SOLIS : A Sonic Solstice Ritual for Winter Witches & Third Speaker in the Locus Tempus (1979)

by Hermione Harvestman

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SOLIS : A Sonic Solstice Ritual for Winter Witches & Third Speaker in the Locus Tempus. (1979)

The witches in question were members of the Dunholme Coven, established in Durham in 1939 in response to the outbreak of World War 2. Still operating some 40 years later with most of their original members under the guidance of their formidable High Priestess Miss Portia Crook (1925-2006) they asked if I could provide a suitable soundtrack for for their 1979 Winter Solstice ritual due to take place at an undisclosed woodland location an hour before sunrise on Friday December the 21st. They told me the sort of thing they wanted - '...an hour of sonic fragrances, rhythms and textures appropriate to the festive solemnity of the occasion...' - asking if I might supply same on musicassette so they could play it over speakers at the appointed hour.

Baulking at the idea of them using a recording - much less on musicassette - I suggested that it might be more fitting if I performed the music live, explaining my general approach to music improvisation as being real-time spontaneity arising from a vivid sense of time and place ('Locus Tempus') as allowed by the various means at my disposal - tape delays, loops and sequencers - and that such an approach was essentially ritualistic in acknowledgement of organic and cosmical process where nothing ever happens the same way twice.

I also mentioned the sound system that my friend Bunce had introduced me to, which involved the addition of a 'Third Speaker' to the normal stereo system, running the tertiary unit off the positive terminals of the left and right respectively to create a highly effective surround sound. Bunce had built a moderately sized PA based on the idea and this seemed like the ideal opportunity to try it out, even if it meant locating the speakers in the trees. spaced out around the clearing where the ritual was to take place. Needless to say he rose to the challenge, engineering the overall sound with as much subtlety as his numb fingers could manage especially given the distractions on offer from the fire-clad* celebrants.

The results, which you have here, are a bit hit and miss, but entirely passable in the overall sense of my archive which is pure document rather than product per se. Pieces of this nature are imbued with an occult level of the Locus Tempus - performed outside in the freezing dawn of a late December morning, responding as much to the antics of the ladies of the Coven as they were to me, in a dialogue of happy happenstance which endures in heart, soul and the vagaries of recording media, corporeal or otherwise, analogue and digital, whereby it assumes another level of mystery entirely.

Hermione Harvestman

* Whilst I respected and admired their resilience in this respect, at 49 I considered myself too old to join them. Although the youngest by some years, my role was out of necessity a sedentary one, though I did join in a bit towards the end, happily casting my clouts as we danced around a blazing fire in the light of Solis reborn in glad resplendence over the spires of the distant city leaving Bunce to manipulate the various elements of the music as looked on in wry amusement at the proceedings.

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released December 21, 2016

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Hermione Harvestman UK

'I feel like Wainwright - we are both hermetic ramblers. He made his books for when he was no longer capable of rambling his beloved fells, and I made my music for when I'm no longer able to ramble the by-ways of Albion - but only to listen, and think "Was that really me? That solitary figure who stood in a landscape dreaming of ages past in dread fear of the future."

Hermione Harvestman
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