Repeating is not repetition: listening to time elapse in Eleanor Cully’s clarity-unclarity

clarity-unclarity (self-released, 2020)

Static hanging in the air; the slow, quiet drone of rising traffic (which appears, disappears, reappears). A passing lorry adds a deeper tone. Another vehicle passes over a rocking manhole cover. Gentle taps and soft knocks of close body movement.

Every once in a while Eleanor disrupts the ambience with her own beautiful voice, but only for a fleeting moment like a passing bird. After the first few vocal cycles it isn’t necessarily clear that the word she is singing is in fact, ‘clear’, because every repetition of the word is never sang quite the same. After the voice has been heard a couple of times, a magic takes place and the initial surprising aspect of it soon dissipates, becoming another sound motif which interplays with the lulling traffic, or the birds that appear quietly at the end. After repeated listens, a clarity does grow, and not just the word Cully sings – but the clarity in the apparent silences become louder and the passing of time becomes clearer, too.

A dialogue grows between a nearby past and a constant present. There is a repeating of process from the replaying of the album – but this isn’t repetition – because the listening environment varies the performance each time.

Listening to it on headphones while on an evening walk with sheep bleating softly in the background, compared to listening while writing an work assignment, creates two totally different and personal experiences.

The idea of time passing has dramatically altered and clarity-unclarity reminds us to take stock, to listen, and to reflect upon every passing minute. And in this reflection, to perhaps take a breath and try to let some of the noise from daily life – the constant rolling news and scrolling timelines – recede into the background, allowing the almost-hidden sounds and pure thoughts to become that little more clear.

I hope there will come a day sometime in the near future where the exhibition can be open to the public again. In the meantime, the album is available to purchase on Eleanor’s Bandcamp, alongside another album Cuckoo, a patchwork of different rooms recorded by nine artists (curated by Cully) who later placed a verse of her own cuckoo song into each room and sent it back to each artist a month later.

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Ryan Hooper

Ryan Hooper

Heavy Cloud | Sounds | Art | Press | Inspired by memory and internal and external landscapes