RAFT on RESONANCE 104.4fm Episode 24

Tune into Resonance 104.4fm on Tuesday 20th of October at 5pm for episode 23 of Raft!

Credits for this month’s episode:

“A dream within a dream”- Written & narrated by Chiara Ambrosio

London Rain- entretien with writer, diarist and flaneur Jupiter John

“Dancing in the subway”- Written and performed by NIGHTHAUNTS

ANTIDOTES TO CHAOS: A Prayer

At first it was spring, and we prayed to the trees.

We watched the light tremble on their leaves and crowns, we heard them creak in the breeze as they sheltered us from our sullenness.

Days grew long together with our shadows, sound was swallowed by silence, then blossomed into new sound.

We paced our days to the rhythms of the birds and the stars, we forgot each other’s name and became splintered syntax, held together by cobwebs and dew.

Summer came and the air grew sweet.

We stood by the southern sea and we prayed to the waves, to the setting sun and the rising moon. We felt the earth spin, and we sometimes embraced. 

We almost forgot, but then autumn lunged for our throats and we recoiled into our solitude.

Now the leaves have started to fall, and we wait for the light to return. 

We pray to the broken pieces of glass, strewn over the cobbles or stuck in the cracks, only visible when the sun falls upon them.

We stare at the marks on the walls, and we try to decipher the words from the fragments.

We pace through the semi-deserted galleries and museums, stare into the vacant glass eyes of the taxidermy animals who cannot see us, brush our fingertips across the fossil spines of extinct marine creatures, hold onto the railings while a simulated earthquake tries to shock us out of our numbed senses- somewhere in Japan the earth shook, and all came tumbling down, cracked walls, shattered glass, broken bones.

We pray to the books on the shelves, to the fruit and the vegetables neatly stacked in piles, to the masked faces of the people that hand us our coffee or measure our racing pulses, or the growth of our children.

We pray for sunshine or for rain, while standing apart trying to keep our distance. And the roadworks eat into our spaces until all that is left is a slither of pavement through which to slip sideways and disappear.

We listen to the muffled voices and we cannot hear birdsong any longer; we wonder whether they have left us, or whether we are the ones leaving.

We take short walks, we rarely drift these days.

We pray in languages we never thought we knew: those of the lost and the lonely, those of the fearful and forsaken. We fit in their shoes comfortably, and we know how they feel.

We ask for signs of an imminent return. We sit at a café, we swallow the food that almost chokes us, we rescue a pint of beer from oblivion, we are phantasmic memories of a time we have already forgotten, as if it never was at all.

We pray to the empty glass in our hands, to the unwritten book in our head, to the heavy load that we bear.

The Bulgarian man who sells the Big Issue in Russel Square sleeps with his family in the car park of the children’s hospital, but one rainy morning they are asked to move out again. Now he plays with our children and holds them, trying to bridge the gap between their little soft hands and the empty ones of his own.

We pray to the bright screen that binds us together, this online raft on which we float.

We occupy our square and dance, read, think, cook, write, peek into each other’s backgrounds to extract some context for our loneliness.

We exchange emails that hold the thread of our thoughts across days; we weave it to and fro across invisible distances that shrink on our keyboard to the space between each letter.

We read the news and it gets worse day by day.

We stop reading the news, but it doesn’t get better.

We hear voices that have lost their agency try to scream one another into silence until, deflated, they land on the dirty floors like confetti from an expired celebration; we walk over them absentmindedly, trying to negotiate our trajectories, looking for our own antidote to chaos.

We write letters to our friends, and we wait for their replies. 

Like many walled gardens, they exist in secret; they bloom and decay, and grow some more until the weeds begin to reach into the bricks, through to the other side. As the mortar disintegrates, we catch a glimpse of their hands writing furiously, and hear the sound of each other’s voices, like pollen stuck in the messages on our mobile phones.

