The Hills Are Alive

8 May

An extended interview with Paul Devereux and Jon Wozencroft about their Landscape & Perception project , for the Bite in The Wire 339. 

The tiny village of Maenclochog in Pembrokeshire, Wales, is an unassuming place, but its name, and its folklore, provide clues to the remarkable landscape that it inhabits. It’s said that alongside Ffynnon Fair, a nearby holy well, were rocks that rang like bells and these may have given the town its name: maen (stone) and clochog (bells). The rocks, the story goes, were broken up by locals who thought that their hollow tones suggested treasure, and in a way they were right.

North east of here atop the Preseli Hills is Carn Menyn, a ridge of dolerite, known as Preseli Bluestone, which forms the basis for neolithic tools found all over the UK. It’s thought that 80 large bluestones from the region once made up two concentric rings of Stonehenge, 200 miles to the east.

Around Carn Menyn are flat, fallen stones – like huge xylophones or, more correctly, lithophones. Grab a smaller rock and start banging on the larger ones and you will discover that these stones, and many others in the area, ring with rich, resonant tones that sound startlingly musical to modern ears. One has to wonder what ears 4300 years ago would have made of them.

It’s a question we can probably never answer, but clues can be found at Landscape And Perception, launched in March of this year by Touch founder and Royal College of Art tutor Jon Wozencroft, and Paul Devereux, author, researcher and editor of archaeological journal Time And Mind. Devereux is a longtime champion of archaeo-acoustics, the study of sound at ancient sites, as part of a wider mission to explore the archaeology of mind. Wozencroft first heard of Devereux’s work in the early 1980s via Chris Watson and Andrew McKenzie of the Hafler Trio, but they wouldn’t meet until 2006. The website is the result of that encounter.

Full interview here


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