Summer Solstice en France

So it’s technically not Solstice anymore but over the weekend, on residency with Tinc y Tannau en France at an amazing farm-venue called le Trouillet (https://m.facebook.com/LeTrouillet/), I’ve been listening to the very lively natural soundscape here and tentatively experimenting with new songs, as well as revisiting some older ones on my bass viol, and doing some reflective writing. I’m going to share bits of these here….

Soundscape at Le Trouillet, 22nd June

the fairy-frog pond

As I walk round the corner past the pond of invisible frogs – or are they indeed even more invisible ducks? – avoiding offerings of cow muck, I begin to hear the distant, gentle polyphony of cow bells. But again, the eyes and ears are not quite in the same plain, as they turn out to belong to sheep, two herds a few separate fields away. I have never known sheep-bells before, and change my yodelling tones (which made the farm’s many dogs bark anyway), which were inspired by the idea of cows and what I know of cow-summoning song, to a more subdued, woollier substance… As I walked on down the grassy track I began to think of songlines, of displaced sounds – if these can exist – and hearing with new ears. Round the corner again, I got full view of the two resident yurts, purple&green and cream, and my instinct to overtone Mongolian style (i.e. to try to) kicked in. I think of musical intuition/’idea’ of what sounds should weave with an experience or place, and the inevitable cosmopolitanism and juxtaposition we face and create as travelling musicians. As I sit here on the sunny patio with chattering birds, the flute of Ceri Rhys Matthews begins weaving beautiful Welsh melodies, closely followed by a phone conversation en Francais.

FACING THE SUN

Whilst tuning into Solstice energy today in my lovely room with the bass viol, I ended up revisiting an old song that I wrote on cello years and years ago, called Facing the Sun;

For the first time in my life, I faced the Sun For the first time in my life, I faced the Sun For the First time n my life, I bared my bones, and For the first time, the Sun saw them, So my bones were warm.

Simple lyrics with a drone and melody that came from I don’t know where – some depths somewhere – and turned out to fit the limited notes of a small&beautiful wooden double-flute I bought around the time of writing for £3 at a jumble sale.

I will record this later. {I did but it wasn’t perfect – I will probably share it anyway at some point though}

St John’s Day, 23rd Juin My dreams last night ended with a small, blonde-haired child handing me a bright, glowing orange-yellow light. I woke up and saw a sabre of such light coming through the crack in my black velveteen curtains: it was sunrise! Yonder come day… Little sleep as I had had I was drawn outside onto the balcony to do some early morning yoga – and the sound of those frogs was immense. I actually saw them, too! As though sunrise gave them such joy they took to forgetting to be invisible…

A solstice drawing I made with oak ink and cherry juice

Half an hour later, they stopped jumping, and sounding too (I don’t even know how to describe their song – croaking? rIBBETTing? They don’t seem to fit the stereotype, these frogs… qUACKING? Maybe! A strange thing that has happened EVERY time I’ve heard the frogs so far has been that at some point my stomach has appeared to make frog-like sounds, as though an inner frog has been awakened. I haven’t noticed it at any other times. However, today I wondered whether I was hearing a frog that sounded like a stomach sounding like a frog. A mystery yet to unfold…

In the evening we (Tinc y Tannau and Christine Watkins, with live artist Maria Hayes) performed a musical-storytelling ‘Spectacle’ in the woods on the farm, and one thing that made it incredibly special was how different the natural soundscape is here: yes, more frogs, in another pond very near to where we were playing, who, at brilliant moments, began chorusing enthusiastically, and a duck quacking (it could have course been another frog!) at perfect timing just at the end of a wild 2 voice improvisation between me and Sianed. NB it’s never ever just two voices when out in nature! There are loads of birds of prey here and the birdsongscape has a different richness to that at home. Whilst we played and told, Maria painted sounds and stories in her uniquely beautiful way using pigments of the land: earth, cherries, stone, feathers…

live earth art by Maria Hayes for Saint Jean celebrations, Le Trouillet , 2019

Later, after a special fire ritual shared with us by Christine Watkins, involving putting our intentions into pieces of sheeps wool wrapped in walnut shells and throwing them into the flames, teaching the group a song in round around the fire, many Welsh folksongs unfolded, sometimes led by Carreg Bica, the other band in residence here, and sometimes by a man who happens to be living in the Ardeche but comes from New Quay in Ceredigion! The evening ended with the simple crackling of burning wood and a frog encore, accompanied by the appearance of thousands of stars, and hundreds of bats, flying underlit by the firelight.

found a spot in 35degree heat to play viol in the shade…


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© 2017 Ailsa Mair Hughes

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