Derek Jarman had a garden whose boundaries were the horizon; no fences, gates or walls, an uncontainable flare of existence against all odds, rooted in the most unexpected of barren territories. The garden was the far edge of his life: it grew from his illness and it thrived in the cold winds that rattled it. His horizon expanded further the more his body contracted, and from his pain flowers, shrubs and vision sprung, setting his whole world on fire, until his body’s boundaries disintegrated also. 

We pray to the pebbles and utensils, his desk and fountain pen and notebook, temporarily removed from the wilderness of Dungeness and exhibited in the Garden Museum, by the banks of the Thames. 

When we step out into the city again, we pray to the river and its rising tide. 

We stand in a playground with two wooden horses in mid-gallop, half sunk inside the soft tarmac; only their heads and rumps emerge. Next to them a broken ship, and a little further up, Rodin’s sculpture of immigrants with their head in their hands cowers beneath the stark silhouette of the Big Ben. 

Beyond it, a garden is still in bloom.

“I will show you fear in a handful of dust.” 

In our time of pain, we pray to the tree on which we lean in exhaustion, trying not to touch the trunk with our bare hands. We pray while pinning ourselves to the side of the moving bus with our elbows, trying not to make contact; we press the bell through our coat sleeve, and we only get off when the bus has stopped moving. We count how many people aren’t wearing masks, and we feel angry and scared, but mostly alone.

We pray to the empty streets of the city, ashamed of the silence. 

We pray to the laughing children, those who know that what we are seeing is not what is really there. They hold hands and break bread, and rattle gladly in their Eden as the world we can’t let go of lets go of us.

We smile at them, but they can see the holes where our eyes used to be.

We pray to the city to return to its complexity.

The buildings are empty and boarded up, their names have been erased and will soon be forgotten too. We scratch the walls with our fingers to see what’s left behind, the same as we did when we first arrived. 

We pray that our favourite bookshop will stay- and the gallery, and that café whose owner we have known since we first set foot in this city.

We pray to the empty halls and venues, the darkened, silent rooms that lie in wait of a beat at the heart of the city. We stand outside on the streets pressing our faces against the dirty windows, and we pray that the grants will help them, that the blood will flow. 

We pray that when we reach the far end of this desert crossing there will still be music.

We pray to our instruments tucked in corners, silent. We pray to the songs that we whisper under our breaths, under the blankets, under the cover of night. We imagine the sound of harmony or syncopation, and we summon our heartbeat to keep the time, while our drums sleep in storage in barns outside the city, the only spaces that we can afford.

We pray we’ll have money to see us through, that the ship will hold, that the walls won’t cave in, that the rent won’t be due, that the work will materialise, once again, against all odds.

Meanwhile we watch movies, and learn from the creatures of the sea, from the octopus on our screen, who reminds us how to touch, how to overcome fear, how to be bright and beautiful, how to outwit a shark and survive the entire year of its lifespan with grace, humour and luck. 

We look at its 2000 suckers caressing the hand of a man in a snorkelling mask, getting to know him only through touch, letting go of him reluctantly, one sucker at a time.

Oh god of touch, many-limbed creature of the deep, remind us what holding means.

We pray to the octopus, to the scorched earth and all the other gods that don’t exist in this city. We pray to the ones that sleep rough, that queue outside soup-kitchens, that eat raw vegetables and sit under layers of clothes in freezing dark rooms, waiting for tomorrow.

We buy ink online, and paints and paper. We open parcels that come to us from a few streets away, we imagine the hands that wrapped them, the breath that tucked them in. We clean our hands and wipe the surfaces, then we sit and stare at the unopened paints, at our hands and at the blank paper, wondering what it was that we wanted to find. 

We wait for the light to change, for the day to turn, for our bodies to shake free and move again of their own accord. 

We write messages in bottles, and we take them to the river. But we sense that our words are no longer enough. They glisten for a moment, then dissolve into the strong arms of the murky waters.

