Archival Work in Arctic Auditories

One aspect of our project involves exploring archives, and my colleagues will be looking at historical and meteorological sources to achieve this. Another aspect relates to the languages that address the Arctic and others will be adapting a glossary for this and creating an Online Writers League (OWL) and other collaborators will turn to this work in the near future. What I’ve been doing falls, in a sense, between those two dimensions: I’m listening to circumpolar northern literature – mainly, but not exclusively, European materials – to find how the acoustic atmospheres of the arctic regions are heard in different writings. I’ve been listening to novels, memoirs, artist catalogues, theoretical texts, trying to keep an ear open for recurring themes. I’ve also strayed a little and watched films, gone to exhibitions, and I have a number of soundworks that I’m looking forward to engaging with.

(The idea of hearing literature was something I attempted in an earlier project in Okinawa, where I listened to war diaries by civilians, Japanese and American soldiers to get a sense of the sounds of a conflict which, for all its utter brutality, did not leave many recordings).

As a work in progress, very much an accumulation of first impressions – so don’t @ me with typos – I’ve been keeping a blog of what I’m learning from my literary listening. Next week I’ll share more about what I’ve been reading and will invite you to suggest new works for me to discover but for now if you want to have a browse, my literary listening notebook is here.

A photograph of grey plywood shelves with untidily arranged books, a CD and a vinyl record. A crystal and some sheep wool are also on the shelf.