…ψάμμος ἀριθμὸν περιπέφευγεν… — Πίνδαρου Ολυμπιόνικος ΙΙ, 98.
“…the sand escapes all numbering…” — Pindar, Second Olympian Ode, line 98.
Some of the most beautiful patterns in nature arise from the interaction of three very simple things: sand and water, sand and air. Sculptrix Sabulorum, a side-project of the Exeter band Slow Exploding Gulls, are an attempt to do with sound what nature does with sand: turn simple ingredients into beautiful patterns. Here are extracts from an interview and review in the Plymouth fanzine EarHax:
Hector Anderton: OK. The obvious first. Sculptrix Sabulorum. What does it mean and why did you choose it?
Joe Corvin: It’s Latin and literally means “Sculptress of the Sands”. We chose it, well, because we thought it looked and sounded good. Good but mysterious.
Hector Anderton: And who is the sculptress? The sea?
Joe Corvin: Well, the sculptress is Mother Nature, in the fullest sense, but she uses the sea. The wind. Gravity. Simple things, but put them together with sand and interesting things happen.
Cath Orne: Which we wanted to explore, but we didn’t think S.E.G. [Slow Exploding Gulls] was the way to explore them.
Hector Anderton: But hadn’t you done that in Silica?
Joe Corvin: We’d started to, but Silica hadn’t exhausted the theme. Of sand, I mean. It’s something I’d always been interested in, but with S.E.G. we tend to go with the organic side of the sea, with sea life.
Hector Anderton: Whereas sand is inorganic?
Joe Corvin: Exactly. Silica was a bit of a departure for us, in that respect. It was as though we were walking down a corridor and we opened a door in passing and thought, yeah, that room looks interesting.
Cath Orne: So we’ll come back and have a proper look later.
Joe Corvin: Yeah. Under a new name. Which we’ve done. Hence, Sculptrix Sabulorum.
Extract © EarHax (1992)
Macca to Madonna: “Listen to the music playing in your head.” In fact, we never do anything else. We don’t experience the world: we experience a sensory simulacrum of the world. Light or sound-waves or chemicals floating in the air stimulate the nerves in our eyes or ears or nose and the brain turns the resultant stream of electrical pulses into sight or sound or smell.
But it does more than that: it covers up the cracks. Raw nerve-stuff is not smooth and polished sensation. We have blind-spots, but the brain edits them out. Only a small part of our visual field is actually in clear focus, but we think otherwise. If we could see raw nerve-stuff, it would be a blurry, fuzzy mess.
The same is true of hearing. And Skulsonik is an attempt to record raw nerve-stuff: to capture not sound out there, but sound in here – the music playing in your head. Sculptrix Sabulorum have set out to answer a simple question: “What does music really sound like?” Or rather: what does music cerebrally sound like? What does it sound like in your head?
Extract © EarHax (1995)
• Mental Marine Music – Slow Exploding Gulls