The Isle is full of noises...
Music and creativity on the Isles of Scilly
Full of Noises is delighted (and a bit nervous) to launch a new musical project at the unsuspecting world. Here is a very short video, filmed by my good friend Tom Dyson, which will give you the flavour of it:
Between September 2016 and September 2017, I set myself the task of recording an improvisation each month in response to the always changing landscape of St Agnes. It's not unusual to come across visual artists, tucked into various sheltered spots around the Scilly, surrounded by the paraphernalia of their craft - easels, brushes, intricate boxes of paints - concentrating intently on the elusive task of transferring what is in front of their eyes onto paper. I felt like a slightly odder fish as I carted my microphone, Macbook and a battery of recorders (sopranino to bass) - around the island. I set up my makeshift studio on rocks and beaches, under trees and in the moonlight. Some people stared and pointed as I played. Having been characterised as a recorder-playing geek from a young age, this felt normal.
I wanted to capture St Agnes in all weathers, not just the picture-postcard blue days of early summer. So I recorded in rain, wind and fog; I recorded at moonlit midnight on Kittern Hill; I recorded when it was simply too windy to blow air through my recorder, resulting in a series of strangled squeaks which seemed as valid a response to location and weather as any other.
My hope was to pin down the exact landscape at particular moments, a bit like the waterproofed watercolorist painting the lighthouse from behind a protective granite wall, but in musical form. I wanted to paint the pristine soundscape of St Agnes with it's constant interplay of sea, wind and birds. It was a surprisingly unrestful experience. I found myself running across rocks to capture the sound of surf on Burnt Island before the tide rose too far and cut me off. I found myself anxiously watching the forecast for a windless dawn, or chasing rainstorms in order to record the sound of raindrops in the trees. Far from being a gentle bucolic artistic ramble, the project became a tense and obsessional quest to grasp an eternally shifting subject. It felt like I was trying to capture a family of swallows with a butterfly net.
The fragments of captured landscape in these improvisations became the bedrock of en plein air. For me, it's a highly personal album, distilling my experience of place into twelve tracks which layer my recorder playing with ambient electronic music created from the instrument of the island itself; with subtle piano figures; and with (I hope) an identifiable sense of Scilly.
I couldn't have got there without producer John Elliott (of London-based folk/electronic ensemble The Little Unsaid) who managed to turn a seemingly incongruous bag of musical ingredients into a coherent finished plateful.
The artwork - by Mariya Brachkova - features a picture of me playing my recorder outside, covered in moss. This probably tells you as much about the album as you need to know... But here is a sample track to whet your appetite. It was recorded on the chamomile-scented meadow, as dawn broke, with the sound of birdsong almost overwhelming.
The all-too-usual difficulties of transporting any packages from the mainland to Scilly without them ending up in some weird Celtic version of the Bermuda Triangle, or without reducing the contents to papier-mâché proved, as ever, a struggle. However, I'm pleased to say that the Full of Noises living room is now cluttered up with brown cardboard boxes full of pristine CDs. If you would like one, or if you would like to download the album in digital format, please follow this link.
Author - Piers Lewin
I am a musician and writer living on the Isles of Scilly. These articles and posts explore music, poetry and creativity inspired by the landscape and culture of the islands.