Mountains Underwater: Eilean nan Ròn

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cotton curtains, wood, stones, sheep fleece, plaster, sea salt, foliage, 4-channel sound composition

A remote island off the north coast of Sutherland can tell us something about the future. The last people left Eilean nan Ròn on a winter night in 1938, leaving only a flock of sheep behind to roam the island. Today, the sheep wander freely, but the structures created by the people – stone cottages, the schoolhouse and the harbour jetty – have quickly crumbled, the island returning to its natural state as a green rock rising above the sea. It’s a place where a community thrived without taking too much from the land and their daily living maintained a balance with the surrounding nature. As we face a global environmental crisis, we consider the importance of living with the land on its terms, rather than over-developing and over-industrialising our natural world.

On a research trip in the summer of 2017, Mara Marxt Lewis and Tyler Lewis made the crossing from Skerray and stayed two days on Eilean nan Ròn, collecting audio recordings, exploring its landscape, and letting the island (as well as its sheep) speak to them. The installation features organic materials relevant to the geological and biological layers of the island, as well as a multi-channel sound composition that guides listeners through a rich sonic experience of a remote island.

Special thanks to Morven Coghill, Sally Crowe, Aaron Cook, and Alex Baldele for their assistance in bringing everything together for this work!

For the full-length soundscape composition in stereo, listen here:

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