Green Knowledge: Alchemical Landscape at the ASLE

The shadow on the screen: Yvonne Salmon at ASLE
We were delighted to be invited to give a panel at this year's ASLE conference at Murray Edwards College in Cambridge. The theme of the conference was 'Green Knowledge'. Full details of the event, an archive of its speakers and more information about the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment can be found here.

The Alchemical Landscape panel involved presentations by Phil Legard and the project director Yvonne Salmon. The session was chaired by James Riley. Please see below for the paper titles and abstracts. Many thanks to Dr. Jenny Bavidge for the invitation.


The Alchemical Landscape

A panel and discussion session covering the work of the recently launched research project: The Alchemical Landscape.

Yvonne Salmon (University of Cambridge, Project Director)

The Alchemical Landscape

An increasing number of writers, artists, musicians and film-makers are re-investing the landscape with esoteric and mythic imagery. From the revival of ‘Folk Horror’ to the cross-over between magical and artistic practice, this ‘enchanted’ representation of the rural works as both a link to the past and an articulation of pressing contemporary concerns. This paper will briefly map the creative, aesthetic and political implications of this ‘geographic turn’.

Phil Legard, (Leeds Beckett University)

The Bright Sound Behind the Sound: Real-World Music, Symbolic Discourse and the Foregrounding of Imagination

This paper responds to a recent article by American sound artist Kim Cascone in which he asserts that the recent trend for the presentation of environmental recordings as ‘sonic art’ is crucially lacking in some form of ‘soul’ or vitality. Cascone suggests that it is the responsibility of an artist working with real-world sounds to enter a more imaginative engagement that precedents within the field (and within the wider field of sonic arts in general) have historically presented. The paper briefly explores historical impulse to deprecate the importance of imagination, along with the imaginative implications of discourse around what Norman calls ‘real-world music’. From here, we explore the relationship between imagination and sound in two pieces of sonic art and argue that one response to Cascone’s call for an imaginative turn can be found within the idea of the symbol as codified in Romantic and ‘traditional’ poetic discourse (after Kathleen Raine). The paper explores the way in which a cultivation of an ‘imaginative perception’ can be used to define, reveal or elucidate such symbols in a compositional context and relates the creative and interpretive use of ‘sound-symbols’ to both Voss’ methodology of the imagination (2009) and Thomas’ multidimensional spectrum of imagination (2014).