Main Point Books: Notes on the Sound-Pieces

Sound-Pieces: It’s A Small Bookshop, Morphic Resonance 1, Serendipity, Book Collector, Morphic Resonance 2, BrowsersBook Collector 2 , Morphic Resonance 3, Just So Everyday and  I Sat In Corners.

These pieces feature Jennie Renton of Main Point Books. One of them – It’s A Small Bookshop – also includes fragments of a German student who worked as an intern for a short period. The rest are simply of Jennie herself. As a result there is a coherence of voice, a continuity running throughout these pieces. Most of them are narrative lines; these can be divided into those dealing with the shop, and those concerning Scottish Book Collector – the literary magazine that she ran until she founded the online Textualities magazine.

In addition there are 3 short “Morphic Resonances” and I Sat in Corners – a short minimalist-like portrait.

It’s A Small Bookshop is simply two intercut narrative lines. Serendipity is about the bookshop’s “ungovernable stock” and its geographical laterality. Browsers looks at customers and the bookshop’s “ecology of ideas”. Just So Everyday comments on the individuality and the mindset of second-hand booksellers.

The first of the “Book Collector” pieces charts the history of the magazine. The second looks at its content, alongside some reflections on bookshops. The isolated fragment at the end (“Well, people tend not to interview booksellers…”) was  inserted as an oblique reference to the interviewing process in Thaw.

The “Morphic Resonance” pieces (no longer than 15 seconds in length) are compressions of Serendipity, Browsers and Just So Everyday. Each track was divided into smaller tracks, which were then overdubbed. The title comes from Sheldrake’s theory of morphic resonance, mentioned in Browsers: Sheldrake argues that there is a feedback mechanism between field and units, and that new forms will gravitate towards other forms with which they share a family resemblance. These pieces were a reference to the cluttered feel in the shop (it felt as if, if new floorspace were suddenly to appear it would have been immediately filled). Shortly after I completed the editing of the sound pieces, Main Point Books relocated to more spacious premises nearby. I like to think that these pieces function as a record of the old shop… 

Finally: I Sat in Corners. During the field work/observation period in the bookshops, I noticed that Jennie’s business partner was playing some Steve Reich (Music for 18 Musicians, if I remember correctly). I remembered this when I was working with the “my nose was always in a book” fragment, so I decided to have a go with some Reichian style shifting/ phasing – as in his “Come Out” (1966).

I basically set up an eight-track system. The first track had one comment split into two fragments, i.e. “I sat in corners reading books, I was always told / my nose was always in a book”. These two fragments were then repeated, but with a longer time interval between them. This track was then replicated and the time intervals increased. A third fragment was added (once again the same text, once again with a longer time interval). This second track of six fragments formed the body of the following six tracks which differed from one-another only in duration: each interval increasing as they went along the line and up in number: therefore the shortest was track 1 and the longest was track 8).

These eight tracks were then converted into four stereo tracks, which were converted into two stereo tracks (with a notable deterioration in sound quality as they were combined). As a result, the emphasis is on the repetition of “I sat in corners” at the beginning, and “my nose was always in a book” at the end. 

Fade-out was applied to the final stereo track before the full text fragment was added to the start of the track (split over both channels). At the end of the piece, a shortened version of the first fragment (i.e. I sat in corners reading books) was added to the right-hand channel.

I tried to compensate for the deterioration in sound quality by amplifying it until I got something that I was happy with (although this resulted in a bit more hiss than I would have liked).


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