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Long Listening

Updated: Nov 15

I've heard the expression 'tink laang' used in Whalsay, we tink laang for things or people or a time. It translates to think long and I see it as a general feeling of nostalgia or getting lost in memories. That expression came into my head as I was listening. Listen long or Laang Listening, maybe? There was a moment of zoning out, and the sounds became like something nostalgic. To listen so long that is becomes like getting lost in a memory.

I'm just back from taking time to listen in and around the Brough beach here in Whalsay, the ‘Kirk Ayre'. The artist, Renzo Spiteri, was creating sound scapes and he invited people to join in and record their own experiences of sound. For more information on the project, visit his website https://www.soundmigrations.com/audio.html



There was a little drizzle but not much wind which worked well with the sound equipment - hand held microphones attached to headphones. We were given an introduction on how to use the equipment and set of on our 'sound walk'. Initially I wanted to get the sound of the seaweed popping underfoot.


I experimented with the volume - how much sound was picked up, the angles and where to position of the microphones. I recorded seaweed popping and waves over different sized stones, footsteps on stones, reeds, the crunch of squashing a crab, the bairns playing with birds in the background and finally the sound of grass and stone on a metal boat, I think it was tin or aluminium, I am not sure, but there was an amazing contrast between the harsh sound of the

metal and the soothing sounds of the sea. I dropped a stone into the boat and it echoed. I was so focused on the sounds that when I took the headphones off, it felt strange not to be able to hear. We then used a waterproof microphone to listen to the noises underwater. There were subtle sounds of the small stones washing over the larger ones, plops and gurgles and far off noises that I could not identify.

I then spoke to Renzo Spiteri about my own interest in sound and my idea of a mask with a hidden speaker inside. He told me how I could isolate the sound with a certain type of speaker and what types of materials to use for the mask. He was interested in the project and said I could contact him with any questions and he is going to send links and his thoughts on the project.

I am imagining art as an experience for all senses. Sound can have such a powerful emotional connection, it can be soothing and relaxing as well as create a feeling of fear and dread, with quite simple shifts of sounds. I will be listening longer to things now and thinking more of how sound effects my work. As well as being an experience that will possibly open up new avenues in my art, it was helpful to speak to someone with technical understanding of a subject that I do not yet understand.


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