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bReAKs in ThE lOOP

by Ceri Bythesea

How did it get here?

This area is ancient but not the land -

for the longest time villages sat on islands, 

among the marsh and moorland, 

before a river was diverted 

and the wetlands drained.

 

So how did it get here, a duvet of stone 

spread across the ground, overlooked by trees.

 

I’d brought two speakers - one wired, one bluetooth, both cheap.  

I’d spent too long that morning thinking about the effects pedals I was going to bring, and in the end left the house with the first three I’d picked up; a reverb, a delay and an overdrive.

I’d recently made a two string instrument, which the internet told me it’d be incorrect in calling a lyre, that I’d also packed along with a mixer, a microphone and an inexpensive digital recorder.

 

In my mind stone and feedback exist

at opposite ends of a spectrum;

the timeless and unchanging

the transitory and capricious.

The constant,

the malleable. 

The impacter,

the impacted.

 

I place one speaker on the stone, the other on the ground facing it - they’re only small but are louder than you’d expect.

I set up the mixer, connecting the instrument and the microphone which I placed at the edge of the clearing where it could pick up the sound of the wind in the long grass.

 

A sound swells - a modern force, like sea before distant waves.

I wait, as the stone warms and then,

from out of sight, the volume rises, and a drone rings out

 

I’d messed it up, the microphone hearing itself through one or both of the speakers, the sound of the clearing trapped in an endless loop.

My instrument was not plugged in, the stompbox LEDs were all off, and yet I was awash with sound.

 

I am in control, and though the pressure is no issue -

that the loop will just continue -

I am part of an ecosystem

and things can quickly go awry.

 

I checked the mixer, setting the lyre’s channel to zero while I plugged it in and turned on an effect. 

I let a note ring out as I bring up the volume and let the sound of wood & metal sting get absorbed and twisted up in the loop.

 

The stone doesn’t notice the change -

the higher end of the loop growing dim,

its equilibrium lost in wind, it starts to rain 

 

I wasn’t prepared for the weather, fool that I am, but I was there and nothing I had with me was expensive.

I set the recorder going and cycled between sounds, trying to weave what I made into the loop in passages of roughly equal length.

 

I counted out time,

one hundred and twenty beats,

seated in line with the stone.

Plenty of time to get the idea

before moving on.

 

In the end I’d been in the clearing for an hour, blessedly uninterrupted - alone throughout, at least as far as I was aware.

I’d disturbed the peace for maybe thirty minutes, recorded for just over twenty, and throughout I tried to keep the stone in mind - a passive collaborator, integral to what we’d made - but as I was packing away I was struck that I didn’t even know what kind of stone it was.

Limestone perhaps?  I know so little about these things.  To someone that knows nothing it looks like it could be called limestone.

But how had it got here?

 

I packed up my things and left the slab

reverberating silently with sounds

I was still waiting to hear.

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