Cheryl Beer

Sound heArt | The Pier Arts Centre, Orkney Islands

Reaching roots across Celtic countries, an invitation to listen inside the environmental sound artist and hear beneath the bark of the trees that heal her.

Music was my life. Being a musician was a magic carpet that flew me to places I had only ever dreamt of, playing my self-penned songs alongside the iconic faces that had once smiled down at me from posters stuck on my bedroom wall. So, on that day, the day when I awoke with sudden hearing loss, my whole world stopped dead. I didn’t just lose my hearing. I lost my career, my income and my whole sense of self.  I remember curling up in a ball and deciding to throw in the towel - but nature had other plans for me.

When I stood with my feet in her streams, or my back against her moss, or my arms around the trunks of ancient trees, I didn’t mind so much that I couldn’t hear the birds singing. When my breath measured time as part of nature herself, slow and still, I forgot that I couldn’t hear the river rushing. Nature cast a healing spell that enchanted me, enabling me to live with the devastation that sudden hearing loss had created in my life; enabling me live to with the constant cacophony of tinnitus; teaching me how to live in a world where ordinary sounds can sometimes be so frightening, that I become imprisoned by them. Wrapped in the arms of the natural world, I began to connect my roots to hers, remembering how beautiful our planet truly is and how we share her heartbeat. We ARE Nature.

I started using my studio in new ways, creating nature narratives and shared these with older people in Care Homes during the pandemic, recreating their favourite walks through sound. My new NHS hearing aids enabled me to hear the things that had been lost, like the voices of my loved ones, and I began wondering, what else could this state-of-the-art technology be capable of, if I repurposed it through a creative lens? And that’s how CÂN Y COED Rainforest Symphony was born. I began extensive research into hearing aid and sensitive biomedical sound technology, found ways to notate digital & visual sound, and decided to base my practice in areas of natural distress – to raise awareness and repay nature for her nurture.

I typed ‘nearest rainforest’ into the search engine and, to be honest, I fully expected that I’d be off to the Amazon, but to my utter surprise, I found, right here in Wales, tiny pockets of ancient rainforest, Celtic, temperate, in some cases with moss dating back 10,000 years! I couldn’t believe it and I knew in that instance, it was my calling to collaborate with these precious eco jewels in the crown of Wales, by collating conductivity from the vascular systems beneath the bark & using these scientific readings to compose music led by the rainforests themselves …  

Now, with the great privilege of being part of the WAIWAV intervention, I am taking another brave step forward, venturing out of Wales to our Celtic cousins with a live performance art piece called Sound heArt at the Pier Art Centre in The Orkney Islands, where audience sits with me and listens to my live heartbeat, musing over its reaction to them, whilst scanning a QR code that transports them to the Rainforests of Wales. Reaching roots across Celtic countries, an invitation to listen inside the environmental sound artist and hear beneath the bark of the trees that heal her.

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