The Flute of Sub, 2007

Simple Component
The Flute of Sub is a 10 minute performance comprised of a reading and musical recital. An underground tunnel with an unknown use and built between two and three thousand years ago is approached as a material start point to address the production of alternate narratives and their sculptural equivalent. The story describes the area where the tunnel is located in northern Scotland while offering an opinion on what may have transpired within the underground form. Measurements taken from within the tunnel were used to produce a flute that in-turn is used to musically narrate the landscape it inhabits. The flute’s note-holes correspond to a series of minor entrances that have been burrowed into the underground form by rabbits. The shape and sound of this instrument is particular to the environment it records, an object to talk about an object. This relationship to abstraction is familiar within the region as Psych-Folk, a musical genre driven by mysticism and pagan lore that began in the 1960’s as a response to the landscape. The Flute of Sub enacts this history while offering a story that accounts for the narrative addition an individual can bring to a subject. For the piece’s initial exhibition the story and flute recital were performed six times over the course of an evening with several guest narrators lending an aesthetic difference to the written story. The individual performances were recorded and combined into a 64 minute video that presents the indexical start point for this responsive fiction.

The Flute of Sub by Zin Taylor

A thin path through a field smelling of earth and animal leads to a tight circle of trees.

Within this dark ring sits a dwelling that has existed here for the last two and a half thousand years. An underground form built from rock.

The forested island is guarded by a low stonewall, then made complicated by a loose barbwire fence. Upon entering the circle the wind muffles, like someone turned the volume down on nature. The trees protectively extend several stories into the sky, filtering the light, and cooling the air.

Hares populate this isolated forest. Because of the remote location the hares have burrowed an elaborate warren. A maze of tunnel that is both entrance and exit to an underground community. The size of hole allowing one kind of being to enter while keeping another kind out. It's as if the form has taught the hares to live underneath the ground, as they are not normally suited to this behavior.

At the Islands heart is the Souterrain Circle. Made of rock and descending into the earth it has existed here longer than two millennia. The word Souterrain translates from French as “earth house”. The soil that lays overtop is home for several types of fauna and flora, one of these being Stinging Nettle. A plant that when touched infects an invisible oil that burns and itches the skin. A soup can be carefully prepared from the stalks.

Walking a distance of sixteen meters the exit is discovered. Concealed by a wall of bushes and plants a drop of two meters greets you. The basin is littered with gun shells.

The circle part of the name is unclear. It could be describing the curving cylindrical shape the form travels underneath the ground, or, referring to a circle of people who gather in ceremony. The Souterrain Circle as a title, not a name.

The west end of the circle is the more welcoming of the two portals. Crawling in through the mouth I was able to stand fully upright within meters of this entrance. The walls and ceiling appear to be equal height and width, something around two meters each. The ground is uneven and littered with sticks, hair, dirt, and mummified creatures. The air is damp and cold and very silent, and the light is the color of shadow.

The ceiling looks impossible. Flattened slabs of rock over two meters in width make up the roof. Carefully interlocking, they have remained this way for nearly twenty-five centuries. Sparse streams of light spot the darkness. Their source is the holes the hares have dug into the form. Minor tributaries of a larger artery buried beneath the ground.

The atmosphere below the ground is distinctly different from the atmosphere above. And I would suggest that the conversations occurring while in the Circle are different from what was discussed while out. The walls, ceiling, floor, and length of the form have recorded the conversations that have occurred here before.

These details have been translated into measurements and an object has been made.

This, is the flute.

The shape and sound of this flute is something like a living organism.

This is the first entrance, and this, is the second.

The fingering holes are determined by the minor entrances the hares have burrowed in to and out of the form.

These are its notes.

By association this flute’s voice is the voice of the tunnel.

An object to talk about an object, and I’m going to use it to tell a story.

Playing this flute is to sing The Song of Sub.