Elan Water Jigs & Birds

2 streams

While on a residency at the Elan Valley Wales I created a series of responses to the landscape; a guided walk describing birds by experience and not knowledge as they would have been in the past before collective naming  EG:” there is the one that sound like a rusty gate”;  short films insects negotiating the text on the page of a Science Fiction novel where the text becomes a maze AND writing a collection of fiddle jigs based on field recordings of water as it flowed from hilltop to river. In particular at a point in a brook where the water was forced through three large stones left in the water flow. The sound of the water on the stone has a percussive sound with each stone making a slightly different note. On close listening, tiny melodies could be heard, these form the basis for the Water Jigs. Intended for performing in pubs local to the Elan Valley, they can be played individually or played across each other in the round, with players beginning at their chosen point. This is to represent the chaos on the movement of the water’s flow. I was reading Brazzaville Beach by William Boyd at the time and one character, a mathematician in chaos theory was attempting to create an equation for water flow. Being a stranger in the landscape I took this as a metaphor for my own time on the residency.

Richard Higlett 12/06/17

two of the jig were performed in the residency cottage, interpreted in the welsh folk fiddle style by renowned welsh fiddle player Mike Lease.

APTELAN water jig #6 from Richard Higlett on Vimeo.

Elan Water Jig #15 from Richard Higlett on Vimeo.

2 streams

elan bird print 1gather

12:60 / 13:20 / 9/8

We live by 12:60 time, 12 months in a year and 60 minutes in an hour. A second is a flexible unit in our minds, when viewing of the second hand, feel you have the power to change the duration of the time between one second number step and the next. Try it now… Before clocks we slept with seasons, before lamps, by the setting sun. Previous civilisations lived by 13:20 time, 13 referring to the 13 articulations of the body such as the hip joint, knee, wrists and neck. 20 referring to the number of fingers and toes. This referred to a direct physical relationship with our surroundings. Like 12:60 time it is unique to our species, how we passed through the landscape. I read that a spider has 48 knees, this means its interaction with the physical world is alien to us. In the valley, there is also grasshopper time, bird time and tree time. Elan is shaped by eons of water time, the time that in the early history of the planet replaced the dominance of sun time in controlling the shape of thing. This was an era before the oceans formed and the planet was cooling. While still strong in nature, Sun’s time has been demoted in our lives by the electric light bulb, we now could truly live outside of natural time and the rhythms of the planet. At this point we moved to a position of conflict with the world we were born into.
excerpt from Journal Notes 01/12/15

Bubbling Below.jpg

Sometime when the sun was beginning to set earlier and its warmth was starting to diminish, what we may call mid-September, I was walking on the hilltops high above Garreg-ddu Reservoir. Walking against the flow of a small brook, I became aware of a rapid tapping with a regular rhythm. It was almost a regular ticking but had a pause every few beats, like a slip-jig in folk music in 9/8 time. I took some recordings. I returned the following day when the sun was directly above my head. Now the rhythm was slower; the sun heating the path, the flow reduced. I made further recordings. Listening back, the subtle tonal changes as the water trickled through shards of slate could be translated into notes of music.

excerpt from Journal Notes 26/09/15


The APTELAN residency is an opportunity to experience deep time, a place to work outside expectation. It is a place to think differently. On my first visit I took one book, Olaf Stapledon’s 1937 novel, Star Maker, with a self imposed remit of not to learn any history or gather information about the valley I was about to live within. An exercise in the value of experience over knowledge. Stapledon’s tale of a man traveling across the universe encountering new civilisations had its moment of symbolic clarity on the third day when I read in the sun. Insects were attracted to the bleached white pages of the book, landing on the text to be confront with a monochrome system of ink shapes. A human codex of liquid on paper. As I read, flies would explore the paths of texts with their own senses, exploring in their own time, this alien surface echoing the main protagonist of Star Maker.

excerpt from Journal Notes 28/09/15

Rain or two


Rocks in A


wallpaper proposal.jpg


As this was a pilot project, I also created a website to archive the pilot activity

link image to see all the artists

Screenshot 2019-06-12 at 13.13.40