Sound and vision blog

12 November 2014

Inspired by Flickr: Water

Over the course of 2014, sound artists, recordists, composers and designers have been beavering away in their studios, creating new compositions inspired by the British Library's collection of 1 million digitised images released onto Flickr Commons earlier in the year. The aptly named Inspired by Flickr offers contributors huge choice in the form of illustrations, photographs, diagrams, maps, book covers, musical scores and much more, all gathered from digitised books from the 17th, 18th and 19th Century.

Rather than submit one stand alone piece to the project, French sound artist and composer Stéphane Marin decided to create a quadrilogy of sound pieces inspired by images in this collection, based around the theme of the four classical elements. Air and Earth have already been showcased in previous blog posts and so now we turn to water. As with Marin's previous offerings in this series, the words of the French 20th Century philosopher Gaston Bachelard help bridge the gap between the 19th Century image and the 21st Century recording.

Part 3 - Inspired by Water


"The sleeping and silent water places,

 "singing lakes" in landscapes

(in the words of Claudel).

Close to it the poetic gravity deepens.

Water is living as a wide materialized silence.

It is beside the fountain that Pelléas whispers :

"There is always an extraordinary silence...

One would hear the water sleeping "(Act I).

It seems that to fully understand the silence,

our soul needs to see something that keeps silent (...)"

"Water and Dreams: An Essay on the Imagination of Matter."

G. Bachelard

  Shan Village lake

The illustration in question is one of many found in the pages of the 19th Century book 'Amongst the Shans' by the prolific explorer Archibald Ross Colquhuon and depicts a typical Shan village scene. This visually rich landscape could have been interpreted sonically in an infinite number of ways; the water, trees, wooden boats, ducks, village activity could all have been brought to life through the medium of sound, yet Marin chose to refer back to a field recording made two years ago during a trip to Burma:

2012 : insomnia night

Listening to Inle Lake (Shan State - Burma)

The picture reminded me of this meditative night.

I hope that this raw field recording (the act of composition is in the way I have taken a "point of ear" of this sounding place) allows you to enter the materiality of this vast immobile water surface...


Not so...


Don't play loud...

Just listen with headphones!

Inle Lake Insomnia

Listening to this piece, with its steady animal chorus and traces of singing in the background, one can easily imagine listening to the village after dark. When looking at the landscape alone, daytime immediately comes to mind, yet look again while listening to its imaginary soundscape and it could easily be transformed into a moonlit night. Such is the power of sound.



Following many collaborations with street art companies (Allegro Barbaro / Le Phun / Osmosis Cie / 2ème Groupe d'Intervention / Décor Sonore) on projects performed in the six corners of the French hexagon, and in international festivals held in cities such as Suwon, Beirut, Poznan, Grätz, Valladolid, Manchester and Saarbrüken, Stéphane Marin created Espaces Sonores in 2008, a company dedicated to contextual sound creation and sound art. His work includes An Umbrella for 2 - audio walks to be shared by two people under an umbrella which was created for the Saint Charles train station in Marseille (Lieux Publics - Street Arts Creation National Center) and the streets and underpasses of Singapore (Singapore Arts Festival - National Arts Council), Elementaire - an ecological soundscape for relaxing sound naps ; ÉcoutesS d'EspaceS / EspaceS D'écouteS sound walks, sessions of yoga for your ears and finally contributions to events that help others rediscover the pleasures of phonography  (Mingalabar ! - Arte Radio - Paris / L'Oreille Nomade #1 - Myanmar - Kinokophonography @ New York Public Library for Performing Arts).



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