Syria Sound of Memory – Review
by Hugh Maguire
“A 14 minute auditory experience that immerses you in a joyful day in Homs”
by Terra Nova Productions
As death beckons and other senses fail it is sound that lingers, that is why we might speak soft words to the dying man. How many who are bereaved would love to hear the sound of a loved one’s voice and how quickly we recognise the voice over a cacophony of other days sounds. Syria – Sound of Memory is just such a voice – a soundscape taking us back to somewhere we love, something and someone perhaps who is distant.
Like a contemporary take on Wordsworth’s poetry, that sense of emotion recollected in tranquillity, so too this piece is a recollection, if not in tranquillity, then certainly at a far remove culturally and geographically. No stranger to religious and cultural tensions this project was facilitated by the Arts Office of Ards and North Down Borough Council. Sensitively and with empathy the project engaged with the many Syrian families in the area who find themselves transplanted to Northern Ireland as a consequence of the disastrous wars in their homeland.
Composer Nick Boyle in collaboration with the Athens-based sound artist Jeph Vanger recreate a soundscape redolent of the greatest celebratory day in the Islamic calendar, Eid, marking the end of the month-long fasting of Ramadan. In an all-too-brief piece we are taken into an immersive soundscape – sounds have been created to be best heard with good headphones as they come from all directions. We are transported to the joyful memories of the gardens of the famous Khalid ibn al-Walid Mosque in Homs, that great Ottoman-era mosque housing the much earlier mausoleum of the military commander and leader after whom it is named. The sounds are a window into Syrian life; we are in the gardens of the mosque with families from diverse traditions mixing openly and warmly. We hear the sounds of food being prepared and children being photographed in their finest new clothes. This is the ‘best day’, the joy of going to the gardens and we must presume, although it is not stated overtly, to see and be seen. This is a place of joyousness rather than tension, a place of happiness rather than fear. It is all too fleeting but like the best memories it is those joyful moments we remember best, in a short burst of dreams and in our conversations with friends.
Like a song on the radio evoking deeper memories of long lost relationships and friendships this piece transports us. At a remove in London, William Butler Yeats allowed himself to be transported to where he wanted to be with the sounds of lake water lapping at The Lake Isle of Innisfree. Like some modern days poetic exiles, this piece allows us to be transported to where many would like to be as they celebrate Eid.