AN EXPLORATION OF LIMINALITY AND RECYCLED SOUNDS (2014 - 2015)
MUSIC FOR LIMINAL TIMES
"Music for Liminal Times" is a set of audio works at the intersection of music and sound art that explores liminal space. To exist in a liminal space is to be in physical and/or psychological transit while moving from one state of being to another - it’s the transformative and archetypal "threshold" of extraordinary times and experiences mostly marked by chaos and ambiguity. These transitions and crossings are journeys within the greatest journey of all. Themes that I have explored within this framework include love as a peak experience, meditation as an inner journey, the desperation that drive us to seek transitory fame, war as a state of mind, the creative process, and the ultimate transition, i.e. the process of dying. Through a process of deconstruction and reconstruction of music, sounds and historical documents found in the public domain, I have set out to evoke the essence of these journeys. This project brings out the tensions between dichotomies, not least the opposition between the individual and the collective consciousness, past and present, old and new... An awareness of the external expressions of the past and one's inner workings in the present are necessary for the evolution of an improved future.
These soundscapes are an aural equivalent to the visual collages I also typically make using imagery of the public domain. Although the sounds are digitally processed, they connect with the tradition of manually manipulating tapes to create experimental sounds. Creating something entirely new out of something old was the challenge I set myself, but it was in many ways a project that opened me up to the art of listening and to a new creative expression. Classical music gained a new meaning through my interventions, and old historical documents that speak of human sentiments, ranging from aggressive to humble, often moved me to tears. The vintage aesthetics of old distorted recordings have been used as an ironic device, as well as highlighting the juxtaposition between past and present. It express the idea that history is the glue that holds all things together - an appreciation of lessons learnt is necessary for a conscious evolution to take place. It also expresses the fact that some things in life simply never change and rather rotate in a cyclic fashion along the spiral of evolution.
Playlist and lossless downloads on BANDCAMP.
"The End is a New Beginning" is an emotionally charged piece of music that talks of the languid melancholy of going through times of change. Though it has its unique flavour and is based on heavily deconstructed classical music from the Renaissance and Baroque era without inclusion of other sounds and documents, it sets the emotional tone for the album.
Please view my artist film with this music here.
"The Unexpected Longevity of Love" explores the way the ephemeral peak experience of love takes on an enduring quality. The imperfections in old recordings are here used to express the fundamental and very primordial, yet also very human and therefore often somewhat flawed quality of these kind of sentiments.
"The Futile Pursuit of Becoming Famous" is about the transience of life. It is an emotionally charged and ironic piece of music about the erratic nature of fame as well as the desire to be one of the few chosen ones. In a sense, fame is truly liminal because it comes and goes like the weather. The vintage aesthetics of distorted recordings expresses the idea that humans just never let go of this pursuit, it's like an old record that's stuck in its tracks. The desire to be admired is surely as old as consciousness itself.
"The Strange Anatomy of a Journey" is about the transition from one state to another. It's a journey that can be external as well as internal, and more specifically related to the experience of meditation and becoming aware of psychological events. Cultural references awaken the idea of journeying through sound out of our arm chairs into unknown lands.
"War and Peace is a State of Mind" is about the eternal recurrence of conflict and harmony, and how the murky recesses of the individual and collective consciousness reflect the state of the world. According to a Taoist way of looking at reality, polarities are fundamentally interconnected and not in conflict with each other - the conflict lies within the human mind. Life has a cyclical quality, as polarities (yin and yang) shift from one to another. One can't exist without the other. War can only exist as a counterpart to peace, and vice versa.
We think of war as liminal, i.e. “out of the ordinary”, but this is not quite true if we look at war and conflict in its broadest sense. Conflict/chaos/instability is as frequent as the lack of these. This is as much an external reality, as an internal one. To realise the nature of the semantic tension in our minds and thus transcend it, is surely a way of dealing with the urge to exert aggression towards one another.
The way the world runs the conflicts at present is patriarchal (note the lack of women in the piece), but thanks to evolution, expressions of disagreement and power eventually change over time. In the end, the concept "war and peace" is no doubt less about what it represents to us in our minds than how we may reinvent these concepts and seek less destructive ways of dealing with challenges within ourselves and in relation to the rest of the world.
