Those who enjoyed The Folkestone Lighthouse EP will certainly enjoy The Terrestrial Sea, which is the sonic component of an installation in the Lighthouse Field Station of Cromarty. In gathering these sounds, Mark Lyken traveled around the area, recording the sounds of ferries, underwater thrums and “sea legs” (oceanic metal protuberances). Toward the end of his residency, he was unable to separate the sound of the town from the sound of his music, a sign that he had either been there too long or had been there just long enough to merge with his sonic environment.
A long-standing debate over the musicality of sound attempts to answer the question of whether natural sounds can be defined as musical. Lyken goes a step farther when he categorizes percussive underwater noises as “electronic”. But there’s no question that when he adds additional “real” electronics to the mix, he brings out such timbres. A resident might recognize the noises as local thwacks and pings, but those listening devoid of context might never dream that such sounds are organic and looped. The same holds true of “Scar History”, whose spoken stutters and folds are reminiscent of AGF.
The Terrestrial Sea celebrates the available sounds in the local environment, both natural (ocean currents) and manmade (hitting the side of a sea leg). Children often smack things to see how they might sound, or wander toward an unfamiliar noise. We tend to lose this curiosity as adults, which is a shame. One of the high points of the wonderful video “Sublime” is the combination of fascinations young and old. Older folks enjoy the sights and sounds of the full installation, providing hope not only for residencies and installations, but for field recordings and soundscapes (and by extension, ambient and drone). Younger people are initiated into the field through field work of their own; the children seem to like it, but the older youth seem to be fully engaged. The installation – and more importantly, the interaction – leads them to look and listen more carefully to the aural and visual environments around them, opening up new interpretive possibilities. The world outside their electronic devices is exposed as infinitely more interesting than the restricted world within.
The Terrestrial Sea and the concurrent work of visual artist Stephen Hurrel, captured in Emma Dove’s fine film below, are important works not only in their own right, but because of what they represent: the acute awareness that arrives when the senses are used to their fullest extent. (Richard Allen)