Memories from Home No 6: Music
Welcome to my 6th blog on Memories from the Home: I’m (Blog No 5) continuing the theme of sounds in the home; this time Music evoking memory and supporting connections to deceased loved ones.
Action for happiness day May 2020 shared this picture recently and it seemed and appropriate time to share my thoughts about Music and its importance to me, within the context of memory, grief, connection and the family home.
Music has always been an important part of family fun and socialising. My Nan was a keen piano player, playing by ear, ‘on the bontempi‘ as Grandad would always say, as children we would always make up our own radio shows, put on plays, and singing performances for our Grandparents. My family are now in bands.
In organising my Grandparents home after they had died, at the time I didn’t have the storage for their vinyl collection, but knew I wanted to keep it. A lot of the vinyl was the likes of Bing Crosby, other readers digest collections of the time, plus other big band swing music such as ‘Are you listening’ by Harry Roy and His Orchestra -why not have a listen here.
Nan had a great love of big band music, and there was a lot of military bands in their collection, as well as other music that I don’t recognise. Those of you who own Vinyl records know, there is such a beauty in the tangibility of the whole process, taking the vinyl out of the sleeve, ensuring not to touch the surface of the vinyl to ruin it in some way, preparing to play. When I want to listen to them, the process, the action is potentially the same as if when my Grandparents were listening to them. I love the crackle of the vinyl, the little jumps every so often, the gentle whir of the turn table, the click of the resting arm. I don’t recall them listening to this specific album, but I now always have that tangible process to imagine them going through the same actions as me and listening together in their home, perhaps remembering dancing together when they were younger. Through music and the physicality of these objects I am making new meanings and continuing connections explored by such writers as Unruh and Riches & Dawson. The collection is now organised in my home, with those I’m more likely to listen to on display, and others safely stored away.
Do you have a music collection, gifted to you by your loved ones?
If you want to join me on my journey through my PhD research; my focus is expanding towards creativity and how we use creative expression as a way of navigating and exploring grief at home. You can always contact me, if you wish to be involved in my research.
Memories from Home No 5: Sounds of the Tick Tock
Welcome to my 5th blog on Memories from the Home: this time I’m connecting with sounds in the home.
Clocks are often a present sound in our homes, the grandness of them depending on the house and person. From our mobile phones which are often our music listening devices, as well as alarm clocks, and voice recorders, to Grandfather clocks, wall mountable or little carriage clocks on the mantlepiece. All clocks modern or traditional have identifiable and unique contributions to the sound of the home.
These ticking trinkets, just as the presence of photographs, give us markers in time (as noted by one of my favourite authors John Berger)and a continual reminder of the passing of time.
This wall mounted Abbey Quartz clock belonged to my Grandparents, hanging in their front room, near to the edge of the colour change in the wall paper, just above another symbol of time – that years calendar. This one chimed on the hour, I can’t recall if it had the sound of the ‘tick tock’ pendulum. Looking back on the photograph of it now, I can see (please look closer) that the circle on the pendulum still has the protective film of green on it to stop it getting scratched. It could have been forgotten to have been taken off when hung, or purposely kept on to keep it nice, something I think my Grandparents would have done.
Wall clocks and their ticking and chiming was always that traditional sound I associated most with visiting my Grandparents, they had them for as long as I remember. It prompted me to look through old family photographs of my Grandparents front room with the clock in. I came across this one:
The photo shows a previous clock, in the same spot, sometime in the early 90’s, not too far from the mirror that now sits within my home, and has been symbolic of many reflections throughout my research and in navigating my grief and understanding my continuing connections to my Grandparents. The clock symbolised the rituals when we used to visit them, the time we would arrive, the 12 o’clock chime for their lunch, the chiming for the time for us to catch the bus home. As a child it was something in the background, counting the chimes when they happened.
As I got older and when taking photographs of the clock, I have stopped it in a moment, like the newer clock left after the death of my Grandparents, as if time did stop at that moment, but equally painfully obvious knowing that it continued, but without them. The sound of the chiming became a symbol of living in and being aware of the moment and moments past.
It therefore wasn’t surprising to me the reaction of warmth, I felt when an MA research participant’s clock, that was originally her Fathers, struck during our interview. I became fixed on the sound of the mechanics, sitting peacefully with her listening to the knock of the mechanism, and subsequent chime. I’m glad we paused for a second to listen, appreciating that moment listening to the passing of time together, being captured by my I-phone, please do listen to that recording here. The participant said that her Father would have been happy that the clock and its sound was bringing joy to others in this way.
In Back to the Future III Doc Emmett Brown came back to the future to meet Marty and Jennifer after the DeLorean was destroyed, he said ‘Your future is whatever you make it‘ and how we mark time, moving into the future, and in remembering the past, is individual to each and everyone of us.
If you want to join me on my journey through my PhD research; my focus is expanding towards creativity and how we use creative expression as a way of navigating and exploring grief. You can always contact me, if you wish to be involved as a participant in my research.
Memories from Home No.1: Mirror
My Masters (and now expanding to PhD) focussed on everyday home objects and photographs that are kept after a bereavement in a family. I’m interested in what memories and stories, objects and photographs evoke, and why people choose to keep certain items around them in their homes.