The theme in the beginning is not from an ice cream van, but a theme (the Swedish Rapsodhy) that is said to have been used as the interval signal for a German language numbers station during the Cold War. The idea of weird codes being transmitted through the air is somehow alluring and creepy, but also quite a strong metaphor for the secret world of the collective unconsciousness.
Please read a more in-depth explanation here.
"Creativity Will Set You Free" is a sound collage that references Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's famous theory about creativity and flow and imagines what the creative process might sound like. It suggests, that happiness is dependent on our level of creativity. The experience of creative flow is a peak experience and therefore liminal in nature. The creative process in itself is, however forever ongoing unless obstructed. It manifests phases of research, inspiration and energy, but also times when one gets stuck and finds it difficult. This piece contains many references to space and water, two powerful symbols of creativity. One suggests that it can be an otherworldly experience that has something in common with flying, and the other that it requires a connection with the intuitive and emotional world of the subconscious mind. It appears to be one of the few things that can make us feel true happiness.
Please read more on my blog.
This piece was played on BBC Radio Wales on Saturday 7th June 2014 at 22 pm.
"The Crossing" is an emotionally charged sound collage with an archetypal ambience in which I have imagined the ultimate liminal experience that is inevitable for all.
This piece is about the anticipation of death, the way people talk about death, about the fear of death, the process of death as suggested in art, literature, films and testimonials, as well as a hint at the ambience of the beyond. It has Western as well as Eastern elements in it, of the past as well as modern times. It is about myself as much as it is about the collective. This piece is also a metaphor for the transformative process of psychological death during times of hardship and inner change. Contemplating our mortality in a world that trivialises death can surely bring us closer to life.
“Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides.” (Lao Tzu).
Please read more here on my blog.
A long Way to Heaven is a soundscape that comments on the over mechanised aspect of society today and the impact a stressful environment has on the individual. This track will be part of an upcoming artist film about the way a world dominated by a warmongering mentality causes the individual to succumb to life threatening stress disorders.
Please view the film "I Got Life" with this soundtrack here.
Inside the Mind of a Possessing Spirit is a piece depicting the mental illness of an earthbound spirit that has decided to stay in the intermediary stage between Heaven and Earth in order to harass the living. This is inspired by a real life incident and is an illustration of this particular spirit's mind. It was also conceived as a way of repelling the spirit.
A Life Unremarked is the soundtrack for a video art work, A Life Unremarked, from April 2014 by my late husband Martin Herbert.
I discovered the unfinished video work after his death and decided to do a posthumous collaboration by adding an appropriate ending and a soundtrack.
Martin's project was exploring the premise that the skills of the generalist or polymath are not valued in our society - that individuals are only well-regarded if they become 'experts' in one narrow field. People in today's world are able to do extraordinary things and have adventures that only a select few could even have dreamt of in the past. Because of an inflation in personal feats, they tend to go unnoticed. Ironically, Martin's own life as a polymath ended prematurely and thus his desire to become noticed for the great art he was about to make was cut short and disappeared into the mist of an anonymous past like all the other interesting things he did in his lifetime.
Because of Martin's premature death and the nature of the music I came up with much without any conscious thoughts of what I wanted to achieve, the impact no doubt diverges from Martin's initial intentions. The final product is uncanny and hints at the idea that we sometimes may have premonitions about our own death. The work takes on a whole new meaning as describing the transient nature of a prematurely ended life and its impact on those left behind.
Watch the complete work here:
A LIFE UNREMARKED, video art work by late Martin Herbert with a posthumously added soundtrack by Vivi-Mari Carpelan
The word liminal is an intriguing word. Liminal is originally an anthropological term that denotes times of transition and change. It's a time that is out of the ordinary. It can be a rite of passage, it can be times of war, it can be crazy carnival time, it can be times of relocation, or times of inner change. These times are archetypal thresholds, usually marked by disorder, chaos and ambiguity until a new order ensues. All of these situations are interesting from a psychological point of view because they help us evolve, on a personal level as well as on the level of collective consciousness. I find that I am really quite fascinated with the way collective consciousness interacts with the individual consciousness, often in a compelling, yet also distressing, way. To withstand this influence and retain personal integrity is difficult. However, I believe that awareness of this and how we transit from one stage or level to another is quite important to a more fluid experience of life.
AUDIO: You can listen to my commentary here: