Peace is just a state of mind

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I’ve just completed the online Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator, which was inspired by watching Robert Holden's five week online training course Coaching Success.

What was interesting about the results were they exactly matched what I expressed in my latest work Sermon – On the seventh beatitude, an investigation of my inner feelings and a message of inter peace.

My first personality was Type nine The Peacemaker, which exemplifies the desire for wholeness, peace, and harmony in our world. My joint first was Type five The Investigator, which exemplifies the human desire to understand, to look beneath the surface of things, and to arrive at deeper insights about reality.

This is exactly what my recent work Sermon the seventh beatitude and Flesh & Blood are about; a shift into an alignment with philosophy and wisdom, to unearth the truth about an authentic way of living in harmony with myself and the world. To achieve this I had to let go of surviving only with an ego, to accept the shadows and authentic shame. To bring people into my life who teach us to listen to ourselves and find the inner wisdom to channel the divine spirit.

Himalayan Singing Bowls

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Through my work as a Sound Therapist I have been exploring the effects of sound on a person, with the intention of boosting their physical energy and improving their health and emotional wellbeing. There are many different reasons why a persons energy could feel depleted. It could be due to giving too much of themselves to others, or a stressful situation, which leaves them in need of a restorative treatment. For some people it may be due to a short or long term illness.

One of the treatment tools I have been exploring are Himalayan Singing Bowls. As an artist working in sculpture I find the Himalayan Bowls fascinating. They are made from seven different metals, which are believed to correspond to the seven heavenly bodies: Gold – sun, silver – moon, mercury – mercury, coper – venus, iron – mars, tin – jupiter, lead – saturn.

When played the tone of each bowl is rich with harmonics as each metal resinates at a different frequency.

To enable you to experience the sound I have recorded a short relaxation with Himalayan Bowls, working on the base, heart and crown chakras. You can listen to it on the link to Soundcloud below:

Folonko

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The Folonko (crocodile) also known as Mama Folonko, is one of three sacred fresh water crocodile pools in The Gambia. It is located in the rural village of Kartong, where I spent two years on a self directed residency from 2012 - 2014, and subsequently visit every year.

The pool is surrounded by a sacred forest, which includes kobo figs and run palms; a habitat for many species of birds and biological diversity. The surface of the pool is covered by a layer of pakanui-water lettuce. The crocodiles are not always visible within the water, however they are there, still and silent. On a visit to the site I was fortunate to see two of the white Folonko, which locals consider to be extreemly sacred.

'Folonko' is a project which I have undertaken preliminary research and development for whilst visiting Kartong village in February 2018/19. It relates to an enquiry I am making into my relationship and experience with African tradition, ritual animism, and the healing qualities of sound. I am interested with the relationship between indigenous human culture and their engagement with natural ecosystems as a place where sprits, dreams and waking reality merge.

Mama Folonko is in spiritual union with the women elders of the six Kartong village tribes. As custodians they use the site to pray, chant and perform ritual blessings. This spirituality has grown from generations of pragmatic empiricism. It is a place of pilgrimage, where people visit the elders to receive blessings and prayers to help with fertility in exchange for traditional offering of white candles, salt and kola nuts.

Part of my research into 'Folonko' has involved taking part in the sacred ceremonies performed by the women elders, where I drank the sacred water and performed ablutions. Field recordings were collected of the ritual, the inside of the rain forest and within the Folonko Pool with the use of hydroponic mics.

The resonance to understanding this embodied relationship is perceived through my understanding of abstractions, and a personal enquiry into sound as energy and communication through animist beliefs. These are details I am exploring throughout my practice.

'Folonko' is a project I intend to develop as a sound art installation and exhibit in England, The Gambia and Internationally.

I offer special thanks and my deepest respect to the elders at the Folonko Pool for granting me permission to share their rituals.

© Tony Spencer

 

murmuration

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I took part in the first 'murmuration' residency 2018, exploration of all aspects of located sound (sound art, field recording, acoustic ecology, sound design, soundscape, sound installation & diffusion etc), coordinated by Jez Riley-French and Chris Watson. The location was Glenshee Scotland, on the edge of the Cairngorms, a rich source of inspiration, listening and recording possibilities. In addition there were enough international experts to discuss and share knowledge around the subjects of located sound, acoustic ecology and contemporary sound practice in its varied forms. It was a research and development residency, which I undertook as an enquiry into professional methods of recording sound in England and Africa and presenting as public sound art installations.

The Listeners

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The Listeners is an on going project where I am exploring the natural soundscape of Kingley Vale National Nature Reserve, which is home to a group of ancient Yew Trees known as ‘The Watchers’.

Yew Trees are indigenous British trees, decedents from our ancient woodland, often growing or planted on spiritual ground, including Celtic burial sites and Christian Church Yards. There is evidence that some of the ancient Yew trees in Kingley Vale are aged over 2000 years old, which makes them one of the oldest living organisms in Britain.

This was my fist enquiry in using audio equipment, including a contact mic, to find the invisible currents of sound beneath the skin of the tree and listen to its internal energy.

