butcher resonant spaces cover

Location recordings from Scotland and the Orkney Islands.

Includes a 20 page colour booklet documenting the locations visited.

1 Sympathetic Magic (stone) 7:49
2 Calls from a Rusty Cage 7:28
3 Wind Piece 3:09
4 Floating Cult 6:15
5 Close by, a waterfall 6:10
6 New Scapa Flow 6:19
7 Styptic 3:24
8 Frost Piece 2:17
9 Sympathetic Magic (stone) 5:49

1 feedback tenor
2, 4 acoustic soprano
3, 8 amplified/feedback soprano
5 acoustic/amplified/feedback soprano
6, 7 acoustic tenor

Recorded: June 2006 - Scotland and Orkney Islands.



As you and I know, sound is relational. It doesn't travel in the straight lines of Euclidian geometry, from A to B like a train or your plumbing. It propagates, like a gas. Sound leaks round corners, is focused by curves, travels through metal, stone or water. It articulates space and time. Unlike light, which to all intents and purposes is instantaneous, sound moves slowly enough for us to understand. Its expansion out from its original source to be reflected by and interact with the physical environment can be understood by us intrinsically, spatially and through time.

The recordings on this disc were made as part of Arika's Resonant Spaces event, a touring project that we ran in summer 2006. Visiting spaces which displayed extreme acoustic properties we asked John Butcher (and sound artist Akio Suzuki) to be informed by the acoustic space they found themselves in. Around the more remote corners of Scotland we presented performances in sites with specific acoustic properties: standing stone circles, a WWII military fuel storage tank, a sea cave, an ice-house, an abandoned reservoir and a mausoleum.

My lasting impression of the tour is that Henri Lefebvre is right. In understanding space and time we should not consider them as separate entities; they need to be thought of together. Sound articulates this quite well.


The 19 foot megalith towering above John Butcher is being stubbornly ungiving, as his tenor trips out a row of staccato blasts in an attempt to provoke some response from its weathered face. But if he's getting any echo back at all, it's lost in the wind blowing in from across the loch. John is participating in an impromptu daytime recording session at the four surviving Standing Stones of Stenness, a 5000 year old circle on a particularly exposed mainland stretch of the Orkney Islands, organised as a replacement for the evening's performance at the neighbouring Ring o' Brodgar, reluctantly cancelled because of a storm forecast promising 45-60 mph gales. The blustery wind notwithstanding, right now it's a beautiful midsummer morning, with a few streaky clouds scarcely indicating the bad weather making its way down from the North Sea.

Getting so little back for his efforts on tenor, meanwhile, he switches to soprano and attempts a higher frequency attack of piercing multiple sounds, much to the quizzical delight of the sheep who, along with the gulls, briefly join in. But the session really takes off after he lowers his soprano from his lips. Suddenly his ears prick up to the eerily disembodied Aeolian harp like effects produced by the stiff gusts blowing across his instrument's tone holes and triggering resonances inside its miked up body. There follows the extraordinary sight of John prodding his instrument into the face of the wind to shape a fragile, achingly beautiful sound sculpture from the interactions of feedback, fluting tones and percussive effects amid the noisy, rustling movement of air across the mic. Reacting to the moment, creating something out of nothing, is exactly what Resonant Spaces was all about.

BIBA KOPF (1st page)