Saturday, 9 November 2013

Compassion / Competition / Cooperation

This is a good question:

"Do we choose to treat each other and all other creatures with compassion, and approach the world as a whole with humility and reverence? Or do we treat each other as competitors to be done down, and other creatures and the fabric of the earth as resources to be turned into commodities, and assume that we really know what's what and how to do whatever it is we want to do, and take the world by the scruff of the neck and beat it into shape?" Colin Tudge A Different Way of Looking at The World, pg4 Earthlines (Issue 6)

Also in the same article, Colin explains that in Victorian times 'fittest' meant most apt, so Darwin's 'survival of the fittest' takes on a slightly different meaning. He goes on to say:

"The general idea of natural selection says nothing at all - absolutely nothing! - about the means by which some creatures become more successful than others. Sometimes to survive, we must indeed fight, quite literally. But most of the time the best survival tactic by far is to cooperate. Indeed Earthly life itself clearly arose as a cooperative. We have been given to understand of late that life is in effect just a Game played by DNA: as Richard Dawkins said in The Selfish Gene, we (and oak trees and mushrooms) are just vehicles for DNA. But DNA is a highly evolved molecule that could not have risen at all except in a living environment. That is, there was life - of a very sophisticated kind - before there was DNA." pg7

He goes onto describe DNA as The librarian, "helping metabolic cycles replicate themselves accurately" and emphasises that DNA isn't "the boss".

"Our whole bodies are, in short, are a masterclass in co-operativeness. Competition is an inescapable fact of life. But cooperativeness is its essence." pg8

What a relief to read something like this at last.

Call me crazy but it makes me feel like I can breathe again (for a moment).

Sussex Wildlife Trust's (unintentionally topical) donation box

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Ramble 2 - A walk and a meeting

Last week, introduced through Scott I met local artist and composer Adam Ronchetti.  Adam is a bit of an all rounder - a painter, a sound artist, a sculptor, a musician. I visited him in his studio under The Loft which appears to be a hive of lots of good things.  Various types of artists are housed there and there is a lovely space on the next floor up where cinema nights and workshops and events seem to happen.  It was great to be shown round.

Adam and I will go on a short walk together next week and see what unfolds. He is also one half of Hickory Signals and perhaps there might be some room for them to actually play/sing within this Ramble...

After meeting Adam dusk was falling and I had some time to kill before my next appointment, so I decided to go on a walk towards a lighthouse I have spied a couple of times from public transport.  I never made it.  It turns out it is quite a long walk and follows a road heavily laden with traffic at around 5pm!  But it did take me past the skate park. A small strip of land, nestled in between lots of roads, bustling with skaters.  The sound of their skate-boards hitting the tarmac seemed like prime 'foraged sound material' so I recorded them for a short while. The skate-park, reminded me of the horses that are kept under an intersection of roads just outside of Shoreham... It was a surprising sight the first time I encountered them, all stood there in a field directly under a motorway. But there is grass there I guess, so in a way it makes sense.
Scott Smith's Halloween handiwork

I wonder what the horses make of the traffic though?

And us, looping around and around the roundabout?

Lots of things seem to converge in Shoreham by Sea, roads, an airport, the sea, the downs, the river... Space is used in interesting ways... The marina, the boat community, the beach, the shops...  It's definitely not boring.

Even at dusk on Halloween when walking alongside a traffic jammed road towards a lighthouse you never reach...

Ramble 2 - The bells The bells

Rings, loops and double-backs...

Ramble 2 has led me towards visiting two bell-ringing groups in Shoreham by Sea over the last two weeks.  I attended two practice sessions. One with the St Mary De Haura Bell Ringers (of the large variety ie. change ringing in a church) and the second with the St Mary De Haura handbell ringers.  Both groups were really welcoming and I even got to join in and play some handbells. I played lower C and D and was reminded that I can in fact read music, something that I had somehow forgotten.

It goes without saying that he two experiences were completely different.

