O F T H I S P A R I S H
For this instalment of The Listening Post Liminal (Frances Crow and David Prior) have concentrated their focus on their current project, Of This Parish, sharing various sketches of a work-in-progress. Sound, video and texts from previous projects may be found at www.liminal.org.uk
Bells have had a central role in the formation and solidification of communities. They have an immense power to evoke, to impart a feeling of time passing, foster reminiscence and to consolidate an individual’s identification with an auditory site. The idea of a ‘Parish’ – a common device used to delineate territory while also defining a sacred community – is an articulation of acoustic space: the Parish can therefore be said to be the zone in which a church bell can be heard. This notion of ‘Parish’ as phonosphere is the point of departure for Of This Parish.
Of This Parish explores the relationship between sound, space and community. In March 2013, Frances Crow and David Prior, spent three weeks working in the Parish of Sul, Portugal as part of the Divina Sonus Ruris: Creative Labs in Sound Art programme organised by Binaural/ Nodar (http://www.binauralmedia.org).
Of This Parish focuses on the bells of the Parish Church in Sul, which formed the epicenter of the project. During the three–week residency, Liminal devised four sound walks that were undertaken simultaneously by eight young people from the surrounding areas of Oliveira, Aveloso and Sul. The walks started from the Sul Parish Church, to the sound of its bells being rung. At the beginning of the walk, the 8 recordists stood in pairs, back-to-back, each facing in the direction of the four compass points and then walked slowly along existing paths and roads that led most directly North, South, East and West.
The subsequent recordings were played back in the church simultaneously, each recording rendering the acoustic scene from a different perspective to the others. At the beginning, the recordings sound very similar but as the recordists move along their respective paths, only sounds loud enough to permeate each local environment – such as the church bell – permeate all four recordings. In this way, the presentation of these four recordings in a single space creates an impossible listening experience, collapsing the entire acoustic territory of the Parish into its epicentre; the church that defines it. This site-specific installation was presented as part of the Tramontana Festival in Sul, on 27 April 2013 and a version will be installed in SoundFjord on 8-9 June 2013.
The videos and audio files below are work-in-progress extracts from a film that will be released later this year that will explore the relationship between sound, space and community. (For images see Flickr)
Of This Parish (vimeo)
The parish Church of Sul is dedicated to St Adrian. Its parish lies within the Gralheria mountain range and extends from Macieira at its most Northly point to Oliveira at its most Southerly point and from Fujaco at its most Westerly point to Pesos at its most Easterly point. The bell tower stands over nine metres tall and houses two bells made in 1914 and 1849. Through descriptions in written records and from local memory, it is clear that these are not the original bells. The tower is built so that the smaller 1849 bell rings out towards the North and South and the larger 1914 bell rings out towards the East and West.
Ten years ago, a mechanical system for ringing the bells was installed. Now, instead of manual ringing of the bells, the larger 1914 bell is swung by a motor or chain or struck by a clapper, while the 1849 bell can only be sounded by the striking of a clapper. It is said by local residents that the sound was different before these changes.
The bells are now operated from a remote control, with programmes for a Sunday mass, a woman’s funeral, a man’s funeral, and a processional. In the video clip above, you hear the male funeral peel: the only one that uses the swinging bell. The sound of a swinging bell reaches further than the clapped bell and has a quality defined by the movement of the bell through the air.
Ringing the Hours
The bells from the church are no longer used to mark the passing of time: the hour and every half hour chime is broadcast through a series of megaphones pointing NW and SW, located in three places around the church. One is fixed to the NW facing corner of the bell tower itself, one faces SW overlooking a cross that stands on axis between the Parish Church and the chapel of Santa Bárbara. The final megaphone faces NW and is fixed to the back of the chapel on a long steel pole.
This electronic bell system was installed about 20 years ago, as there were no longer sufficient ringers to chime the hour and half-hour from the church bells. The bell chimes come from a popular Portuguese hymn called Song for Our Lady of Fatima - The Thirteenth of May.
It is just possible to hear the Sul time bell carried by the wind to Açores but the remoter villages of the Parish do not hear the time broadcast. If a parish is defined by being within earshot of the church bell, it could be said that these people are outside the Parish of Sul. However, the passing of time is also marked through a megaphones installed in the surrounding villages of Macieira (this plays the Westminster Chimes) and in Adopisco from a megaphone installed within the wall of the chapel, chiming the same chorus as in Sul.
Of This Parish: Chapels (vimeo)
The Chapels of the Parish of Sul
Each village in the Parish of Sul has it’s own chapel. On most, there is a bell which is rung both in celebration of their saints’ day and as an alarm. The Chapels of the Parish of Sul is a short study documenting a two-day journey made by Frances with Manuela Barile and Daniela Lopes of Binaural/Nodar to ring all the bells of the chapels in the Parish of Sul.
Where it was possible to ring the bell, you will hear a recording of the bell. Where there was no bell to ring you will hear a recording of the surrounding environment. Where there was a bell but it was not possible to ring it, you will hear silence.
Of This Parish: Wind (vimeo)
Sounds of the air
As well as the sounds of bells we both became interested in all the sounds of the air and the wind in the trees - especially eucalyptus - featured strongly in our experience of this mountain range.
Other Sounds From the Residency
Bracken Under Foot, Macieira
Bubbling Drain with Dog, Macieira
For more information about the project, please see www.liminal.org.uk/of-this-parish
Visits since 12 February 2012: