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Sunderland Repository records the research produced by the University of Sunderland including practice-based research and theses.

Singing the World

Collier, Mike (2017) Singing the World. In: Making Beyond Words – Intersections Between Text, Image, Display: Celebrating 50 Years of Concrete Poetry, 16-17 Jun 2017, Corsham Court: bath Spa University. (Unpublished)

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Lecture)


Linguistic meaning for Merleau-Ponty is rooted in the felt experience induced by specific sounds and sound-shapes as they echo and contrast with one another, each language a kind of song, a particular way of “singing the world”. David Abrams ‘The spell of the sensuous’

Words are like other creatures – they have inscapes beautiful in themselves

Gerard Manley Hopkins

In this short presentation about my work, I will examine the relationship between the meaning of linguistic and artistic expressions of the natural world.

I will discuss an eclectic series of works that have influenced my art, including The Lindisfarne Gospels; the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins and the work of contemporary artists such as Ian Hamilton Finlay and Alec Finlay.

Much of my own artwork draws its inspiration from the simple act of walking through the world. It creatively explores the relationship between culture and nature through a detailed ecological study of local environments and our embodied engagement with landscape.

The historical layering of landscape is often tied to an understanding of language ‘spoken’ through the names of places, flora and fauna. Many of these names have local, colloquial, derivations that refer back to our senses (sight, sound, taste, touch and smell).

A number of my earlier pieces were based on a study of bird names which present an ‘unpredictable and haphazard richness’ with names drawn from the very roots of our language. (British Birds: Their Folklore, Names and Literature by Francesca Geenoak).

More recent work explores the relationship between the sounds of the world and a visual/textual presentation of these sounds. For example The Song of the Curlew, created following a four-day walk across the Durham Uplands or The Birkdale Nightingale. This is actually a colloquial name for the Natterjack Toad, a rare creature found along the Sefton Coast and the nosiest amphibian in Europe. Its loud mating call has brought it two local nicknames: the Birkdale Nightingale and the Bootle Organ. Another work (displayed for the conference) is called simply Sixteen Birdsongs of the Durham Uplands.

In the final part of this presentation, I will talk about a new body of work in which I am creating a series of layered neumes graphically ‘representing’ the sounds of a dawn chorus in Northumberland. Neumes suggest, to me, a more embodied form of musical or sound notation. ‘Dating from early medieval times, the ‘earliest neumes were inflective marks which indicated the general shape but not necessarily the exact notes or rhythms to be sung. Later developments included the use of heightened neumes which showed the relative pitches between neumes, and the creation of a four-line musical staff that identified particular pitches.’ (; see also Sung Birds: Music, Nature, and Poetry in the Later Middle Ages by Elizabeth Leach)

[img] Other (Presentation for the conference)

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Depositing User: Mike Collier


Item ID: 9423
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Catalogue record

Date Deposited: 16 May 2018 14:59
Last Modified: 18 Dec 2019 16:06


Author: Mike Collier

University Divisions

Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries
Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries > School of Art and Design


Fine Art > Art in Context
Fine Art

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