Summer Sounds & Silences

Since writing last I have been on many wild adventures in sound as I have travelled around Wales for gigs on train and bus and foot… A storywalk on the very special Borth Bog, where the rare Rosy Marsh moth, living on Bog Myrtle – not to mention a mythical ancient toad – flourishes on, surrounded by a very unique soundscape which felt almost like a forcefield… A visit to a wild mountain garden near Llangollen where the sound of healthy ash trees greeted me… A trip to the Felin Uchaf centre on the Llyn Peninsula, performing with storyteller Deb Winter in a magnificent Celtic Roundhouse built by the incredible man Dafydd Davies-Hughes and his team of volunteers… Summoning my mermaid self whilst playing cello on the seafront in Aberystwyth to the soundscape of waves and a proliferation of jellyfish… and it continues, as I embrace the everyday magic of the natural soundscape.

One thing that has been much less music to the ears has been the deafening sound of low-flying army jets practising their antics over Machynlleth – they approach suddenly and I find them quite intimidating and anger-inducing, not least because of the violent nature of their purpose. There is a link where you can sound out about these planes if they bother you, too – you can find it here: SWK-lowflying@mod.gov.uk

One day recently in my Wild Notes journal – which I carry with me at most times – I found myself writing ‘How can I hear the wild when there is so much NOISE?!?!?!

Silent walking Last Sunday, with Pete Stevenson, a long-standing friend, colleague, storyteller, illustrator, folklorist and writer, I went on my first lengthy ‘silent walk’. I am familiar with the practice of silent walking through previous Mindfulness training I have done, but this was different. We took the footpath from Aberystwyth past the base of Pen Dinas and to Plas Tan-y-Bwlch, before pausing on the beach to the swoosh of waves and wind in the unique seaside flora and looping back with the roll of the tide past the marina. Our footsteps made polyrhythms with each other and my attention to sounds both inside and outside myself felt more acute. The only time I forgot to be ‘silent’ was when we met a field of cows, which were all over the path, and I started blurting reassuring words as we negotiated our way past! We are planning a public silent walk and creative workshop experience on September 1st, so watch this space /check my main website for details…

NB: I don’t talk about all my events on here as I do so many collaborations with different folks – but you can find our about the rest either on my main artist website www.ailsamairsong.com or on my Facebook page ‘Ailsa Mair Music’…

Seasonal Celebrations In the Celtic calendar, we are at Lammas tide, between ‘Calendar Lammas’ and ‘Lunar Lammas’, which traditionally represents the time of the first grain harvest. I have just been helping my partner harvest his first main crop of vegetables and whilst I was doing so, picking kales, beetroot, field beans, I contemplated the inter-relationship of wildness and cultivation. In the context of music, there is a strong link, when I reflect on how vital to my improvisation my musical training has been and still is… I may strive to be a wild thing but to recognise the value of cultivating my musicality is essential: culture and cultivation surely share the same root! And roots of my wild, improvised song are in many different ‘cultures’, grafted, self-seeded on the wind, carried in bird’s beaks and caught on bee’s wings, blended with the movement of my heart in inspiration and expiration, in delight and mysterious affinity.

Cosmic vegetables inspire cosmic song!

I am more and more passionate about celebrating the seasonal shifts (which are becoming less and less in line with what we are told to expect, as the planet warms), and sharing music through ceremony, as one part of events which honour the movements of nature, its abundance and its challenges. Currently, MOONCHOIR is one of these offerings (see my Facebook Group of that name for more info), and there will be more – I am especially being called to work with the cycle of the moon.

It is a process of consolidating the many parts of our creativity, in the growing and foraging of food, the singing of folk-song (spontaneous or composed!), the sharing of troubles and hopes, the crafting, the skill-sharing, swapping, the togetherness of community.

INSPIRATIONS / AWEN Quite possibly my favourite author, Jay Griffiths, writes exquisitely about wild soundscape, and how it is being threatened by modern life. I truly recommend reading her book ‘WILD’ – it has been awing me as it paints sound-pictures of other lands and the depths of the oceans… My favourite album of the last month has been The Lost Words ‘Spell Songs’ – it is a moving tribute to many words that have been becoming lost to the English language, most of them from nature – which in turn, to me, is an artistic tribute to extinction at large.

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