasses, an occasional exclamation. I’m not particularly good with hubbub. As previously rehearsed, my tinnitus rises up and covers everything else in a whooshy mist. I’m not much of a conversationalist in pubs or coffee bars, as I have to keep asking for repetitions and clarifications. Gradually, my eavesdropping subsided into a low-key alpha state of grey, punctuated by occasional flashes of colour.
Listening to the news: stimulated but angry.
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Mir Ist So Wunderbar – Fidelio
An empty space…with potential for creativity. Maybe it’s the mother in me – all I can think of is the pink cavern of an empty womb. I try to imagine being in utero but can’t, of course. It seems an impossibly claustrophobic thing, the swimmy unclarity of sound and vision reminding me of my one fist-clenchingly unpleasant experience of an MRI scanner. Perhaps creativity needs claustrophobia, a period of dim, airless hot-housing in which for ideas to percolate and ferment. It’s like the Marabar Caves in A Passage To India – a perfectly empty space in which a person can either meet their true self or become deranged by its misinterpreted echoes.
My tinnitus is both the smallest and the largest noise in my life. I have had it for as long as I can remember and it was a long time before I realised that no one else could hear it. When I was very small, I thought it was the noise that time made as it rushed by. Then, when I was older, I decided it must be the noise made by domestic appliances. I knew that the fridge made a noise everyone could hear, and I knew that my tinnitus ‘spiked’ when the television was turned on. Tinnitus is still not well understood medically, but our best guess is that it’s the noise of neural activity going on – suppressed in a normal brain, but unimpeded in a brain where the microcircuitry self-regulates poorly. My ‘basic’ tinnitus is a ‘whoosh’ of grainy grey-and-white noise. It sounds how pins and needles feels. I have to listen hard for its thin paleness during the day, but it crowds in on me like fog at bedtime. Behind that is a ring, like the long ‘bonnnnnnnnng’ of the TV test signal after closedown (in the days when TV did close down). That could be any colour, or even every colour, the whole spectrum. Over the years, new sounds have been added. Some are permanent, some come and go. When I’m ill or stressed, there’s a klaxon, an insistent two-note bell that tells me I need to drop my shoulders, sink into the mattress, sleep and recover. Sometimes I wonder whether one day this tiny, tinny, hissy noise in my head will be the only thing I can hear, but I can’t complain about it. When it stops, so will I. So why would I hope to silence it?
Tempting to dismiss Lewes’s defining sound as the kerching of money changing hands in shops selling overpriced craftwares, shabby chic furnishings and antiquarian books, with grace notes of cappuccino cups clinking and children whingeing. But beneath the affluent complacency is a darker heart, a violent history of which Lewesians are proud, born of standing our ground and protecting our freedoms. Nowhere is that more viscerally expressed than in the crazy, roaring tradition of Bonfire, our annual celebration of self-will and bloody-mindedness, one night of the year when noise, light and fire announce the nearness of anarchy.