Of This Parish (2013)

The movie and playlist parameters cannot both be defined in the same {webvideo} tag.

Of This Parish - vimeo

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.

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.

In April 2013 we participated in Binaural/Nodar's residency programme as part of their Divina Sonus Ruris: Creative Labs in Sound Art programme (Sound of the sacred in the rural environment) in the Gralheira mountain range, North Portugal. The outcome of the residency was presented as part of the Tramontana Festival in Sul, on 27 April 2013.

We worked with the Parish Church in Sul, and this formed the epicenter of the project. During the 3-week residency, we devised 4 sound walks that were undertaken simultaneously by 8 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.

Unlike gathering field-recordings for future use in an edited work, these recordings are made in a single take. Like Aleksandr Sokurov’s film Russian Ark (2002), or indeed our work Another Poisonous Sunset (1998) or Janet Cardiff’s The Forty Part Motet (2001), Of This Parish is dependant upon real time rendering of space. For this reason, a significant portion of the residency was devoted to devising and preparing these simultaneous walks. Each walk was undertaken by two recordists providing equipment backup and ensuring that the primary recordist is not disturbed by the need to communicate, map-read or negotiate other practicalities.

Thank you to Ângela Silva, Cátia Paiva, Joana Martins, Gonçalo Barros, Tiago Almeida, Carlos Bragança, Daniel Pinto, Conceição Barros, Maria João Caetano, Ana Luísa Silva and José Gomes who took part in 3 recording sessions over a two-week period to achieve the final installation. Thanks also to Sr. David Silva, who rang the bells on the many occasions we asked him to, Sr. Custódio Pinho, the Sacristan, and the Priest, Sr. Lindoval José da Silva, whose continued support and positive response to all our requests enabled the project to happen. Thank you also to Tiago and lastly the Binaural/Nodar team; Daniela, Nely, and especially to Luis and Manuela for their amazing hospitality and the support they have given to the project. Our attendance at the residency was possible with support from the Arts Council England and Falmouth University’s Sonva research group.