5 Lines for a River
I’m slowly regaining an interest in things outside of the eating disorder. My creativity is trickling back.
I’ve been getting back to some of my academic writing, bit by bit; reading a chapter at a time, writing short pieces paragraph by paragraph. It’s been important to me recently, too, to get in touch with my creativity in ways outside of music, to do something simply to explore, with the possibility of enjoyment rather than the goal of achievement. I’ve been learning to draw. I’m pretty bad at it, but I love it.
I’ve been fascinated by mark-making, gesture, line and form since before I decided to study music at an art college, and this fascination hasn’t lessened. A few months ago I picked up a copy of Wendy Ann Greenhalgh’s Mindfulness & the Art of Drawing. I’ve been working my way through it. I particularly like her large-scale drawing exercises. I like the way they bring body and feelings together, and I like how drawing in response to feeling and breath has broadened out into drawing in response to what I hear (this probably deserves a post all of its own, but I find mindful awareness of my feeling to be a lot like the process of listening).
Me being me, of course, it wasn’t long before I got interested in trying to understand all of this from a more theoretical perspective alongside enjoying simply creating. At the end of last week I came across Patricia Cain’s book on drawing and enactive cognition. In this work she explores
- ‘Drawing as a thinking process’
- ‘Conscious and unconscious aspects of the process’
- ‘The notion that thinking might not just involve knowing with the head, but thinking through the body’ (2010: 27).
Sound, line, thinking through the body . . . I’ve been here before. I guess as often happens with these things, they come full circle – or at least close enough to touch as they pass. I’ve picked up a small project I was working on before the eating disorder pushed everything else out. I’d been thinking about transcription and writing sound and how this all connects up to listening.
In this project I investigate how a combination of writing and mapping may provide a visual exploration of rhythm and flow within Annea Lockwood’s Sound Map of the Hudson River (1982). In particular, I draw on the idea of ‘polyrhythmic calligraphy’, as developed by calligrapher Denis Brown. When using this method the calligrapher attempts to follow the rhythms of an external sound source, moving away from even spacing of the lines that make up traditional letter forms towards a ‘polyrhythmic feeling for space within writing, that can variously open and contract.’ The flow of the hand and the flow of the ink trace an embodied response to the listening experience.
Presentation. Poster: A copy of the map from the recording’s liner notes forms the centre of the poster image. This is surrounded by the calligraphic examples, which focus on the changes in the rhythms of the river as it moves along its course towards the ocean. A third, final, level provides a critical commentary on the success (or otherwise) of this calligraphic method, and provides links to wider theoretical perspectives.
It’s hard to believe this is two years ago now. No doubt my thinking was superficial then, and is out of touch with recent research now, but this feels like something I’d like to explore further. This is just the start, the wellspring, if you like. I’ll post more as things develop.
This is the beginning: a stave, a space for writing.
Cain, Patricia (2010). Drawing: The Enactive Evolution of the Practitioner. Bristol: Intellect.
Greenhalgh, Wendy Ann (2015). Mindfulness & the Art of Drawing: A Creative Path of Awareness. Lewes: Leaping Hare Press.