With the large bells, after being let into St Mary De Haura's after hours and climbing the winding staircase, the group stood in a circle and pulled on ropes (the bells themselves weren't visible). They pulled the bells in various patterns which were called out to them by one person.  Names of patterns that have stayed with me were 'Cambridge' and 'Yorkshire', which were bellowed out above the sound of the bells, but there were a lot more.  In between sessions the ropes were tied up - so feet don't get caught up in them I presume... The sound and the patterns were incredible, plus also the simple act of watching a team of people work together and move in the same manner in order to produce an ordered sound - there was so much choreography involved!

After the session, one of the members sent me a leaflet called '20 questions and 19 answers about English Church Bells' and in his note to me said "what other organisations outside of bellringing offer free training and use of £100,000's equipment in beautiful historic settings and a life-time's worth of skill progression?"...well... exactly...  It definitely seemed to be keeping those involved fit and happy!  I was lucky enough to record the session and hope to use some of fragments in the sound installation I now know I am working towards producing.

The handbell practice was equally intriguing. The bells themselves are covetable objects and sound beautiful.  The group stood in more of a horseshoe shape and played from music as opposed to memory.  Everyone wore white gloves and some of the group played several bells at once.  Again, it was great to witness (and experience) a group working together to produce a particular sound or set of sounds.  At the end of the night the bells were packed away into orange velvet drawstring bags and black boxy cases - something I also of course enjoyed seeing.  Because I was playing in this session (which was a surprise to me) I didn't manage to record, but intend to return another time to do so...

Somehow, all of this is coming together. I have a sense of what the story-telling part of Ramble 2 might be about and I'm going to start writing some text and threads of thoughts tomorrow...

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Ramble 2 - Sussex Hedgerow Inventory Project / Marlipins / A Shoreham boat

Three things I haven't reported back on as yet that I definitely want to catch thoughts on here:

1) A visit to meet Peter Challis who runs the Sussex Hedgerow Inventory Project

3) A visit to Marlipins Museum

2) A conversation I had with Hamish on his boat

The Hedgerow Inventory project is based at Woods Mill Nature Reserve where Sussex Wildlife Trust is, so of course before and after meeting with Peter I had a good look around.  I was surprised to come across a mossy stone figure reclining in amongst the grasses, a bird watching hut (which I sat in for a while recording sound) and some water droplets caught in a web.

The conversation with Peter was really informative, I picked up lots of information about Sussex in general and got to have a good look at all of the materials Peter has produced for logging Hedgerows and the species that they are made up of.  There were lots of lovely phrases (as there always are when you meet someone who is in an expert in another field to that of your own) such as "character areas" and "intact species rich".  For the last ten years Peter has actually been allocating every hedgerow in Sussex a unique number whenever the species it contains has been logged (with help from information provided by volunteers). I of course asked if any hedgerows in Shoreham by Sea had been examined and we found only one on the system. Hedge 1723.  I'm quite taken with the idea of hedge 1723 and am pretty sure it will make it into Ramble 2 in some way. 

After meeting Peter I looked around Marlipins Museum.  It's a treasure trove of information about Shoreham and stuffed with artefacts.  I lingered around a Lighthouse lamp for quite a while, the four sets of cats bones which had been found in the walls/floors of the building, some ships in bottles (always amazing), a statuesque figurehead, some ticket halves and a china spoon with a delicate design on it. And this really isn't all...but I don't want to make another long list, just record that I'd visited and will more than likely go back...

Come to think of it bones are becoming a bit of a theme. The museum has on display the skeleton of a woman, with little known about who she was (if my memory serves me correctly). In fact, now I know I'll be going back, just to read about her again...

Anyway, bones came to mind again as Hamish has quite a collection of found animal skeletons which I was able to look at when I visited him on his boat. We talked about the wishbone in a crow (amongst many other things) and the span of its wings. This was an interesting conversation as for me it connected back to Eliza Brightwen - the original inspiration behind this project - who was a great collector of bird skulls... There was lots more that was of interest in the chat I had with Hamish, but there's no time to report it all here... Suffice it to say, there's a theme emerging for me for sure out of this ramble:

Rings, Loops and Double-backs...