The Long Night – Strands In The Mind’s Eye

detail of cithara (zither)

The eighth installment of this ten part series is about the story behind, Strands In The Mind’s Eye, a record that is a combination of found sound, found broken old instrument, and manipulation of frequencies that may or may not have an effect on the pineal gland… or maybe the third eye…. or maybe the abused beast that is cloaked with the title of the psyche…. can’t remember for sure…. but I digress, which is far from unusual.

I inherited an ancient zither, gifted to me by a friend who no longer had room in their life for excessive numbers of broken and decaying instruments. Initially, I thought it might make for a few good photos or perhaps I might end up repurposing the parts for other projects. The photos were taken, but in that process, before I really paid much attention to the random sounds emanating from the old beast, its essence began to infect me.

During the process of taking the photos the intimacy of the act conjured audio visions of what tunes might’ve been played on this aged construction of wood and metal. Ghostly sounds wafted through my mind like smoke, curling about, taking shape only to dissolve again into something else. While I continued to find other angles and more details that told some of the history this decaying zither, the handling of it was creating little incidental noises, sounds that were at once representative of the instrument’s current state as well as hinting at the ghosts that were trapped within…. my karmic penance for once being a trapper of things roused in dissent, I must free these auditory ghosts!!!

And so I did… The camera was put away and the microphones were brought out. Over the next couple hours I prodded, poked, picked, banged, scraped, and otherwise performed intimate ancient rituals of sound exorcism on the aged cithara until we were both exhausted…. well I was…. the zither seemed no worse for wear in spite of my occasionally heavy handed approach to the exorcism of its old ghosts… Nor was there much, if any, resistance. The old box seemed more than happy to give up or, at the least, share her ghosts with me.

There was a certain reverence emanating from the old zither that began to be revealed during the ministrations, like thoughts stolen by a dream thief, somewhat surreal and fragmented, but taking shape like a phantom revealed by the receding fog…. the travels, from tall tree and unrefined ores to this thing of shapes and sounds, were documented in the essence of the sounds I was hearing. It’s stories, the life it lived, the lives it touched and the life it continues to build upon, were all becoming more defined, revealing secrets I never thought of asking until now.

The next several hours were spent in the audiens laboratorium, pairing the sounds coaxed from the old relic with new sonic palettes and hints of melodic structure, aligning parts, dilating and severing here, contracting and multiplying there… It was a slow build, but in reverence for the source, I thought it best to allow it whatever time seemed necessary to find the Strands In The Mind’s Eye.

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