Jonathan Skinner: Intermittent Listening (Sharpham)



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A workshop led by poet Jonathan Skinner. Final details of this workshop are still to be determined but it may include additional sessions in Day 1.

“There is no such thing as silence, only listening is intermittent,” Henry David Thoreau once commented, writing about the acoustic environment of Walden Pond and its seasonal changes.

Landscape architects have framed, edited, sequenced and texturized open spaces (however constructed) to create the ‘pleasing prospects’ that informed, and were informed by, a sensibility of the beautiful, the picturesque and the sublime. In doing so, they engaged the intermittent nature of seeing, working with seasonal and diurnal phenomena such as light, temperature, weather, and hydrology, along with the phenological events of the plant world and the spectacle of animal life. Yet music was the medium that landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted most often compared his park designs to, as experiences of space in time. With the development of acoustic ecology and appreciation of the soundscape, brought on by the growing din of the internal combustion engine and the acousmatic attention of new recording technologies—able to manipulate “pieces of time torn from the cosmos” (Pierre Schaeffer)—naturalists, composers, visual artists, film-makers, architects and poets have been compelled to make listening their medium. In works that frame, edit, sequence and texturize the soundscape, that “vast musical composition which is unfolding around us ceaselessly” (R. Murray Schafer), contemporary arts reach toward, and sometimes challenge, acoustic equivalencies of the picturesque and the sublime. In addition to the symphony of insect, amphibian and avian vocalizations, many more subtle properties of the environment emerge through deep listening. This workshop, with its associated listening walks, offers a brief introduction to the art, music and poetry of the soundscape; to listening and writing exercises designed to productively engage hearing with language; and to the soundscapes of Sharpham House, with its myriad nonhuman sonic prospects, including an opportunity for participants to produce and perform works of their own in the soundscape.

The workshop, led by poet Jonathan Skinner, will be held at Dartington on the first day of the symposium and the listening walks (from one to three) held on the Sharpham House grounds at or near sunset or sunrise, to make the most of the dawn and evening choruses. The walks will include writing exercises, and, depending on interest, instruction in basic field recording. Ambient and impromptu performances emerging from these walks may be staged throughout the symposium.

This workshop is limited to 14 participants. Once all places have been booked it will show as ‘sold out’. BOOK NOW

More information here