The Terrestrial Sea




Venue 352

16-18 August



 Quoting from the programme for this event: “The Terrestrial Sea highlights the diverse and ever-changing environment of the Cromarty Firth, Scotland through music and film.  In 2012 Mark Lyken was Artist in Residence at The Lighthouse Field Station in Cromarty, where he worked alongside the Field Station;s team of ecologists, IOTA and the University of Aberdeen to record The Terrestrial Sea album.”


Well, all I can say is that the Cromarty Firth is the noisiest place on earth!  Misled by the Fringe programme’s inclusion of this work in the ‘Music’ section, I expected something very different from what I endured, unable to leave the cinema, and always hoping that something good would happen any minute.


I realise that not everyone is as sound- and light- sensitive as I am, but for me this was sheer torture.  The sound was almost constantly at pain level, at times my whole body was being vibrated to the point of nausea – you will gather that I don’t frequent clubs and discos: if you do, you might enjoy this work…  The sound track was largely boom, wail, thump; there were odd patches of screaming and a lot of what I took to be the distorted conversation of divers talking to each other or those on the surface; and a section of words, phrases, snatches of remarks, distorted, fragmented, repeated singly and in some weird fugue form by single and multiple voices.


There were some stunning images – particularly memorable were shots of the carcases of ships, giant metal chains piled in heaps, and a few gloriously clear shots of strands of seaweed, the lighthouse spiral staircase and the surrounding landscape – and the rest was for me a visual nightmare of flashing images, lights, out-of-focus ‘stuff’ which matched the cacophony of the soundtrack.


The piece was dedicated to Douglas Matheson, the last keeper of the Cromarty lighthouse – I wonder whether he would have been able to recognise in it anything of the landscape and environment that he knew.


There was applause at the end, so some people must have liked it: I merely thanked god that it was over and I could escape!


Mary Woodward