The Widdershins Psychetecture Marsh Mash-up

June 6, 2011

I reveal what happens when you listen to the sound of the Glasgow subway system while walking through London’s marshland.  

At first I believed I’d made a mistake.

My idea was to take the mini album Widdershins (by The Psychogeographical Commission) on my walk. Hear it through my iPod. See what my brain made of the juxtaposition of the music and the marsh.

This 26 minute piece is a recording of the Glasgow subway train as it moves anti-clockwise (Widdershins) beneath the city.  The clangs, hisses and bleeps of the journey are woven by electronic drones and effects.

On their website The Commission say:  Beginning and ending at Hillhead Station, we recorded over the period of totality on the winter solstice eclipse 2010, the first time a total eclipse has fallen on a winter solstice since the days of Prophet Peden (1638).”

Okay, and fair enough. But here I was, heading past Springfield Park to the northern portal of the marshworld on a sunny Sunday evening.

I usually walk weekdays in the late morning or early afternoon when the marsh is relatively empty. Professional dog walkers. A bird watcher. The odd murderer. Hasidic Jews bowed in conversation. Boatpeople cooking in their galleys.  And me.

Usually.

NOT YOUR USUAL EVENING

This evening though, the marsh was bustling. Tennis players in the park. Couples skipped gaily by the canal. Groups of weekenders huddled in the long grass like simian tribes, pulling at cans of lager. Men in smart white shirts.

The place had never looked less like itself. That mix of the mystical and mundane. Gone. Replaced by a scene from a mobile phone television advert.

In this context it seemed odd listening to the opening of Widdershins. The impatient rumble of the Glasgow subway train. The first stop. A haunting drone swell. The bleep-bleep-bleep of sliding doors like the ghost of a rave.

But I persevered. I took a route through the wild woodland towards the top corner of Walthamstow Marsh, by the 5ft Bridge.

And that’s when it clicked.

The national express train from Clapton cut across the marsh, windows glinting. Right at that point the Glasgow subway train pulled from its stop. I stood watching a London train in brilliant sunlight, hearing the Glasgow underground during an eclipse.

A REALISATION STRUCK ME

Yes, as my sub-headline just pointed out, a realisation struck me.

I was walking clockwise round the marsh, listening to an anti-clockwise journey. My eyes were overground, my ears underground. My body in London, my mind in Glasgow.  I was twisting layers of time-space like it was a Rubik’s Cube.

A rift had opened up right before me. A portal between universes!

For a moment I danced in and out of it. Stuck my arm through the earth’s crust. Lifted my eyes to the sky. Breathed the summer air.  Pushed my tongue deep between the electric lines and let Scottish rats run over my teeth.  An old woman hobbled past with her dog and - cackling - I flipped her into the bowels of Glasgow as a blood sacrifice.

This psychetecture is probably not what the makers of Widdershins intended. Goes without saying.

But even separated from its context, the music works. The rhythm cycles of the journey are played out by the gaps between stations, the peaks of acceleration, the chorus of closing doors, the phasing of entropic squeaks and hisses into something original. When laid on top of a totally opposite topography, it released – for me, at least - a symphony of synchronicities and parallels.

A right old mashup, in fact.

Space is a formidable auteur.

For more information on Widdershins, or to order a copy, please visit the Pyschogeographical Commission’s website: http://www.psychetecture.com/index.html

 

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3 Responses to The Widdershins Psychetecture Marsh Mash-up

  1. Julian Beere on June 7, 2011 at 6:45 am

    a mythic tale of sonic subsumption – space – the final frontier!

    • admin on June 7, 2011 at 8:59 am

      Hello Julian. Last night I was trying comment on your ‘field student of cheese forages’ post on your excellent Lost & Found in E17 blog. For some reason it wouldn’t let me post it. Anyway, I meant to say that my pretend liminal cheese sandwhiches are some kind of double bluff – probably, anyway, I think – and that I like the idea of liminal foraging: ancient herbal knowledge (presumed lost) growing in the cracks of the city. Thanks for reading!

      Gareth

  2. Julian Beere on June 7, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    Thank you Gareth. I think while you are imbibing such psycho tunes I will err on the side of caution and wander other watery margins of Walthamstow – this evening, the steamy lower reaches of the Ching. You might have noticed an artist photographer has posted notices around the marshes asking for dog walkers to offer themselves as photographic subjects for an exhibition on the E17 Art Trail. I think he will be most perturbed to discover a potential subject met with such a grizzly end or rather, departure into the earth below via the Glasgow underground.
    Take care,
    Julian Beere – follower in kindred spirit.

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