We pray to the city we once knew, to its fragrant late October nights, to its misty November mornings. We watch our breath escape just after dawn and run between the naked trees as we walk along the disused railtracks, between brick walls and their secret script, through overgrown grass and frosted leaves to the top of the hill, where a murder of crows sleeps at night on the empty carcasses of fallen trees.

Crows can live longer than 100 years, and they know how to slip from one world to the other.

They cry first for the trees, then for us, and finally for the city, yearning to turn back into earth.

Then they fall silent, and in flight they begin once more to map out bright trails for our safe passage.

We look up into the white sky, and watch them write, in black unison, the last line of our prayer.

Amen.

RAFT on RESONANCE 104.4fm Episode 23

Tune into Resonance 104.4fm on Tuesday 20th of October at 5pm for episode 23 of Raft!

“Antidotes to chaos: 3 prayers”

Part I “Three-Quarters Water” written and performed by Nawroz Oramari and Bird Radio.

Part II “Antidotes to Chaos” written and performed by Chiara Ambrosio, with a soundscape by Bird Radio.

Part III “Queen’s Crescent” (demo) written and performed by Bonesandtheaft.

RAFT on RESONANCE 104.4 fm Episode 21

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Listen to this episode here!

“LETTERS FROM MY FRIENDS”

PART II: POEMS & SONGS 

When I was a child in Italy, on nights when my mother was out and our home troubled me with its stillness so that I couldn’t fall asleep, I would pick up the telephone and dial 1664 for a goodnight fairytale, recorded and available to anyone, anytime, anywhere.

I held the receiver, my anchored point of departure full of other people and other places, and listened to the voice coming through, leaning my cheek on it as on a soft bosom, the phone’s signal a pulse, its stale aroma like warm breath whispering to me, softening my wakefulness, shepherding me towards sleep as the story came to an end.

Like a deep sea diver heading into dream, the telephone kept me tethered to a place of safety and warmth, one where I could let myself go and breathe, without resistance or fear, held by the voice emerging from another time and another place, so alive and alert to my need.

The nights are back, now that the milky skies have remembered their darker shades. So is the stillness, without arrival or departure. And once again, I cannot fall asleep. 

The telephone is unmoored, and the fairy tales threadbare. But the voices, so alive and alert to my need, are still reaching out to me from another time and another place, and they speak to me of another kind of dream.

I am listening… 

… once upon a time…

“LETTERS FROM MY FRIENDS”- PART II features, in order of appearance:

John Bently/ Joanna Ebenstein/ Jeremy Reed & Bird Radio/ Eleanor Crook/  U’mau Otuokon/ Brian Catling*/ Ruth Somalo/ Marcello Colasurdo.

*”Mayday”, written and performed by Brian Catling is published in the current issue of the RA Magazine.

RAFT on RESONANCE 104.4 fm Episode 20

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Episode 20, Tuesday 19th of May, Resonance 104.4fm

Listen again here

“LETTERS FROM MY FRIENDS”

PART I: POSTCARDS

Dear friend,

my days are strange, sometimes bright, sometimes warm, sometimes rattled by a powerful wind that shakes all the blossom from the trees, turning the tarmac into rivers of white through which I wade.

This is not the city I have known.

The nights are even stranger. I sleep a dark sleep populated by dense images, disquieting and unfamiliar- a comatose rearranging of my waking life, itself so arcane. And that’s when I call to you, my friend, but you never visit me there, in dreams. 

Instead I wake up and measure the days and the hours, but I quickly lose count. I step into the street, but even there I can see nothing ahead of me, beyond a bright milkiness as blinding as the night. I throw my voice in front of me, to test the ground.

Hello? Can you hear me?

Are you there?

This is a choral piece, a sonic patchwork that brings together the voices of many of my past guests and dear friends, recorded across space and time over the telephone (at a time when distance separates us so cruelly), in a cathartic act of release, a gesture of collectivity on the airwaves, a majestic embrace that might lift our spirits and gather us together for a while.

