The Sudarium of St. Veronica / put the music in its coffin

I was recently invited by Psykick Dancehall Recordings, in residence this month at CCA Glasgow, to take part in their project Put the Music in Its Coffin, charting people’s responses to sounds, performances and recordings that have been important for them.
I sent a text that I’d written one morning, after dreaming of a sound in Leif Elggren’s The Sudarium of St. Veronica.
[From the CD notes on the Firework Edition website]: ‘The basic sound source for this CD is the copper engraving The Sudarium of St. Veronica, cut by the French artist Claude Mellan (1598-1688) in Paris, 1649. A portrait of Christ engraved through a continuous spiral line that starts at the tip of his nose. An old heliogravure (a 19th-century reproduction of one of the original prints) was used to make a photo etching in copper to get a replica as close as possible to the original plate. This plate was played back with a specially constructed record player and recorded at Firework Edition, Stockholm, July 17, 2007′.

Lines written at the end of a dream, when I encountered Leif Elggren’s ‘The Sudarium of St. Veronica’ (Stockholm, Firework Edition Records CD, 2007)

I look straight at the heart (the nose, the hole) of it
in spite of its unfolding.
The face on the turntable, slit.
Its thorns and edges scratch the leaden aura deep.

Tapping in, the drumsindeath of the cut surface
remind of the repeated circling of an end: the unique one made by one, and over.
An ending lasts an hour
it spirals away on the margin of not.

Cut. Unattainable, unworldly, coppered, no more, departed,
this thorn of sound.
The first time it shields me
the second it skins me
then it breaks.

When in the spinous wavering I could hardly keep
I knew it was the end.
I woke. Scratch by scratch
lacquer by lacquer
terror by terror,

I woke and felt the fading sound, slow violent
and the mockingbird of my reasoning
could imitate no crackle
no spasm
only the pace of a slow Kyrie
only the slow.

What of the sounds? As sounds, they’ll stay as such.
What will this fragment be, it never will be sound.
A record: recordare: to remember.

It beats again again, that same repeating scratch, the same
Darksome plummeting on this day
Coldly and plummeting on my day
Darksome over the day, in this room and another.

I will circle a finger along the razor brim of a red-brown cup
I will spin.

And he? He is a sovereign of the past.
Inscrutable and taciturn, angular, non alter.

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