art sounds

woodpecker & rugby floodlights

In the woods between my house and the park, there is a place under a tree and an overhanging branch covered with ivy, I think of it as a small chamber of listening, because it feels like sounds are brought into the enclosed circle of air, amplified and clarified.

One day quite recently, I am on a path walking towards this place, and a woodpecker is flying ahead of me, drumming at hollow trees, and then flicking on ahead as I come near. I follow him. As I reach the chamber of listening, the woodpecker has landed on the high metal floodlights of the rugby pitch. Having brought me there, he starts to drum on the top of the lights, creating a rhythm that fills the whole park. His creativity and his ability to adapt the shape and materials of the park to his purposes fill me with wonder. It is like this, through my ears, that I come to understand feelingly that there are many artists out in the woods on this morning.

I am sharing this story and the recording that I made, in case like me you are in awe, and in case you are interested in creativity and art – where it comes from, what it is like. The philosopher Elizabeth Grosz has given me tools for understanding what is happening in me, in the valley, in the birds, in art:

“Art is of the animal. It comes, not from reason, recognition, intelligence, not from a uniquely human sensibility, or from any of man’s higher accomplishments, but from something excessive, unpredictable, lowly… Art comes from the excess, in the world, in objects, in living things, that enables them to be more than they are, to give more than themselves, their material properties and qualities, their possible uses, than is self-evident. Art is the consequence of that excess, that energy or force, that puts life at risk for the sake of intensification, for the sake of sensation itself … for what can be magnified, intensified, for what is more, through which creation, risk, innovation are undertaken for their own sake, for how and what they may intensify.”

Chaos, Territory, Art p.63

2 replies on “woodpecker & rugby floodlights”

Hi Mindy, so good to hear from you. I’m putting together pieces of my writing into a book. Much of all of this process had seeds planted within those few hours we did – in your writing workshop at the end of 2020 🙏🏼


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