Sudden Little Drops has been recently resurrected so I could talk about music! Check out the new Albums of 2011 post below, and hopefully there will be more new content coming soon.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

The Barn

He had rented the barn from a friend of a friend, a farmer who owned six acres of land out in the heart of the country. The arrangements had been made: he could live for the summer in the barn on the outskirts of the farm and would have to be out by the time of the harvest. They had hauled an old mattress up from the farmhouse for him, dragged it to the dead centre of the barn, where it was driest. The farmer had provided him with a small stove to cook on and enough gasoline to last him until the end of the summer.
The barn was a simple timber construction, built to fulfil a function. It was empty except for the mattress and a ladder resting in the corner. The floors were matted with years of hay and dark dry mud. Failures in the beams revealed the odd patch of sky, though the tin roof was sufficient to keep out the most of the rain. The wood was old and it creaked in the wind.

As well as the mattress and the gasoline, he had asked the farmer to load up the truck with reels of old tape. On his first day, he used the ladder in the barn to set up four reel to reel tape recorders in each of the four corners of the barn, resting high up on the wooden beams. For all the time he was there he kept them recording; noises of birds, rats scurrying along the beams, rain rattling on the tin roof. Each documented the summer from its own angle, reacting to the sounds as they echoed through the barn, emphasising those closest to them, offering their own perspective on the weeks that passed. Together they covered the whole space.

The man slept and ate and lived in the barn with the tapes recording for the whole summer. He took only the occasional walk and never strayed far from the barn. Some mornings, the farmer who owned the barn would bring up a few fresh items, milk, bread, sometimes cheese, and they would chat for a little while. He would ask after the farm and the farmer would tell him stories of the crops and the livestock. The farmer never mentioned the tape recorders, or how the gas canisters never seemed to deplete, or how the stove seemed unused.

Other than the farmer he saw no-one. As the summer stretched on, he tried to live as simply as he could in the space that the barn created. He rarely spoke aloud; he sat for hours just listening, absorbed in the very quiet noises around him. He was aware of his own presence in the barn altering the space. At times he exploited this, clapping his hands or tapping on the beams to see how the space reacted. But for the most part he listened passively, attentively, taking in the exact timbres, the depths and nuances in what he could hear. He felt most deeply content when he could hear no sound at all, when he could sit perfectly still on his mattress in the dead centre of the barn and hear nothing but silence, when the rain had stopped and the rats were sleeping and the birds had flown away, and there was nothing but the deep, empty, aching silence around him. He knew in his heart that the tapes recording from the corners would never be listened to, that at the end of the summer he would pile them up on the mattress and soak them in gasoline, that he would drop a match into the pile and fall back onto the tapes as they erupted in flames, that the silence on the tapes would burn and the barn would burn and he would burn with them, that the walls would fall down and the space inside would be opened up to the air and the space would no longer exist and the silence would no longer exist and the tapes would no longer exist. But as he sat in the silence it was nonetheless a comfort to know they were there, recording every moment, waiting.

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