“LETTERS FROM MY FRIENDS”- PART I: POSTCARDS features, in order of appearance:

James Hesford/ Eleanor Chiari/ John Bently/ Judith Clute/ Richard Sylvarnes/ Tanya Peixoto/ Sukhdev Sandhu/ Andrea Luka Zimmerman/ Jupiter John/ Gareth Evans/ Mikey Kirkpatrick/ Nawroz Oramari/ Julius Beltrame/ a chorus of birds recorded by Helena Hunter and Mark Peter Wright.

 

 

DISPATCHES FROM A NEW WORLD

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It’s a new world out there, that looks the same, but doesn’t feel the same.

I sit by the window. Looking outside is like looking into a screen at a distant world, only received as a faint signal, without body or consistency- an image carried on the surface, broken up by the breeze.

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The light is white, bright and without its usual lilac hue.

Nights are darker than I’ve ever known them to be in this city.

The birds are loud, so loud their song sharpens my gaze. I can often spy a tiny finch singing in a tangle of branches high up above me without even squinting.

Silence is loud, too. It spreads through the streets and magnifies them, creating space, widening the sky.

Last Friday a helicopter rumbled above the house, and I was startled into panic at the sudden sound cutting through the mid-afternoon torpor. In that moment I realised how absent sonic disruption has been for the last few weeks, how quiet the skies above, except for a lonely plane occasionally crossing the empty space, leaving trails behind that, in these strange days, look to me like undecipherable runes, black then white in the unstoppable rhythms of night and day.

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The trees that I meet every day on my walks are wildly in bloom, despite the stillness around- or perhaps because of it. The heavy white, pink, and maroon flowers press the branches towards the heads of the few people still daring to walk the streets, weaving extravagant choreographies around each other to avoid proximity. It’s a hard dance to fathom, dizzy as we all are, intoxicated by the oxygen feedback inside the protective masks that we wear.

I look inside a drain by the sidewalk, and it is full of fallen petals, glowing magnificently in the dappled sunlight.

I have silenced all the clocks in the house, removing the batteries from the digital alarm clock in the bedroom, and stilling the mechanisms of all the others, as I used to do when I was a child, just before going to bed at my grandparent’s home, where I would walk through the corridor meticulously visiting every single one of the many timekeepers dotted around the house, like a little, sudden death.

As for the light, I remain caught in its cycles, recurring and unbreakable, but the thought of hiding behind drawn curtains is worse even than the inescapable repetition of the days.

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How long can this last?

A few days ago I walked down a quiet side street, and I watched the moon grow bigger and brighter from where I stood, surrounded by the tall bodies of the council blocks that leaned onto each other, brick on brick, tired and silent. I tried hard, but I couldn’t imagine an end to this, not even an apocalyptic one. The moon never grew too close. Only big enough to startle.

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Death came to visit. The local cobbler was taken, together with his old father.

I have known Ahmet for the better part of the last two decades, he was a kind and funny man, who mended many of my shoes throughout the years, a loyal accomplice, his soles accompanying my relentless onward journeys through the city on foot.

His shop was a refuge for all the neighbourhood’s drifters and the lonely, who would stop by for some company, for a tenner, or a smile. An unkind irony for him to have to go so soon, and so unmercifully alone.

When I walked to his shop down the road to leave a tribute, I found a makeshift shrine had appeared- hand-written post-it notes stuck to the window, fresh flowers in cut plastic bottles, cards and notes huddled together in a proximity that after only a few weeks already feels like a dream. I looked through the window into the workshop: everything sat still but alive, an exact impression of Ahmet’s last day at work, minus his blackened palms and his blue overalls.

A monumental absence awaiting to be replanted with new seed- Ahmet’s son- once these strange days are through, and the brutal, solitary mourning is done.

