Inside No. 9, Episode #6: Streams of Sound 1979 – 2022
This month I entered a realm of rich ambient soundscapes traversing 43 years. Ambient music is one of my go-to genres. As an artistic expression it is often littered with soulless drones and new age trite, but beyond this is a world of transcendental wonder. It can offer a rich and expansive sonic world, and this is why I love it so much. I selected nine pieces that I have recently been spinning to help calm my mind whilst also providing focus. When listening to this mix I sat by a section of the Thames river near my house with my notebook and wrote some words. Words which you can read while listening if you wish. Alternatively, I recommend finding a comfortable position, closing your eyes, and drifting away with the sound.
[all music is captured from vinyl and cassettes so may contain surface noise]
Streams of Sound
“A sudden motion and I wake. The heat and light are on my skin, blinding my view and warming my body. Runners add rhythm to the gravel as they pass. Teams of rowers carve my back, scratching an eternal itch. Today I am silver and white, shimmering like a shoal of fish. The willow tickles my arms as it waves along the banks animated by the breeze. I watch as seedlings litter my body like stars, and then gather in galaxies via the eddies in my wake. We are here.
A cool relief comes from the timid clouds that fight the defiant sun above. My limbs move with the wind while the tug of future homesteads drive my belly to their realm. There is no pause, no respite, only motion, change and flow; yet I have been here for what feels like eons, grounded by each passing viewer as my lifeforce recycles through millennia. Or have I?
I watch the silhouette of gulls as they pass above me to find richer feeding grounds. The flies begin their delicious aerial assaults on the animals that walk by; each irritating mammal flick brings insects back to my bosom. A violent vessel parts my being, pounding loud sounds and voices whilst spilling oil to form unwanted rainbows upon my flesh. But they quickly travel to new pastures as I return to watch the sky. A moment of calm to take note and to draw breath.
The creatures who dance and gaze upon the ripples of my body feel the wind and I swallow the debris of life they bring. I am an ever-changing canvas – better than anything dreamt up by a conscious mind. I smell tobacco, algae, dirt, green, metal, oil, shit, and earth. I am the evolving fingerprint, as unique as a snowflake, adrift and shifting forever.
The chatter from people filters down as the roots suck at my sides, freeing me from the grim burden of stagnant flesh. As they quench their thirst I revive and listen. I hear stories of travel, tribulation, jubilance, and reconnect with my past. I feed on their tales while I’m fed on by the flora and fauna. The birds dance in my hair, and the leaves and branches scratch my limbs. For a moment I am all places at once.
The light is waning, and the moon is beginning to hold my back into its embrace as the rain lands with parachutes of new life upon my daily shrunken form. Every connection electrifies a thousand memories, hundreds of lives past; encased in water memory. I drink greedily and embrace each new voice with a wanton candour. They are now mine, here to be splashed by an oar, gulped by a thirsty creature, stolen by clouds, and lost to the depths that draw at me without rest. Every story paints a vivid life lived, a unique journey riddled with random treats. I am never alone, yet I hold no dialogue with the creatures, plants, and debris that share this moment. I just ebb and flow as I watch, feel, and I remain silent.
The stars now appear as the rain stops. I breathe in the air that shields me from floating away into the glorious nothingness of space. All is still and as I move away from the earth and I see the lights above me, fighting for existence in the great chasm of heaven. To now take a breath is to cough, a splutter of reality, the realisation that I am not meant to think. Hunker down. Find calm. Be one again.
This is when I sigh. This is when I sleep. My glistening skin is now black, but for a streak of chalk reflected from the moon. It calls and I raise my head. I am a victim of the sun, ever diminishing, and putty to the pull of the moon. Enriched by activity I think about all things at once. A quantum memory. A vision of life in a blink. A plaything of a greater body.
This trance is disrupted and I return to the present as a boat rests upon me, casting ripples in a tattoo in herringbone. I feel the steps of those inside as they move amongst one another in a rhythmic heartbeat, the vibrations moving in sonorous tributaries through my core. Smoke rises and falls almost touching me. I hear them talk of the beauty of the river, their voices vibrating the atoms of my soul. A hand enters my flesh with a caressing movement, stroking lovingly and I am lulled to sleep.
I am now content.
I know I will wake again without memory of any of this.
But I will be happy.”
Alex Zhang Hungtai & Pierre Guerineau
Let it in
Some Limited and Waning Memory
The Space Between
Take it Easy
Fool For Love
Inside No. 9 is an attempt to share unique narratives through the mixing of 9 songs. Every episode will showcase a new theme, opening up new tributaries of discovery. Inside No. 9 is presented by Peter Taylor, a former features writer for Foxy Digitalis from back in the late 2000s. Peter is a visual artist and musician and has been creating music as MAbH since 2008.