per​/​severance: A sound installation

by Mary Edwards

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The 2013-14 Season at Grimshaw-Gudewicz Art Gallery (MA, US) opened with an exhibition featuring the debut of Mary Edwards' new work, per/severance, an ambient sound installation about the Quequechan River, evocative of many things, the memories that the water still carries, the conversation it would have if someone were there to listen.


From The Bedford Standard-Times:

History gets lost, unless it's remembered. Or buried, unless it's unearthed.

The work of two very different artists, overlapping thematically so as to examine the past and our relationship with it, come together to form one installation that is currently on view at the Grimshaw-Gudewicz Gallery in Fall River, Massachusetts.

Titled "this bright morning," by fabric artist Charlotte Hamlin, and "per/severance," by composer Mary Edwards, the installations link visitors through textures of the ear and eye to what has gone before us.

The exhibition greets visitors with unapologetic simplicity. Hamlin's textile work hangs suspended above; Edwards' 14-minute synthesized track fills the room with sound. Some spare thoughts from the artists hang on the walls. Little else. But the backstory reads rich, and visual and aural evocations surge to the mind almost immediately.

Hamlin's sculptures are tree roots, seen from below, suspended from the ceiling, about a dozen in all, crossing the rectangular gallery in an orderly row of pairs. They emerge from a wall at one end, and disappear into the opposite wall, suggesting an continuous walkway. (The design approximates an allée, or stylized path, according the artist's personal notes. The cloth was fabricated in a traditional Korean process called Bojagi.) The roots are earth-tone organza fabric, stretched over a frame that looks like a root system. The shape of a stump is visible above. But the visitor is clearly underground. Buried perhaps, but in fertile soil. Her title, "this bright morning," must be ironic.

Edwards' sound architecture has its own story, but the naive impression is of an endless loop, with the perpetual ostinato of running water accompanying. When listened to carefully on a headset, the composition has a beginning and end, and a kind of dramatic crescendo at the apex. But its overall impression is cyclical, repetitive, and soothing.
The composer explains elsewhere that the sounds are inspired by the history of the Quequechan River, which once defined Fall River (its name in Wampanoag means "Falling River") by having its strength co-opted to power the textile industry. Hundreds of changes have befallen the Quequechan, changing its course, diminishing its power and altering its appearance, in the past couple centuries. But Edwards' tape loop does not try overtly to criticize any insensitive human encroachment on nature, or nostalgically ache for lost truth. It simply remembers.

Under the roots of Hamlin's tree-lined walkway, buried in thoughts driven by Edwards' soundscape, the sense of belonging emerges. Alive now, looking back at the past, we can feel apart from history, as if somehow the now were different than the then. Maybe that feeling is true, in some ways.

But more likely, what was happening then, before these trees above us took root, back in the time when the Quequechan flowed noisily without encumbrance through the land that became downtown Fall River — more likely that time was much like this time. This exhibition does not confront us with the past, or attempt to stir up feelings of guilt or anger. It engages the past, and encourages our link to it. We remember it, and we will be remembered. We forget it, and we can be forgotten.

-Keith Powers

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From the Fall River Herald News:

The sounds of the Quequechan River can be heard in an unexpected location this month: the Grimshaw-Gudewicz Art Gallery.

The gallery’s first sound installation, “per/serverance,” by sound artist and composer Mary Edwards, brings the river into the gallery through an interpretive “soundscape” that melds the sounds of the river with other bodies of water, nature sounds, and melodic instrumentation.

“This is the first time that sound has been so prevalent in an installation,” said gallery director Kathleen Hancock. “The notion of an exhibition of sound was so immersive, most people who come in lay down or sit down to listen to it.”
The sound installation, which runs for about 15 minutes, can be heard playing in the gallery, or visitors also have the option of using headphones to listen to it while sitting on one of the benches. “My objective in creating this piece was to find a way to bring the river into the (gallery) space without a physical water element,” said Edwards.
Edwards, a resident of New York whose work includes pieces for the healing arts, theatrical sound design, and films, said she was excited by the prospect of creating a sound installation for the gallery in the native city of one of her favorite composers, Joe Raposo, known for the songs he created for “Sesame Street.”

“I knew I wanted to do something that was iconic to Fall River, but I didn’t want to do anything as obvious as Lizze Borden,” said Edwards, adding she chose to focus on the Quequechan, which was instrumental to the city’s textile industry in the 19th century.

Starting last January, Edwards visited Fall River once a month, recording the Quequechan River’s remaining falls in an area off Pocasset Street, as well as nearby waterways including the Taunton River and the ocean near Horseneck Beach. Despite last winter’s snowstorms, Edwards said that at no point during her recording were the local waterways frozen, but the water temperature variations did affect the flow of the water. “The difference of the current is noticeable over the piece,” she said.

As part of the process of creating the sound installation, Edwards said she added nature sounds such as whales, and she manipulated some of the tracks so they would sound more submersive. “From there, I layered in the melody using three motifs to represent different time periods, from the origin of the river to modern day,” she added.

Edwards, who also creates music for the healing arts, said the peaceful composition is done in the key of A, which in Eastern philosophy is related to the release of melatonin and promoting sleep. “My hope is that in addition to transporting people to a different place, or time, it (the sound installation) will also have a healing benefit,” said Edwards.

The Grimshaw Gudewicz Art Gallery is also displaying “this bright morning,” an installation of textile sculptures by artist Charlotte Hamlin. Created using the a traditional Korean cloth-making process called Bojagi, the sculptures suspended from ceiling of the gallery are Hamilin’s re-imaginging of tree-lined walkways found in cities and formal landscapes.

The two installations, based on nature through “the lens of human intervention,” are on display through Oct. 17.

-Linda Murphy

credits

released September 2, 2013
Composed and performed by Mary Edwards.

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Mary Edwards New York, New York

Mary Edwards is a composer, songwriter and sound artist whose projects range from recordings and performances "evocative of epic cinematic soundtracks combined with lyrical intimacy..." (Time Out NY), to immersive environmental and architectural sound installations. Themes of temporality, impermanence, nostalgia, longing, childhood and the natural world are interspersed throughout her work. ... more

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