By Bernie Bell
There are various kinds of wave – the waves of the sea, sound waves, light waves, waving hands!
On the evening of Friday 26th January, at the Pier Arts Centre, Orkney Experimental Music Project members Gemma McGregor and Anne Bevan, plus Dr Mike Bell of Heriot-Watt University (ICIT, Stromness), and film-maker Mark Jenkins, got together, because they’d put together, a work, installation, experience, based on…..waves.
We began with music, the music of Gemma McGregor on flute, and Gillian Morrison on double base, supported by a sound track of sounds of the sea-side – children, birds, the sea – then, I realised, that the ‘children’ were, in fact, seals – selkies, connecting us with the People of the Sea.
Anne and her helpers then proceeded to make waves. Pouring water into water, adding sparkles, stirring, shining lights through it all, which produced shadow-ripples on the floor and the walls, some of which were like the Merry Dancers – waves of light across the sky. A cube of light – light, cubed.
Then, making gentle waves with a rope across the floor, flowing past three sculptures of wave-forms.
All the while, two films were playing on the walls – one of wavy lines of sea and sand? But the sand was moving too?
The other film, of forms emerging and submerging, through water.
We had experienced the forms of waves, and Mike then led us to consider the energy, the power, which these forms can produce, and what can be produced, from that.
I have a badge which says “I ‘heart’ wave power”. I don’t usually go for the ‘heart’ replacing ‘love’ thing, but – I do ‘heart’ wave power, in its many forms – the idea of waves, what they can do, the complications and implications of what the different kinds of wave, can produce – sometimes beneficial, sometimes not.
We then re-entered the world of wave-form-ation.
And, all the while, the sea was rippling in the harbour outside the Pier Arts Centre window.
I could have happily ‘played’ there, by the sea, with the lights, the waves, the twinkling water and flowing sounds, again and again.
This experience sent me home, thinking.
One thought which occurred to me, was, that the evening had been very much like a ‘Happening’ – those events which took place in the 1960’s, where people got together to – experience. I had just taken part in a ‘Happening’! Which I think may have been the idea – not to just present ‘art’ or ‘music’ to a static audience, but to engage us in the world of the sea, in the company of this group of people, with the help of substances and objects which could connect us to that world. The world of the waves and their forms, and what can be ‘formed’ by the energy they produce. We didn’t just see and hear, we also felt, as the wave form sculptures had been handed round among the audience. Yes, definitely, a Happening – an experience.
I was reminded of a project entitled ‘Cape Farewell’, which included an exhibition and talks by Annie Cattrell at the Pier Arts Centre, working in part with scientists from Heriot-Watt University who are involved with research into renewable energy using wave power.
Here’s Annie’s piece entitled ‘Currents’– which I, mistakenly, have stuck in my head as ‘Ripples’ – you can see why……………
The Cape Farewell Project considered many aspects of wave power, including how the use of renewable energy devices could cause a possible change to the ‘fetch‘ of the waves of the sea, and how that can affect the coastlines that the waves end up washing against. This needs to influence how plans are made by the organizations which place these devices to use wave power for energy production.
I see these two Pier Arts Centre events, as being linked, and I’m now going to directly link the idea of how the waves of the sea, have the power to produce energy, and how sound waves – how the movement of air – produces sound, and the power of sound, which is a considerable power! The power of music, to settle, un-settle, cheer, calm. The effects of music are profound, and varied.
And there’s how sound waves can be used for our benefit. Modern medicine uses ultra- sound to detect and alleviate some health problems. There are also practitioners of complementary medicine who can direct sound to re-balance and heal.
Admittedly, the healing aspect of sound, apart from as music, didn’t come into the Pier Arts Centre event, but we did receive and experience information, ideas, sounds, and art works linked to waves – both the watery kind and the kind that move the air, to make sound.
And there are all those other kinds of ‘wave’, such as radio waves , which are un-seen, but, they are there and may influence us and our behaviour in more ways than we are aware of. Electricity – magnetism – light waves – like the ripples on water, and here, I hand you over to Mr. James Clark Maxwell –
Waves. All around us – let’s be aware of them, and try not to drown in them, with constant noise and light pollution! Let’s use them well, and constructively, as the Orkney Experimental Music Project do, and the renewable energy folk do. And as Mr. Clark Maxwell did.
With wave movement, comes flow. It must have been quite difficult to orchestrate the flow of this event – from music to film, to sculpture, to words. But, it worked , and sent me on my way – thinking.