I started to collect over the year, things that felt relevant for each month. Traditions, stories, images, poems. I did this quite unconsciously in fits and bursts. In a kind of frustrated grab at trying to make something of the year, or get my head around the passing of the seasons without the usual marking points. I wanted to explore how folk culture and practices influence me even when I am not singing. Its an almanac with space for you to observe your own traditions, rhythms and important dates. I wanted to put it in a filofax but it was too expensive.
This time last year I was preparing a performance piece for Counterflows based on studies I had made of archival material held in the School Scottish Studies. Lockdown came into place just before the festival, and I was left with a kind of unfinished unperformed idea. I was in that weird limbo state of the first lockdown, shielding and living on my own. So singing felt pointless really, I was very much alone. One night I was in the bath listening to a discussion with Anna Roberts-Gevalt (An American contemporary folk singer and sound artist) and she was talking about using singers as vessels for the archive. The song is found, processed, and embodied. I liked this idea of embodiment, I could relate to that. The process is complete when the song lives within the body and can be summoned at any moment.
But it’s so quiet and there is less space for the embodied song to be shared. With no opportunity to share the muscle memory of a song with people, I started to think about them in a different way. The singing is a way that I express quite a specific part of my sense of identity, so I wondered how it would feel to not have the opportunity to express that. But what I found is that it came out in other ways. I saw how the rhythm of my year supports how I make work. This year things are different, but the rhythm was still there in other aspects of my own cultural tradition. Gathering and weaving willow, watching the trees change, the garden, in food, working with the horse and her seasonal rhythms. These skills are also ones which are learnt by the body- not just theory or ideas- and root you in a place. This really brought home to me the importance of the cultural context of the songs. And a sense that as artifacts, the songs themselves are not the only aspects of culture worth savouring.