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I’ve been thinking of how this city is going to mark the newly reaped absence.

How will it deal with the empty spaces left?

How will it accommodate the new distance between people?

How will it teach them to grow close again, when that time comes?

Will it be possible to come together again once we have braved the unfathomable terror of dying alone?

Everything will change, and yet, as always, the city will carry its dead in its groin, in its bowels, it will grind them back to earth, together, and from them it will build again, as it always does.

That is its compassion and its cure, that is its spirit and vision, benign and malevolent at once.

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The day before the lockdown began, I went for a walk into central London.

I walked from Stoke Newington down empty sidewalks, past Angel, through a silent Bloomsbury and into Soho, walking down the middle of a completely deserted Old Compton Street, where the lights of the theatre shone in the afternoon sun, a beacon for ghosts.

I crossed a silent Piccadilly Circus and walked on to Leicester Square, where the pigeons, bathing gladly in the shimmering waters of the fountain, by far outnumbered the people.

The only impression of movement were the immobile statues of Mary Poppins with a drawn umbrella, poised to take flight, and Shakespeare, sitting on top of the fountain, reminding us that there is no darkness but ignorance.

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I reached Trafalgar Square: a lone DJ had set up his equipment on a small foldable table under the entrance to the National Gallery, and was playing his loud set for the emptiness unravelling over the white marble esplanade before him, for the stone lions and the sporadic adventurers moving through the dense silence like cosmonauts or deep sea divers, trying to capture the strangeness of the moment with their telescopic lenses. Sunlight poured over everything with a brightness that almost erased it, sealing the images in space, as though that eerie moment could only ever exist as a fleeting impression in the eye. I moved on towards Covent Garden, where nothing stirred. A woman sat at the information cart, wearing a protective mask and gloves, scanning the emptiness for someone who might need some help, some direction through this new wilderness.

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I crossed to the other side of the market, and I found a lonely busker, playing his guitar and singing to a homeless man as he laid his cardboard sheets over the threshold of one of the many shuttered shops, settling down for the night at the height of the afternoon.

As I made my way back north I saw other homeless men settling down for the night while the sun still shone over the empty, eerie city, over its static shape, a monstrous engine ground to a halt. The seams begin to show.

Skim the fat from the surface and the waters become clear. You can see all the small lives crowding at the bottom, where the bottom is now the surface, and all hierarchies of space and time are dissolved.

All bodies grow powerful, visible again in their undeniable presence- in want, in need, or in fugue. In defiance too- after all staying at home implies having a home to shelter in.

The city flickers in and out of existence in this strange new slumber, cackling like a radio slipping in and out of signal. I remember that the river is somewhere beyond the pale, phantasmic buildings that now stand before me like a hand-drawn theatre backdrop. I reach with my finger and tear through one of them, just a small hole through which I can look to the other side. But there is nothing there, only bright white light past this paper frontier. The dripping inside a pipe hanging from the side of a building reaches me loud and clear, like an amplified signal from another dimension.

I hear metal roll across the pavement- coins? screws? bottle caps?

I hear my footfall, and broken glass crackle underfoot- the sound of this great pause.

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The waters of the ponds in the park collect me every day. Different species of ducks flicker like fires over the water, diving after beams of light, courting or fighting, populating the air with calls and song. Birds and trees stir, and the liveness of everything fills me up despite my anxiety and exhaustion, like an empty bottle replenished at a cool fountain. With time, I watch the surface settle, from endless ripples into perfect stillness, mending me in the process.

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Then suddenly dusk returns, and night, and another day comes to an end.

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Nights are unearthly these days, silent like the ones I remember from my childhood in the South of Italy, bejewelled with stars. I am louder than the night, alert- I can hear my breathing, I can hear my foot stirring in my slipper.

Tomorrow I will awake from a night of broken sleep and fragmented dreams, and everything will be strangely the same.

