A Quiet Reverie — An Audio Exploration of Site, Solitude, and Perception is a book and CD by Mark Peter Wright. The book includes text and photography that support the audio, featuring historical background and quotes, essays, and revealing details on the creation of the work.
The recordings were performed at ruined abbeys in the North East of England: the accompanying book mentions Byland, Easby, Fountains and Rievaulx. Wright explores the psychological aspects of field recording rather than documental or ecological. His editing is subtle, and it functions as a transposition of time and space rather than apparent sonic manipulation.
In the text Wright points out the historical scars left behind by the abbey's cultural presence:
"These are places of turbulence, rupture and abandonment where people have been physically removed from the land."
This resonates particularly well with the monastic singing around 16 minutes. The crackling sound of wood burning can be heard with the gentle background wash of religious singing. The essence of the work is summed up on page 14 of the book:
"With retreat comes solitude and with solitude comes silence. ... Today's silence is all too often associated with death."
Despite the book's academic tone, the work as a whole is a rich compendium of Wright's chosen subject matter, and coaxes the imagination into certain directions. Dates, place names, quotes and photographs direct the interpretation of the audio into following a loose narrative. This is sometimes abrupt: "In Search Of Silent", but there's also a welcome ambiguity: "Hauntological".
Wright even documents his imagined sounds for particular places in the ruins. For example, a "Warming House", used by monks to warm themselves (and for occasional blood-letting), has the following imagined sounds: Crackle-dripping-cloth-writing. As someone who dabbles in field recording, I find the inclusion of these details fascinating. Including photographs alongside a recording naturally gives context, but actually describing sounds imagined in the history of a place offers a rare insight into the artist's creative process.
The true power of A Quiet Reverie is that it forces the listener's mind to claw at relationships between the printed material and audio. The brain's natural tendency to see patterns makes words and sounds take on new significance with each listen. This is again reinforced by the author's recommendation of using headphones: like most field recordings headphones help create the most immersive experience.
In terms of phonography, A Quiet Reverie is potentially a monumental work that demonstrates what the field can achieve. It offers an immersive and reflective experience with a detailed narrative. Field recording artists looking for inspiration would do well to experience this work.
A Quiet Reverie is available for purchase direct from Mark Peter Wright's online shop.