Chris Watson, known for his work with Cabaret Voltaire and The Hafler Trio, has also had a very successful career as a field recording artist. With The Sounds of Lindisfarne and the Gospels Watson created a sound installation that attempted to recall the sound of the remote UK island of Lindisfarne – situated on the northwest coast of England, almost up towards Scotland, and also known as "Holy Island" – as it would have sounded around the time of the writing of the Lindisfarne Gospels.
The Gospels is an important text that is held in the collection of the British museum. An illuminated manuscript, and one of the finest examples of its kind, it is believe that the Gospels was written by the monk Eadfrith somewhere in the vicinity of the year 700. Given that was over thirteen hundred years ago, details are a bit hazy.
The installation was created in conjunction with the celebration of the exhibition of the Gospels at Durham University. In St Cuthbert's Time – thankfully ported to album format by the fine folks at Touch Records – is a beautiful, immersive recording that transports the listener to Lindisfarne and then takes one on a journey through each of the four seasons. Titled in some form of Old English – Winter; Lechten; Sumor; and Haefest – each segment is approximately in the 15-minute range.
Being an island where resided not much more than a monastery, the album is rife with the sounds of nature and solitude: bird calls, wind, and water abound. The animals audible throughout the recording include: geese; ducks; swabs; skylarks; plovers; snipe; eider duck; linnet; cuckoo; insects; cattle; terns; yellowhammer; deer stags; grey seals. Bones of the great auk were found on Lindisfarne, but seeing as no recording of the extinct bird exist, they obviously did not make it onto this recording! In addition to the nature and wildlife sounds, the monks make their presence felt in the form of iron bells sounding out a gentle call to prayer.
This album itself, functions as a sort of call to prayer – being a deeply serene and rejuvenating experience from end to end. Watson has created a masterful journey back to medieval times as heard through the ears of a monk on Lindisfarne. A wonderful album for fans of audio art and nature recordings.