Sounding Out. An exploration of natural acoustics, architecture and sacred sites.
in situ improvisations, inspired by the spirit and the special characteristics of a location.
I visited several churches on that day. recorded in some of them. Some were closed. It was a bit of a strange day. And i never quite hit it. A bit too this or a bit too that. Cold and windy. Not quite the spring feeling we just had (just for a few days. and that’s it for this year. blew all records for temperature and sunshine and that’s the quota for this year. now, back to normal british weather, ta). Yeah. Blame it on the weather.
By the time i got to Ilam, it was seriously threatening to rain. No hood and a shaved skull. We’re not having this. For the church, and it just will have to be open.
The many cars and several coaches piled up on the street should have got some bells ringing and sure enough, as soon as i took the saxophone out of its case, a group of tourists piled in. I knew it just wasn’t the day. Me give up.
So i headed for the tea shop to get something warm inside me. A much more appropriate activity for this kind of weather than lurking in the dark corners of old churches, making weird noises. And so it was that i warmed by fingers on a hot cup, soon followed by the tourists. This is when i started to believe they were following me! But considering they mostly were the age of my granny, it did not quite occur to me they were fans of radical free improv noise squeals… Not quite.
And i guess it was the hot drink. But quite certainly, the spirit of surrender, which helped that when i chanced back into the church, it felt just right. Peaceful and quiet. I was alone and had no expectations. No idea of scale or mode, no idea of what to play of even if i could play. And once i had surrendered to the moment, it felt just right. And silently i placed the reed and started the recorder. And silently i contemplated the place. And, not so silently, i played.
I really like this place. The memorial which was erected inside (yet separate from) the church must have been built (for Pike Watts?) by a very loving soul. It is a very simple space but beautifully made and lit. The statue of pure white gives a sense of admiration and compassion. But also, the quality and the character of the sound here is just outstanding. Much love, care and attention has been put in designing the place.
And it is with much respect and reverence that i approach playing here. The first time, i hardly dared whispers and a few single, long notes. Indeed, the reverb (and the place) is so grand and humbling that one just cannot blare out the usual licks.
And today, humbled and having surrendered to whatever was going to happen, sounds just came out without having to even think.
This was a special moment for me. I am not sure how it will translate as a recording. But as an experience, i think this is one of my favourite church soundings. It felt that i was then ‘sounding out’ the right place and it was finally the right moment, once i had lost all expectations of if , where, when, how.
A shakuhachi master explains how, to play true music, one has to leave all thoughts for the world behind, all expectations, all sense of playing the ‘right’ note or even playing ‘in tune’ – if there is such a thing.
I think i am caressing the feeling.
Pike Watts memorial, Ilam church 04 04 2011
hervé perez, soprano saxophone, ⓒ 2011