I’d encourage others to share home photographs and objects in a similar vein that we have in our home now, that may relate to a loved one, or kept as a memento of a holiday for example. I’ll be sharing items from my home and archive and will include a little story about the associated meanings, memories and anecdotes I have, occasionally linking to readings that I’ve found useful, and you may too.
In the current global climate, many of us are working from and spending more time in our homes, and thinking this would be a good time for us to come together online as a community, sharing our memories, stories, objects and photographs from our homes. Connections to everyday objects and photographs that are important, valuable (not necessarily in a monetary way) as well as enriching our lives.
Those of you who have been following my blog and Masters journey, will be familiar with this mirror:
It belonged to my Grandparents, gifted to them as a Wedding present back in 1958. It has 12 sides, held by a short chain and circle, with clips attaching the mirror to the backing, something vintage now, definitely of the time, I’ve done some research into the manufacturer, most likely to be G-plan:
It was always a feature in my Grandparent’s home as long as I can remember, in the house they lived in from when I was young until I was 36. As kids we would dance and sing in front of it, put on Nan’s scarves and put makeup on in front of it.
I’ve been reading Brian Dillons ‘In the Dark Room’, and in his ‘Things’ chapter he talks about the wider associations to a kept object, going beyond what it is at face value, similar to the writings of John Berger who wrote about memories being non-linear. Objects and photographs allow us to focus on recall of memory, however not always working in a linear way, i.e different associations to an object or photograph at different times.
Sometimes the evoked memories through the object or photograph go far beyond the initial memory;
The mirror for me is symbolic as reflecting our family life, sharing the laughs and the sorrows, birthdays, the room in which it was hung, the other objects and photographs that surrounded it like a shrine of my family history. The smells that filled the room, the pie and mash dinners, fish and chips, tomato ketchup that sat opposite it on the table, the sweet smell of cake, hairspray and atrixo hand cream. Beyond the room in which the mirror was hung, was an ordinary terraced house that sat in an estate, in the early days had a conifer in the front garden, a short walk to the river. The mirror, now over 60 years old now sits in my home, reflecting my life, in my terraced home. It shares and reflects the people in my life, those who visit, the couple who visited me during my Open House, who had lived in my house some 40 years earlier. What memories the mirror could tell if it could speak.
I’ll be writing a blog soon on my Masters Research, and those wanting to join me on my journey through PhD; the focus is expanding towards creativity and how artists and in the everyday use grief as a way of creative expression. You can always contact me, if you wish to be involved as a participant in my research.
I look forward to seeing your shares and stories with me through my Facebook page.
Until next time.
MOSAF19….& the end of the Masters is in sight
Wow! It’s been such a while dearest readers since my last blog, plenty of things keeping me busy. Medway Open Studios and Arts Festival (MOSAF) 2018 was a great platform for me at the start of my Masters, working through my initial ideas for the photo part of it and getting some fantastic feedback and critique from my visitors.
MOSAF 2019 was a ‘taster platform’ of my final batch of photographs to exhibit before choosing the final 4 for submission in September (formats have been chosen, more of this to come!). I had some great conversations with visitors around my research subject of exploring Personal Loss, Memory and Family, with photographs and objects after a bereavement (more info about it here). I am interested to see if there are any common themes shared that reflected my own experiences of loss in the family, and if there were any similarities in which objects and photographs we keep and the memories we share. My research has helped me navigate my own grief and the whole process has been, (as my research participants have told me), a good thing to ‘Hold space’ for others to also have that time for dedicated conversations.
The exhibition included 10 photos of both my family photos and others from my research participants, accompanied by their written memory about each object or photograph. Here is a taster of one of my exhibited photos:
Vase with wilting Flowers
A Vase sitting on the sideboard that was bought as a Wedding Gift for my Grandparents. The flowers wilting, losing their glorious bloom, the room lays silent, soon to be empty, a whisper in the echo of a memory.
[Grandparents home 2016]
I am also pleased that visitors to my MOSAF19 exhibition felt able to share their memories if they wished they could leave their thoughts on my memories corkboard. I loved chatting with all my visitors about this subject as I had done interviewing the participants for my research. A big thank you to all my MOSAF19 visitors and participants. If you would like to get involved in my future research, or just want to get in touch to share your views then contact me here.
In the week of MOSAF19 I was interviewed on BBC Radio Kent as part of their ‘Phone Tracker’, (2.28 in) this gave me a great platform not only to promote my exhibition but to also talk about my research. It’s amazing what points you can get across in 4-5 minutes!
So, what’s next?
I have the summer to write up my research and prepare for my MA exhibition, and very happy to have the ‘time off’ I’m quite enjoying this final stage. I don’t think I’ve had this much time off in summer since I was 14 years old, so I’m going to make sure this happens with much self-care as well as study. I’m also going to be enjoying taking more photographs, joining up with a few like-minded ‘togs for some photo walks, and may treat myself to a new lens or two!
I am, as ever, passionate about living well and ensuring that we have great photographs to keep along-side our memories, this is what our loved ones will cherish, I know I do.
On reflecting my research which I have really enjoyed doing and so passionate about someone said to me recently ‘Nikki you won’t get time like this again, so make the most of it’, and I plan to do just that.
Thanks to one of my visitors for this photograph: