Breathe in. And out.
Here, as Storm Arwen begins to blow over, comes a sonorous distraction from the airborne pestilence of Covid19 and its constantly evolving attacks.
The sound of the storm makes a strangely haunting music – the wind whispers, whistles and shrieks above a deep but tuneful humming bass – broadcast on the World Organ from the island of Jura.
[December 9: And as Storm Barra – not to be confused with Storm Boris – follows close behind, see below for a thrilling new performance on the World Organ.]
This is an extraordinary creation by the musician, sound artist (and island crofter) Giles Perring who featured on Sceptical Scot in the early stages of the first lockdown in May 2020. That article – We’re All Islanders in a Pandemic – made its way into print in the first edition of Oscillations published by the Edinburgh-based creative collaboration Blackford Hill. Oscillations is described as a new journal looking at “art, music, architecture, poetry, travel and photography, more often than not connected to a sense of place.’
Giles was disarmingly frank. Live streaming held no real interest for the musician who runs a croft as well as a recording studio. He moved 14 years ago to Jura from London with his wife and two of their four children when the older two had started higher education: ‘It was our chance to leap.” Since then he had felt no need to ‘consume culture’. Theatre, concerts, art exhibitions… they had become ‘just another industry, financial transactions’. We’re All Islanders in a Pandemic: Sceptical Scot May 2020
At that time the World Organ was in its infancy: a mind boggling concept revealed in tantalising images on the mobile screen – ‘What can you hear?’ asked Giles across the many miles between central Edinburgh and Inner Hebridean Jura. I listened as hard as I could and, to be honest, the answer was ‘not a lot’. Even so, I tried again when Giles shared his first livestream. It was a kind of zen experience: at dusk a solitary seagull calls out, a dog barks, a long silence and then a breeze stirs.
But today there’s no mistaking the sound of the storm. Somehow, as the airwaves fill with anxiety and the known unknowns of the new Omicron variant of concern, there’s something comforting about listening to the music made by a different natural force over which we have no control.
‘Blow.’ calls King Lear, in Scene Two, entering with the Fool
Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanes, spout
Till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Smite flat the thick rotundity o’ the world!
Crack nature’s moulds, an germens spill at once,
That make ingrateful man!
There is, of course, something we could do about Covid as Gordon Brown once more calls for a global response: share the vaccine. A new Covid variant is no surprise when rich countries are hoarding vaccine
Meanwhile: Stay warm, stay safe and stay listening.
Update: December 9: Storm Barra, perhaps gentler than Arwen with melodic hints of the marimba and rattling rainstick percussion
Featured image: pipes of the World Organ as shown in Oscillations One pages 34 and 35
The first instalment of Giles Perring’s latest project is a large-scale eight-pipe organ played by the wind playing over Lowlandman’s Bay on the Isle of Jura, Scotland. It’s a progression of an idea he first tried as a studio recording technique in 1990. You can tune into the livestream at www.worldorgan.com OscillationsOne and WorldOrgan