To emanate ancestral awakening, I vibrate the surface of the tree with the rhythm played on a shamanic frame drum. This process is to also emirate indigenous societies with animist beliefs, creating a ritual practice of slowing the brain down to a theta brainwave in order to sense an imaginative matrix of the natural world. The repetitive beat of a deer skin drum is an archetypal sound possessing felicitous symbolism, which we have inherited from prehistory.

Within Kingley Vale there is evidence of a rich ancestral heritage with remains of a Romano-Celtic temple at Bow Hill. Iron Age settlement site known as Goose Hill Camp, the Devil's Humps Bronze Age round burrows and a prehistoric flint mine. Perhaps the ancient Yew trees have preserved a physical memory they can express through sound and energy of ancestral ritual traditions.

After drumming I listen to the silence, to allow the sounds of the Yew tree to permeate my biofield and skin.

Credits

Artist - Tony Spencer
Concept - Tony Spencer

Photo credits: Jacqui McGinn

Foli

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In my experience rural West African people have a strong connection to sound, drawing inspiration form the natural environment and trusting that reality resides predominantly in what is heard and said.

Foli, a mandinka word describing speech or to produce music, is an ongoing project, which explores phonetic descriptive sounds of translated drum patterns. In West African culture, phonetic speech is still the traditional method of teaching, and their oral history, ritual and sacred rites of passage are passed onto generations through percussion and other forms of ancestral music. The vocabulary of music is described through the lips of the speaker, providing a description of how the sound would transfer when hands physical connect to a drum, which in turn creates sound to occupy space in the external world.

In my enquiry I am working with Mamadou Camara, a Guinean musician who I co-manage the group Kouma Kan Africa in Kartong, The Gambia. Mamadou has taught me traditional West African drum rhythms through phonetic speech since 2012. Through this method Mamadou has learnt and retained the instrument parts for hundreds of traditional Mandinka rhythms. The example orally presented by Mamadou is Soko, which is the opening rhythm that we perform at festivals.

Credits

Director - Tony Spencer
Concept - Tony Spencer
Performer - Mamadou Camara
Photography - Kye Wilson

© Tony Spencer

 

Spearman – Interviews with Kartonkas

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To offer an understanding of how local people feel about their friend and family taking the Back Way, we interviewed a number of local Kartong village men. Our feelings are that it presents a perspective of the situation from the view of West African's, rather than the bias view of UK tabloid newspapers, which portray Africans as tragic victims who drown off the island of Lampedusa. Here we present a sample of the interviews, including members of Kouma Kan.

Interview with Spearman’s Mother

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During the delivery of the Spearman project in Karting, The Gambia February 2017, myself and Kye Wilson with the help of Sami Teflon interviewed Spearman's Mother. The interview was conducted in the West African language of Mandinka, and was themed around the issues concerning people leaving the village to travel the Back Way into Europe. It was recorded to share with Spearman and the wider Gambian communities within the country and those who have traveled abroad to join the wider African Diaspora.

Preparing for Spearman in The Gambia

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Our preparation to deliver the Spearman project in The Gambia had been challenged by a military intervention from neighbouring West African countries to evict president Jammeh out of the presidential office. The process created chaos in the country as 26,000 Gambians, fearful that violence could erupt, sought refuge in Senegal and thousands of UK tourists were evacuated just days before we were scheduled to travel.

We discussed the potential danger of travel and the significance of supporting people in the country through the project. Fortunately my good friend and International photo journalist Jason Florio was in the country to provide a personal update on the situation through social media messaging, and we decided to go.

It was an eventful journey, but once in the country we started the process of preparation, including constructing a projection screen, promoting the project through flyers, stickers on taxis and on geli geli's (busses) and an interview on Big Sam's radio station in the Town of Brikama, with an active audience across The Gambia and South Senegal. Internet access in the small village of Kartong is not very reliable, and Kye worked extremely hard to share our progress with people back in England through social media such as twitter and facebook.

We visited the department of the Minister of Arts and Culture, however we could not arrange a personal meeting as the Presidential Office was in the process of re-structure.

Over the next ten days myself, Kye and the members of Kouma Kan worked extremely hard to incorporate the work into the rehearsals, making sure that Spearman through digital embodiment was reintegrated into the group.

We are extremely grateful to all the staff at Sandele Eco-lodge, Kouma Kan musicians and dancers, the Kartong Festival staff, Karting village community and people of The Gambia for their support.

Spearman Premier at Kartong Festival

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After a full week of preparation it was the day that we present Spearman at the Kartong International Festival 2017. When we arrived at the festival site we were informed that there was no electricity. We could only put our faith in a higher source and hope that things would work out, and with just one hour to go the electricity returned, with a flood of festival spotlights as the evening drew in.

The energy of Kouma Kan performing was lifted by the euphoric reaction from the audience as they chanted Spearman. It was truly an homecoming for him. The response we received after was of amazement and wonder, as in the photos the camera flash depicts the grey of the projection screen, however on the actual night in darkness you could only make out a life-size image of Spearman performing.

We were extremely relieved and proud to successfully deliver the project, after the challenges of the last few weeks. We are both extremely grateful for the opportunity to expand our international portfolio and now looking forward to planning for a presentation of Spearman in England.

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