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Simon Whitehead

Simon Whitehead

Over four weeks I have uploaded a series of field recordings made on my weekly visits to the afon Dulais river during the month of May. You are invited to listen to the sound files here (head/earphones are recommended), sound are accompanied by short descriptive texts of the conditions, approaches to composition and the physical experiences of being with/in the river…

About the Artist

I am a movement artist living in the lower Teifi valley, west Wales. My practice is improvisatory, I respond to the circumstances I find myself in and make work that moves in correspondence with other things and beings. In a choreographic frame I begin with and re-turn to the motile materiality of the body and its agency amongst an assemblage of other forces, flows and matter. I’m a maker that moves and I’m interested in what it is to move with others and to tune to the forces that think through matter and that touch sensate bodies.

I am in the midst of an AHRC-funded PhD by practice at University of Glasgow. I’m currently moving and thinking with what Posthuman ecology says in relation to choreographies of touch and affect.

About the Commission

I have been engaged in an unfolding processual work with the Afon Dulais river that flows close to my home since 2006, a practice of listening to the river’s shifting seasonal frequencies whilst attempting to materialise these in sound. Immersing myself physically within the river I use the machinic sensitivity of a Fender Stratocaster to allow places of eddy, surface movement and interference in the river’s body to express themselves through the guitar’s strings. I am interested in what I am able to hear and feel in this diffractive, co-generated field and I make binaural recordings that serve as glimpses of this process.

For this digital commission from the Centre of Material Thinking, Aberystwyth University I will visit the river each week in May, resuming this practice at 4 different places of access moving downstream. I will make short binaural recordings of each iteration, with a written diary.

April 2022.

06.05.22 aberdulais

06.05.22 aberdulais

Placing the guitar’s head in the moving water creates its own eddies and patterns along with my own physical adjustments to standing in the river’s flow…we are in part listening to the affect of these movements as well as the pulsing frequencies of the river’s volume. Moving the machine heads of the guitar in the flow materialises these movements in sound and becomes a part of the compositions realtime, intra-active play – a pulse, a give and take, to and fro, this way and that. I listen to the guitar sound within the river sound and move the body of the guitar as an extension of my own, feeling the river’s pulse – we are in correspondence and the river passes through this assemblage, thinking with these bodies. I’m careful not to position myself as intervener, simply as an agent amongst many others, moving within and feeling the river’s force as part of a wider sound world.

11.05.22 dulais

11.05.22 dulais

Mayflies – sunshine following heavy rain – river filling, rolling with new volume. Birds feed on flies on the surface, the guitar placed, precarious on snagged driftwood caught in tree roots, vibrating with the river’s pulse – adding its electrified ingredients- disrupting, a channel of gentle extraction – a leakage into sound. I watch from the bank, attach the microphones to an overhanging branch. In the warmth the willow and alder have leafed up, meadow grass bolted to thigh height. Opaque green lacewings land on the guitar in the sun.

26.05.22 cych

26.05.22 cych

Mayflies – sunshine following heavy rain – river filling, rolling with new volume. Birds feed on flies on the surface, the guitar placed, precarious on snagged driftwood caught in tree roots, vibrating with the river’s pulse – adding its electrified ingredients- disrupting, a channel of gentle extraction – a leakage into sound. I watch from the bank, attach the microphones to an overhanging branch. In the warmth the willow and alder have leafed up, meadow grass bolted to thigh height. Opaque green lacewings land on the guitar in the sun.

30.05.22 cych-dulais

30.05.22 cych-dulais

A grazing between the surface of the river and the movement engendered in the air currents that it touches and diffracts with – the guitar, its head resting on the river bed, is played concurrently by both forces, the velocity of the breeze occasionally foregrounding. It’s a short recording, there’s a lot of pressure on the guitar neck and the head is immersed- bird song, the bubbling river, the occasional car and the wind all of a part.

I gently twist the guitar body in alignment with the currents, the harmonics shift and the river bed is always on its way somewhere, never constant…as I stand I feel my boots sinking into the clay beneath the stone load. Although I’m here, the river is taking me elsewhere, further

02.06.22 cych meander

02.06.22 cych meander

There’s been heavy rain, more volume in the river’s body, its force collapsing the meanders clay banks and exposing the older tree roots, knotted together and vibrating with the river’s frequencies. I wade downstream coming across a fallen over, its branches snagged up with grasses, sticks and plastic bags, making an accumulating tangle midstream. It takes a while to acclimatise, it’s damp and the guitar is unstable – we settle with the conditions and find a way, a dialogue, balanced in feedback. I listen to and feel the water moving ‘round this structure I’m perched on – water spills around, my body and the guitar become a part with it. The recording is short and intense – I hold the guitars body and plunge its neck into the river bed beneath, I press into it with my weight and force. It begins to play in the river’s flow, creating its own vectors in the water and sound.There’s a deep rumble, tipping into feedback as I turn the head amongst the stones bed. It’s a complex dissonance and there seem to be a multitude of small events and voices within this barrage… Nearby birds seem, to me, to be objecting. I walk back through the now head-high balsam, nettles and grass, holding the guitar above my head.

June 13, 2022|

an invitation

Thank you for visiting this page…

Over the coming weeks I will upload a series of field recordings made on my weekly visits to the afon Dulais river during the month of May. You are invited to listen to the sound files here (head/earphones are recommended), sound will be accompanied by short descriptive texts of the conditions, approaches to composition and the physical experiences of being with/in the river…

May 18, 2022|

About the Artist

I am a movement artist living in the lower Teifi valley, west Wales. My practice is improvisatory, I respond to the circumstances I find myself in and make work that moves in correspondence with other things and beings. In a choreographic frame I begin with and re-turn to the motile materiality of the body and its agency amongst an assemblage of other forces, flows and matter. I’m a maker that moves and I’m interested in what it is to move with others and to tune to the forces that think through matter and that touch sensate bodies.

I am in the midst of an AHRC-funded PhD by practice at University of Glasgow. I’m currently moving and thinking with what Posthuman ecology says in relation to choreographies of touch and affect.

About the Commission

I have been engaged in an unfolding processual work with the Afon Dulais river that flows close to my home since 2006, a practice of listening to the river’s shifting seasonal frequencies whilst attempting to materialise these in sound. Immersing myself physically within the river I use the machinic sensitivity of a Fender Stratocaster to allow places of eddy, surface movement and interference in the river’s body to express themselves through the guitar’s strings. I am interested in what I am able to hear and feel in this diffractive, co-generated field and I make binaural recordings that serve as glimpses of this process.

For this digital commission from the Centre of Material Thinking, Aberystwyth University I will visit the river each week in May, resuming this practice at 4 different places of access moving downstream. I will make short binaural recordings of each iteration, with photographs and a written diary.

At the end of May I will send the field recordings to my long-term collaborator/ sound artist Barnaby Oliver in Melbourne, Australia. Barnaby will make real time treatments of the material, revealing new possibilities within the sound using simple analogue effects & in turn becoming part of the rivers virtual frequencies as he moves through them. This continues a process of remote exchange of materials and collaboration that we have been engaged in for almost 30 years.

April 2022.

April 1, 2022|

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