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Geographical: like waves perfectly immovable

from Noisome Spirits [album] by John Harvey



This is the last of the four compositions based upon relations included in Jones’s A Geographical, Historical, and Religious Account of the Parish of Aberystruth. Like ‘Geographical: fiery stones’, it describes a natural phenomenon, but one that also had biblical resonances for Jones. The account is included in a section entitled ‘Of the Air in Aberystruth Parish’ from that book. In a discussion about clouds and mists upon the mountains and in the valleys, he related a rare and curious sight which he saw from the ‘Beacon Mountain’. The ‘Ebwy-vawr’ [Ebbw Vawr] valley was substantially filled with subfusc clouds ‘whose Surface was like Waves perfectly immovable’. It was visible to this extent in no other valley, and reminded Jones of Noah’s Flood, ‘which very likely reached this Valley’. As with the rent in the Skirrid Mountain, the landscape of Wales was, in that moment, conflated with a geographically and historically distant event in biblical history.

The ‘choral’ quality of the composition is created from edited samples of a desynchronous overlay of four slowed-down readings, each spoken at a different pitch, of the source text. The mood evoked is one of sacred reverie, as Jones’s contemplates the sublimity of the sight and its biblical allusion. The composition, and the suite, conclude with a musical ‘Amen’.

Source Text
For once going over the Beacon Mountain, the Valley of the Ebwy-vawr was filled very high with dark Clouds, whose Surface was like Waves perfectly immovable, thro’ which I could see nothing in the Valley, either Land, Trees, or House; tho’ it was clear upon the Mountain about me.

Source Reference
​​'A Geographical, Historical, and Religious Account', 37–8.


from Noisome Spirits [album], released July 15, 2021


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John Harvey Ceredigion, UK

I’m a practitioner and historian of sound art and visual art, and Emeritus Professor of Art at the School of Art, Aberystwyth University, UK. My research field is the sonic and visual culture of religion. I explore the sonic articulations of the Christian religion by engaging visual, textual, and audible sources, theological and cultural ideas, and systemic and audiovisualogical processes. ... more

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