As WOVEMBERSISTS know, I am passionate about how sounds can be used to connect us to the landscapes, people and animals that are ultimately the source of WOOL. I was therefore thrilled to discover that Cathy Lane – composer, artist and one of my PhD examiners – has also been exploring these connections. Cathy Lane produced a wonderful audio release last year exploring the landscape and sounds of the outer Hebrides*. Harris Tweed specifically comes from this special landscape and Cathy Lane’s audio release gives a special sense of place and context to that wondrous textile and the place from which it comes.
In an excellent collection of texts, images, sounds etc. released by CRiSAP in 2007, Cathy Lane wrote about some of the sounds that have historically played a key role in cultural life on the outer Hebrides. WOOL is in there in a list of sounds and lost sounds, and the writing which precedes the list gives a rich sense of its key role in the life of the islands. Cathy opens her piece with the important question, “what is a landscape but a map of human activity past and present?”
sounds and lost sounds
Horse drawn cart and sled
Knitting while walking along
Wool sheared/washed/dried/dyed outside near lock on open fire
Bent grass growing on the machair
Horsehair and hay made into rope
Creel made to carry peat
Seabirds – Wildfowling St. Kilda, puffin rod and fulmar
Blackhouses – sounds inside and outside – peat fire, chickens, cows, dogs, knitting, carding and spinning – women with spinning wheel or by hand
Houses with thatched and tin roofs
Mary or Molluca bean used for snuff – sneezing
Spinning songs, waulking, weaving
Heather, rush or bent grass used on floors inside
LIghting cruisie lamp – reeds
Un-metalled roads – when were they tarmaced?
Whale carcasses in St. Kilda bay
Kelp gathering on the beach
Eating raw dulse
“A good ford to you” crossing from island to island by horse and cart
Emigrating from Lochboisdale
Fishing and fish farming
Clearances and sheep
– Cathy Lane, Sounds, History, Memory In: Autumn Leaves – Sound and the Envrironment in Artistic Practice, Edited by Angus Carlyle, published by Double Entendre, in assn. w. CRiSAP, Paris, 2007.
*I reviewed Cathy Lane’s album in KNITSONIK 05 – Sitting by the Fire and Dreaming of the Sea.