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Gathering Silence

Microphone in hand,
I sit inside the old church,
Gathering silence.

– Haiku written by Ian Joyce

The album Gathering Silence by Neil Stringfellow aka Audio Obscura is a beautiful example of the work of London-based label Naviar records: Connecting the worlds of Haiku poetry and experimental music, Naviar has grown a community of musicians and sound artists through various regular activities such as record releases, the Haiku Music Challenge, a podcast on Resonance Extra, and the Haiku Fest.

For Gathering Silence, Neil spent three years making field recordings in desolate churches in rural Norfolk (UK), a process through which he realised that “mindfulness can come through sound recording – through listening rather than the breath”. 

As he writes in his album notes:

“In July 2015 my family and I moved from London to rural north Norfolk. Our house was about a mile down a lane surrounded by fields and past the lane was a small village called Stratton Strawless, with a lovely old country church. I walked there a lot that first summer, often with our baby in a pushchair and took my digital sound recorder to record the old harmonium I had noticed in the corner of the church. On that trip I also recorded the church resonances and used contact mics on any suitable surfaces. 

Getting to know Norfolk I realised that the writer W.G Sebald was buried not too far away and so made a trip and made a field recording at his grave at St. Andrews church. A few months later I made some recordings in Norwich Cathedral and so, without realising it, I started a little collection of Norfolk Churches. By the end of 2015 I decided to make it a project; to visit and document in sound recordings some of the rural churches, both inside and around the graveyards. […] Although the tracks presented on the album form a cohesive piece, the Gathering Silence project; to record and document rural churches, continues as time allows.”

This is Track 2. At Sebalds Grave

Source Location; St. Andrew’s Church, Framlingham Earl
“I have so far made 4 separate trips to the grave of W.G Sebald, one in each season. I recorded mainly in the churchyard, over Sebalds grave and the more musical ideas came whilst at the grave, as sketches hummed into the microphone and later scored to fit the field recorded sounds.”

You can find the whole album here.

In 2020, Neil’s label will publish, every 20 days, albums made of 20 second tracks as part of a new project called 20×20Check it out here.

You can learn more about Naviar and get involved with the community here.

Katharina Schmidt

Katharina Schmidt is a musician based in Berlin.
 After years of playing drums and piano in various bands, her solo work is influenced by indie, experimental, and improvised music. Exploring interests in storytelling, sonic topographies, and generative techniques, her music uses electronics, field recordings, and self-built interfaces alongside acoustic instruments. From sonifications to lullabies, her work is poised between formal experimentation and narratives cued by literature and pop culture, and can be heard in installations, film music, and radiophonic pieces, as well as upcoming releases on labels such as Flag Day Recordings, Slaapwel Records, and Focused Silence.
Katharina holds a master’s degree in Sound Studies from the Berlin University of the Arts and hosts resident shows at Cashmere Radio and SVS Radio.