aural thoughts

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  1. You may or may not know that I have called my Instagram account ‘silent scores’.  Among other things on there, I often post ‘scores’, like the one below.

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    Silent Score Instagram post 

    But what is a ‘silent score’? I started to explore the idea of visual scores - musical scores made using images, texts or graphics – as I started to become interested in what I call ‘inner sounds’ – sounds we hear as part of our inner world of thoughts, emotions and memories. I was studying towards an MA in sound art, and we were asked to create a score as one of our assignments. Even though I can read music, I did not really have much interest in creating a ‘regular’ score. I started to research scores which did not use regular notation (like Pauline Oliveros and Cornelius Cardew) and also people who used regular notation, but in ‘irregular ways (like John Cage, for example). The idea I came up with was to use objects to create a score.

    I had imagined this score to be played by an orchestra (which was specified in the brief of the project) but of course, as I presented at university, I did not have an orchestra (no surprise there!)

    Something about lining up the objects I had collected and asking my fellow students and lecturers to imagine the orchestra playing them made me think. Do we hear sounds in our minds? What kind of sounds? How do these ‘inner sounds’ influence our experience of ‘outer sounds’? To explore this further, when I had the chance to exhibit my work in Brighton, I developed the idea of the ‘object score’ - it lost the idea of an orchestra performing it and became a score for you and your minds sounds – the objects were used to trigger or suggest ‘inner’ silent sounds within the audience’s mind.

    victoriakarlssonscores

    'Score for silence' exhibition, Brighton  

    The exhibition generated some really interesting conversations with visitors and made me realise two things – the first one was that there was such a thing as ‘inner sounds’ – enough of the audience members I talked to had heard or experienced them. And, secondly, I realised how little research there was on this topic. That is when I came to the conclusion that I really wanted to focus on ‘inner sounds’ for my PhD research, which I applied for and started the following year.

    So, why ‘silent scores’? One of the things I really like about visual scores are that they are very inclusive - Cornelius Cardew’s famous visual score ‘Treatise’ can be thought of alongside his work with improvisation, and the belief that anyone should be encouraged and welcome to play instruments – no matter your ‘level’ or prior knowledge. ‘Treatise’, in a way, democratises this reading of a score – no one has ‘expertise’ in making sense of it, so everyone is sort of at the same level when they try to interpret it. Visual scores also leave a lot of the interpretation to the performer, which is perfect when you are interested in exploring something like the sound in someone’s mind!

    I always want to create work which is accessible and interesting to anyone – you shouldn’t have to be a expert in sound art or musical notation to understand. And I think sound and hearing are fascinating and useful things to consider, so want to introduce them to as many people as I can!

    My Instagram ‘silent scores’ then, is one of several ways I use images, text, graphics and instructions in my work to explore and ‘trigger’ inner sound experiences. I will finish of with a final visual score for inner sounds...

     

    Think of a sound the image suggests

    LISTEN, IN SILENCE

     

    cup

  2. I first came across Ethel Leginska while working on a soundwalk set in the city of Hull. The walk in itself never materialised for a variety of reasons but Ethel Leginska has stuck in my mind and keeps fascinating me, haunting me.

     Ethel Leginska was born Ethel Liggins on April 13, 1886, in Hull, a thriving port city in northeast  England. Her family was to poor to be able to afford educating her in music, but a wealthy family in Hull discovered her talent for music and became her patrons. Ethel went on to study music in Europe, and during one f her first recitals at age 16, it was suggested that she change her name from Liggins to Leginska to further her career since Slavic piano players where very popular at the time.

     

    ethel

     

    Searching for photographs of her, I find myself looking at a woman looking back at me, facing the camera, meeting  and returning its gaze, and also mine. She seems to project a contained intensity, passion held in check.Maybe I just see what I want to see, or expect to see. There are several accounts of Ethels charisma and intensity while performing. She wore her hair in a short bob and refused to wear the customary evening dress while performing, instead preferring a velvet jacket and a skirt. She is also quoted as urging women to “break the barriers” for women pursuing a career in the creative professions.

     In 1907 she married the American Roy Emerson Whittern. Together they had a son, Cedric. Shortly after this – in1909 - Ethel had her first breakdown. There is not much information about what happened. Ethel went missing for several days. Her husband found her in rooms in London. What happened during those days? Why the need to go away?

     

    Bare feet on the floor I can feel the ancient building all around me, inside me. I am running through the darkness. There are others, we are moving together through the long tunnels. We are connected yet separate and we are hunting. Like wolves we sense our prey ahead. Somewhere above is the full moon.

     

    Ethels career started really taking off around 1915. This was also the time when off stage troubles started to appear in her life more and more. She separated from Whittern and entered into a custody battle for their son, Cedric. Ethel often spoke about her passion and love of the piano and her music. Yet she offered to give up her career, to support herself by teaching in order to get custody of her son. The judge still sided with Whittern and Ethel had next to no contact with her son after this. She often spoke out about how hard it is for women to work in what was the then ‘music business’ – yet she kept pushing herself forward, seeking new challenges. She composed, one of the first women to do so. She used her concert appearances as leverage to be able to conduct orchestras.

    I imagine her as fearless, a true pioneer – but perhaps that is only for my own sake, to remain focused on my own artistic work.Several times she failed to appear to concerts where she was booked in. Is this the urge to disappear, to leave behind, to start new? - but yet she always returns. To the old, to the secure. Or to a passion worth sacrificing everything for, a love that asked for everything, that she gave all she had?

     

    The sunlight moves across the wooden floor. I watch it. Anything else is to much effort. Breath in breath out. Again. breath in breath out. All in slow motion. Darkness comes. Slowly walk to the window. Hear the soft night outside. I smile. Breath in breath out one last time. Turn and walk out into the night.

     

    Or maybe in those moments, short times of escape, she lived a different life for a little. Maybe she met someone. Maybe she laughed a lot, went to restaurants, dancing. Wearing a wig and an old dress. Trying a life not her own. I like to imagine that.

     

    www.leginska.org