August 14, 2023
This week we recognize Mary Edwards Mary Edwards, and a ten year span of her public art and sonic installations.
Per/Serverance, 2013 (above) is an interpretive soundscape that implies both a tenacity and a detachment evidenced by the predicament of the 2.7 mile-long Quequechan River. Once the centerpiece of the 19th Century Fall River, Massachusetts textile industry, it has since been buried under the city to accommodate the expansion of Interstate 195, and partially obscured by the mills built in that era that echo tragedies and initiatives occurring throughout the 20th and early 21st Centuries. Its memory and "voice" are represented by a collection of subtle sounds: fluid origins ranging from a purely ecological juncture of its most natural state prior to industrialization, to a human-altered waterscape; distant contrapuntal Siren-inspired choruses alternating between alluring resonance and foreboding dissonance; and faint reverberations that hearken to the height and decline of the mills and the vision to "daylight" the falls once again. Edwards came to Fall River several times to study the river, to understand its relationship to the city, and to find the remaining places where it can still be seen, and heard. Her sound installation is evocative of the memories that the water still carries,and the conversation it would have if someone were there to listen.
click images for more info and sound
Edwards' spatial sound work When the Ocean Meets the Sky, 2019 (above) pays tribute to the astronauts and aquanauts from the 1960s to present, who've prepared for deep space explorations by venturing to the bottom of the sea. As part of the REFUGE exhibition at Beatnik Gallery/Joshua Tree Cultural Preservation Center, Joshua Tree National Park, California, this installation invites the listener to engage in the reverie of the sonorous habitats of sea and space where immersive sonics range from expansive to infinitesimal.
For Something to (Be)Hold, 2021 (above) was installed at locations around the Grimshaw-Gudewicz Art Gallery in Massachusetts. The stations served as portals and were the impetus for possibility. The work questions what we subconsciously navigate in our everyday patterns that can be transformative to our encounter and expectations if we pace ourselves and listen. What does “place” sound like when it, upon first impression, seems so familiar that one may bypass their imagination for the ordinary? There is no actual silence or stillness afterwards. Through engagement, eventually you find music in nature, and beauty in between the complexities and unanswered spaces. Does the place itself repopulate with resounding motions other than our own? The soundtracks heard draw from the material form, and are an extension of Edwards’ relationship to the natural world.
In CONSERVATION/CONVERSATION, 2022 (below) while Artist-In-Residence at ACA Soundscape Field Station at Canaveral National Seashore, Edwards explored the distinctive habitats and soundscape ecology of Apollo Beach. An audio companion to a poetic essay and a free verse narrative account documented the collaboration of visitors to the ocean and park, participants in her interactive and real-time exhibition.Questions arose such as: What are the parallels between a gentle rainstorm and a NASA rocket launch in the distance? A whisper in your ear and the crashing of ocean waves, or the beating of a drum and your own heartbeat when all else appears silent? What do we know what to listen for, and how do we describe these sounds to others? How does the practice of deeper listening raise our awareness to soundscape ecology, our compassion, or stewardship and healing of each other and the wellness of the environment?
Drawing partly on sound as a vibrational phenomenon and space analogues, Everywhere We Are is the Farthest Place, 2023 (below) is an ode, rather than an elegy, to the transforming Arctic landscape, climate vulnerability, elemental sensuality and terrestrial/space connectivity. It comprises a score and text performed synchronically (and sometimes improvisational) with an immersive soundscape of cinematic audio and ambient field recordings of ice, water and wildlife sounds gathered from landings around Svalbard, Norway while on a sailing expedition on a research vessel above the 78th parallel. The work documents sound properties of glacial geology and oceanographic data, through sonification by “de-centering the centered and un-othering the others.” Edwards began inviting audiences to interact with the hydrophones, contact mics, keyboards, Waterphone, bows and mallets, used to record and respond to the fjords and glaciers, and incorporate their own "layer of experience."
Mary Edwards is a composer and sound artist. Themes of temporality, impermanence, nostalgia and the natural world recur throughout her work. She is interested in the invisible architecture and the emotive, historic, cinematic and spatial properties of sound. Listening is an inherent and integral part of her process in conveying how all sounds have the potential to be habitable and transformative once you get inside them, as they are simultaneously intimate and immense. Edwards has recorded and exhibited widely, and her works have received support from residencies and fellowships including ACA Soundscape Field Station at Canaveral National Seashore, Headlands Center for the Arts and The Arctic Circle. Her writing has been published by Oxford American, Invert/Extant (U.K.), The Mentor that Matters, The Santa Barbara Literary Journal and the anthology, Joy Has a Sound: Black Sonic Visions. She holds an Interdisciplinary MFA in Sound and Architecture from Goddard College. http://maryedwardsmusic.com
Featured Images (top to bottom): ©Mary Edwards, Per/Serverance, 2013, sound installation at Grimshaw Gudewicz Art Gallery, Fall River, Massachusetts; When the Ocean Meets the Sky, 2019, included in REFUGE at Beatnik Gallery, Joshua Tree Cultural Preservation Center, California; Something to (Be)Hold, 2021, installation at Grimshaw-Gudewica Gallery, Fall River, Massachusetts; CONSERVATION / CONVERSATION, 2022, including book and sound soundscape on Bandcamp, Fall 2023; Everywhere We Are is the Farthest Place, 2023, sound installation and performance at The Spitsbergen Artists Center, Longyarbyen, Svalbard, Norway; Portrait of the artist.