Mark Peter Wright: A Quiet Reverie
Own Private Press

A Quiet Reverie is a combination CD-book project by Mark Peter Wright that pairs an eighteen-minute audio piece with a booklet containing photographs, quoted passages, and the author's musings on silence, architecture, and nature; the book's subtitle more succinctly characterizes it as an “audio exploration of site, solitude, and perception.” Wright, a sound artist specializing in field recording and phonography who cites Peter Cusack, David Toop, Francisco Lopez, and Chris Watson as mentors and influences, describes his site- and listener-centered approach as “site auscultation” or “psycho phonography.” Through his work, Wright aims to engage the listener in intimate and sonorous dialogue.

Through a symbiotic combination of texts, photography, and field recordings, this particular project navigates the sonic spaces of the ruined abbeys of North East England as well as the woodlands and rivers of the surrounding area. It also was presented at the IMT Gallery in London, England where the visitor could view the photographic images and listen on headphones to the audio portion while reading through the booklet. Reflections on mortality, silence, solitude, and time naturally emerge as one reads the text and studies the images of architectural ruins and notes the absence of any human presence; scattered throughout the book are quotes from Annie Dillard, Ted Hughes, R. Murray Schafer, Rilke, and Derrida, among others, all of which lend the work poetic force, and Wright's own writing is often provocative (e.g., “Todays [sic] silence is all too often associated with death. Commemorative silence given to tragic events in history underpin [sic] our fear and anxiety that surround silence and its meaning,” from “In Search of Silence,” p. 15).

There's no question the audio portion is transporting: with each of the soundscape's five “suites” flowing into the next, it's easy to imagine oneself exploring the architectural structures and walking through the forests. In “Stone,” we hear softly howling winds rumbling and rustling through the reverberant tunnels and open spaces of the abbeys; in “Water,” bird chirps and river flow; “Wings”: the sharp caw of birds; and in “Blood,” rippling crackle and pops, suggestive perhaps of amplified blood flow. In the final section, “Mouth,” the preceding sections briefly re-appear with the soft chanting of monks an anchoring presence.

A Quiet Reverie is an admirable and commendable work though I wish the audio portion were longer than eighteen minutes, and that an editor had done a more thorough proofread of the book's text before printing (punctuation and grammatical missteps of the sort indicated above occur regularly). Nevertheless, the project impresses as inspired, and hopefully the book-CD combination will serve as a model for future installments of similarly encompassing scope by Wright and/or others. As a vehicle, the form has great potential.

May 2009