Sounding grief: the Severn Estuary as an emotional soundscape

Jones, O and Fairclough, L (2016) 'Sounding grief: the Severn Estuary as an emotional soundscape.' Emotion, Space and Society, 20. pp. 98-110. ISSN 1755-4586

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This paper explores sound infused creative responses to grief and related emotions of loss and landscape in the context of the tidal Severn Estuary (UK) and its particular sonic qualities. We draw principally on the practice of artist Louisa Fairclough, linking to wider discussions of emotion, sound and the body, in shared autotopological explorations of self and family in landscape. Like other estuaries, the Severn Estuary is a deeply rich (in socio-ecological terms) landscape which includes the tidal liminalities of the lower reaches of the Severn river, the mid estuary, and the lower areas which merge into open sea. The whole estuary, in geomorphological, ecological, and related social terms, is particularly dynamic as it has the second highest tidal range in the world. This means that vast volumes of brackish water wash up and down the estuary in a series of rhythmic cycles which play across and between day, month and season, mixing physical spaces and processes (e.g. land-sea; salt-fresh water). This ceaseless ebb and flow brings marked spatial, visual and aural richness to the estuary and places along its shores. This includes the Severn bore which, when at maximum height, is a powerful tidal wave washing up the upper estuary and tidal river with a loud sonic richness. Owain Jones (geographer) has previously written on this landscape and its memorial emotional qualities in relation to his family history and challenged geographical self. Louisa Fairclough (artist) has re-turned to it as performative art practice, to sleep by the River Severn, and produces a series of works consisting of field recordings, drawings and a series of installations of expanded films. These use river sounds and vocal recordings to interact with the tidal landscape and its margins in creative expressions of grief. This paper sets out these works, their background, shared responses to the estuary, and explores in particular the sonic registers of the landscape which, for us, listen, and speak to, loss and trauma.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: sound; emotion; loss; grief; landscape; Louisa Fairclough (artist)
Divisions: School of Sciences
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Date Deposited: 14 Dec 2016 10:11
Last Modified: 15 Aug 2021 09:44
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