Sounds of a Tired City
Robin Rimbaud – Scanner
Sans Soleil (Chris Marker, 1983)
Some films can only be seen once and everything is revealed, whilst others reap newfound joys every time you see them, as new layers of meaning are unravelled at every viewing. Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil is very much the latter, an extraordinarily inventive film that touches on memory, appearance and history, and most definitely a work that can’t be written about in one paragraph. Is it a fiction or reality? As a student I saw this when it was first shown in London at the ICA and remember leaving the cinema as if in a spell. Indeed when it was first shown in Channel 4 TV the following year I recorded the entire film on audio cassette so I could just listen back to this expansive free-form travelogue. The soundtrack is exquisite whilst the elusiveness of the narrative draws you ever deeper into this mysteriously humane world.
The Unfortunates, B. S. Johnson (1969)
Books have always played a key role in my life, alongside music and visual arts. I studied literature at University and have built up my library since I was a teenager. Looking back at the hundreds and hundreds of books I now own is a kind of travelogue, pulling me through history and memory at the same time. I frequently return to The Unfortunates, a book that opened up the possibilities of words both literally and physically. The bound book traditionally superimposes a structure in its very manufacture – the binding imposing an order, fixing the page, the word, but here was a unique object – 27 loose leaf sections, temporarily held together with a removable wrapper with only the first and last sections to be read in order, all neatly contained in a box. One can shuffle the remaining 25 passages into any order one wishes. The ability to be able to re-order the co-ordinates of the narrative was a “physical tangible metaphor” for the random workings of the mind according to the writer. This work in particular enhances our participation in the truth of experience and the fragility of the ‘real’ and for myself acted as a key inspiration within sound to leave the formal structures of rhythm, melody and composition behind and seek solutions in new methods of explication and exploration, wherever they may lie.
I’m fortunate that my work has offered many opportunities to explore regions that I might never have experienced were it not for an interest in the sonic explorations I’ve made. Would I have travelled to Vietnam, Ukraine, India, China, Russia, USA or Australia were it not for invitations to these unforgettable locations? Having said that, with age and experience has come the realisation that often where I would most like to be is at home, if that simply doesn’t sound too arrogant or unimaginative in context. Recent years have brought familial tragedies and loss and with no bonds to any particular location, and I recently left my home city of London and moved to a former empty textile factory, 125 years old, less than an hour away. Building my own library here using scaffolding boards, constructing a studio in the mezzanine, or installing a complex solar system that enables a self-sufficient life, off the grid, has brought a contentment it’s often hard to find in life. Sometimes the solutions to life’s big questions can be found at arms reach.