An old live recording of a quintet (featuring Ryu Hankil, Paul Morgan, Dan Jones, Jez French and myself), is now availble on Bandcamp. All proceeds will go to the Trussell Trust and Cancer Research.
A few notes for Avi Allen.
I was just cleaning my kitchen when something about the silent patina of the gas hob took me back to Y Capel. It’s been 10 months now since Avi kindly allowed me to visit. Placing rocks on the windowsills, sleeping under the sound of a waterfall, closing ventilation shafts so I could hear the birds and breathe a pilgrimage of air. The current need to structure my days reveals layered and correspondent significance in my encounters with such ubiquitous domestic gods.
Growing up in Wales, I unknowingly drove past Y Capel hundreds of times. It’s one of those buildings that’s like a portal, so clear and structurally simple as to be almost weightless. Like a thread of Gossamer seen refracting, or a bat in the entangled whinnying of its repast.
There’s quartz at the door of the house, a mantic ward as bright as the flowers of hawthorn, itself an ancient charm that stems back to the ancient Roman conception of Cardea, goddess of the hinge (Ovid seemed to have confused–or sublimated her–with Carna, the guide of the internal organs). This seems enthusiastically apt, as one of the first conversations I had with Avi concerned the animistic and vital life of the building.
The living stone is delicately embedded in a split ebony log encrusted with ribbed bog moss, littered with the imaginary exuviae of small insects. I remember its pitch seemed to be slowly petrifying the mineral.
I laugh as I write that I believe in the notion that every sound we have ever heard is somehow inscribed in the spiralling labyrinths of our ears, but there it is. I imagine most of these sounds to be agglutinated, their edges clumped in blinking successions of place and frequency like a lobe of long tailed tits huddling for warmth.
The atmosphere of Y Capel, both lighter and thicker than air, for me is part of the conductive nature of such auditory metaphysics, the endolymph of its own deeply resonant organs. The Hammershøi light (that one might imagine built the place), is as old as the dust motes it mothers. It’s an energy one could comb, like hexagonal weaves of knitted flax, far flung particles of turbidite and mudstone that, under closer scrutiny, would surely resemble mountains.
Unbeknownst to me, I began to write a book there, To Suckle a Field of Monsters. I went and sat with the Capel every day, and listened to the walls. Sat on a beautiful wooden chair, which, from above, was the lurching black tongue of a bull. I thought about Milton Avery’s birds, drank coffee, conducted ill-fated augural experiments in the salinity of Ynys-Hir’s estuaries, read Alejandra Pizarnik, spoke often with Avi, rested my hands above the olive stream behind the house.
I’ve been putting off writing this flitting missive, as I knew that it would instill in me a deep desire to return. Y Capel is not simply a place you can write with, or listen to, just the once.
A new piece of writing, first thought only thought, is up on the Sound Diaries website.