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Mark Peter Wright: Where Once We Walked

img  Tobias Fischer

I first came across London-based sound recordist Mark Peter Wright on a blog, Sense/of/Place, which linked a loose knit group of UK/EU artists who were documenting and discussing abandoned buildings, in situ recordings, and the landscapes and memories they held. Wright’s latest work, Where Once We Walked, is a collection of five tracks spanning half an hour and recorded over the past two and a half years.

Wright recorded the album in Poland, in areas devasted by the appalling acts of World War II. Where Once We Walked allows the environment to speak for the unspeakable.  Here we find Mark Peter Wright extracting the acoustic geography of Chełmno nad Nerem, a village of 350, where 150,000 to 340,000 people were killed at the first established extermination camp. He also visited Łódź, where an entire Jewish community of over two hundred thousand was wiped out and Piotrków Trybunalski, the site of the first ghetto established in Poland.

He also recorded in Radegast Bahnhof, the railroad station from which prisoners were transported to the concentration camps, the Rzuchowski forest, and Sieradz, whose complete identity as a town was corrupted.  300 Jewish children survived the horrors perpetuated in these locations, and who, after the war, were transported to the Lake District in Britain to recuperate. This CD is inspired by their experience, and by the villages, towns, and environments the children left behind, some to never return.

As the first track, “A Past Present,” begins, the bells of a church ring and we encounter the radiant choir of the Dominican Convent of Ursuline Sisters singing mass. The choir bookends the disc and is a highlight, one that captures the transformative spirit present throughout the work. The sisters singing mass exemplifies how sound is handled on this disc; there is a heaviness, even in the most delicate bird songs.  And when a sound is produced, it does not disappear but is absorbed into its surroundings, into a form, and resides in the space it occupies.

Here the open field, the rain, the voices, the sound of footsteps carry an intimate history and a message. As the sounds are relayed, they are also dislodged from the everyday connotations usually occupied. The uneasiness of a train arriving at a station displaces its modern context and is haunting in its intrusion. History weighs on this release, but there is soul to this recording, a listening stemming from the external, always emanating the internal, where sounds continually reinforce their presence.  

Another standout track is the third, where a man’s singing is washed by the fall of heavy rain. A crack of thunder leads into a downpour of static. The static develops as the storm approaches; the voice disappears eliminating his presence, immersing the listener in the space of what remains. In this work, Mark Peter Wright exposes the often hidden habitation of sound, unfolding its location and materiality, and presents a dialogue between the past and present.   

The CD is pressed in an edition of 150, pristinely mastered by the esteemed hands of Colin Potter. Only a few discs remain of this work, whose relevance as a record of what we are left to hear will endure. 

One not to miss.

By Mathieu Ruhlmann

Homepage: Mark Peter Wright
Homepage: Another Space

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