Musical ruminations – thinking about life and dying: Alan Dearling shares images and some thoughts
Spaces, sounds, memories – the ‘Resonance’ music and light installation event was crammed full. Potential audience members were turned away. It was the first in a planned series to explore the relationships between places, people, sounds, arts and more… After initially being advertised to take place in the 9A Projects Gallery at Robinwood Mill, it was relocated to the former Royal Mail sorting office in the heart of Todmorden, when the anticipated number of attendees looked likely to overwhelm the gallery.
‘Resonance’ proved to be more akin to a concert ‘happening’ rather than just another gig.
The advance publicity informed us: “Resonance is an exploration of the harmonic relationship between light, sound, and settings in some of the Calder Valley’s most ethereal and intriguing spaces.”
The old sorting office is the relatively new home of ‘Natural Endings’. It’s one of the increasing number of service providers who offer support provisions for funerals. Many are much more ‘celebrations of life’. Indeed, I recently attended one such occasion to remember the life of my neighbour, Karen Devlin. It’s really positive that there are now many more such ‘celebrations’ of people’s lives, rather than traditional funerals. Karen’s event was one where positive memories, music and poems were shared about the colourful life she had led. This included her poetry, her fondness for Ireland, activism on nuclear disarmament and her love of folk music. For me personally it offered an opportunity to offer ‘Luv ‘n’ respect’ to Simon, Karen’s son and the rest of Karen’s family and friends…
At the initial opening of ‘Resonance’ the audience was informed by the owner of the building whose wife is one of the directors of ‘Natural Endings’ – about its historical use by the Post Office, its funeral services, the provision of eco-friendly coffins and the use of the building for non-commercial, non-boozy or noisy gatherings. Then, the room lights were dimmed and John Haycock,
amidst swirling light patterns commenced creating his own textures of sound, firstly from his clarinet and then kora. The attentive and packed-full audience, with many seated on cushions on the floor, were transported into a world of ambient harmonics. John used loops and overlays of sounds from both of his instruments, melding kora strings ringing into and above bass-inflected woodwind echoes. Fragmentary moments, ominous rumblings, transcendent shimmerings, sound images flying through the air using spatially separated speakers around the room. Sounds like waterfalls, sounds of impending darkness.
It was a musical journey…resonances in an unusual space, as darkness began to envelop Todmorden’s old postal sorting office.
It ended with an appreciative wave of applause, after a simple musical coda that was perhaps surprisingly not unlike ‘Three Blind Mice’! Overall, an odd, sometimes mystical, sometimes entrancing, spectral mix of sounds and lights experience. A visual and auditory set of sensations locked inside an intimate, almost claustrophobic kind of physical space. Almost a ‘presence’.
I was quite a close friend of Nicholas Albery and we worked on a number of conference events, writing and book projects. In addition to being one of the original architects behind various alternative press and information services in the late ‘60s and ‘70s in London and beyond, he helped to create the alternative Free State of ‘Frestonia’ in Notting Hill. He was also the founder director of the Natural Death Centre (1996), and as he said towards the end of the 1990s, “Today, an increasing number of people want to organise at least part of a funeral for themselves, without depending on funeral directors. THE NEW NATURAL DEATH HANDBOOK shows you how to do everything from ordering a coffin to hiring a horse-drawn hearse to finding a woodland burial ground (where a tree is planted for each grave instead of having a headstone).”
Natural Endings are located in Todmorden in Calderdale and Manchester. They offer a range of funeral-related services, including DiY options:
What they describe as ‘Creativity to support your time of loss’.
“We love it when families pay tribute with their own skills. We have lots of experience of supporting families and friends to; decorate the coffin, craft items for the funeral, decorate a venue, play live music, write and/or lead their own rituals. We look forward to seeing what you create.”
Natural Endings website: https://naturalendings.co.uk/
John Haycock: https://john-haycock.bandcamp.com/
And, remembering Karen…