But then maybe the rain will come and freshen up the air, tease the smells out of the sleeping grass, and I will be able to travel farther than today.

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On the first day of the lockdown I found a £10 note on the floor, outside the bakery, shuttered like most of the other shops on the street.

It was flapping calmly in a pool of sunlight, going nowhere. There was nobody around, and I wondered whether it might have fallen from the sky, divine providence delivering an omen to me, knowing that the thrill of it would have to last me through the drought of the lockdown.

I miss that the most- the chance collisions that the city provokes, the intoxicating alchemy of different stories rubbing against one another, inexplicable juxtapositions that illuminate my days, humble miracles, tender sidewalk transcendence, the kind that works if you’re keeping one eye shut, welcoming the hand showing through the seams.

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I’ve always liked the Wizard of OZ behind his curtain, little man keeping the phantasmagoria moving along while we all find the time to remember how complete and divine we already are.

This city is OZ, a prism of refracted light, a palace of smoke and mirrors, a fairground ride in which you either laugh or scream in terror.

Right now I am sitting on my bed as my house is lifted into the eye of the tornado. Outside the window everyone hurtles by, squirrels, bicycles and people flying about- six feet apart from one another- as though they too were refracted images from another dream. I am barefoot, no red slippers yet and no way back home- the borders of most countries remain closed, and the only flights permitted are those of the imagination.

But I know that when my house lands on the wicked witch, killing her, I will wear her charmed shoes, and there will be a yellow brick road to follow with a company of friends, most of them broken, startled, tired from the last few months alone. We won’t know the way at first, but we will be able to remember how to sing and dance our way through our fear and loneliness together again, and that will be half the journey done.

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RAFT on RESONANCE 104.4 fm Episode 19

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Tune into Resonance 104.4fm on Tuesday 21st of April at 5pm for episode 19 of Raft!

We are living through strange times.

Nothing is as we knew it, although sometimes we may feel like nothing has changed.

This month, in lieu of a monthly walk and conversation, I present to you a cabin (fever) diary, a chronicle of a strange voyage through this first month of lockdown in London.

“Dispatches From A New World” written and performed by Chiara Ambrosio, featuring a soundscape by Chiara Ambrosio and Bird Radio.

“Dust Drifted Road”, composed and performed by Nighthaunts, from their forthcoming new album Dust Drifted Road.

RAFT on RESONANCE 104.4 fm Episode 18

Horse HospitalTune into Resonance 104.4fm on Tuesday 17th of March at 5pm for episode 18 of Raft!

Credits for this month’s episode:

We dedicate this month’s episode to The Horse Hospital, currently battling against an unreasonable 444% rent increase. We revisit a live RAFT Salon that took place there a few years back, featuring, in order of appearence:

Gareth Evans

“No Encryption Dictates Encryption” composed by James Hesford

A poem by Jazzman John

“Deptfordia” by John Bently

A live London improvisation by Jo Roberts

Roger Burton

An excerpt from George Kuchar’s “A Reason To Live”

As the end of the lease looms near, this could be The Horse Hospital’s last month in its mythical abode in Bloomsbury, but hope is not lost and the battle continues!

To find out how you can help please visit this link.

 

 

RAFT on RESONANCE 104.4 fm Episode 17

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Tune into Resonance 104.4fm on Tuesday 18th of February at 5pm for episode 17 of Raft!

Credits for this month’s episode:

“Departure” written and narrated by Chiara Ambrosio.

A conversation with artists Helena Hunter and Mark Peter Wright on their collaborative practice Matterlurgy.

Track 1: audio excerpt from Matterlurgy’s VR project “Air
Morphologies”. developed as part of a residency at Delfina Foundation,
2019 http://www.delfinafoundation.com/platform/delfina-presents-matterlurgy/

Track 2: audio excerpt from Matterlurgy’s project “Flom Sang”, a
commission for the Dalane Kulturfestival, 2019 https://www.matterlurgy.net/flom-sang