Boleskine, An Index.

Boleskine, An Index
Philip Samartzis (2018–19)

  1. The Falls of Foyers 00:00/00:00
  2. Foyers Falls Power Station 00:00/00:00
  3. Boleskine Burial Ground 00:00/00:00
  4. Foyers Pumped Storage Scheme 00:00/00:00
  5. Loch Ness 00:00/00:00
  6. General Wade’s Military Road 00:00/00:00
  7. James Bryce Memorial 00:00/00:00
  8. Easter Boleskine 00:00/00:00
  9. Boleskine House 00:00/00:00
  10. The Gardens 00:00/00:00

Set on the south-east shore of Loch Ness is a compressed landscape of granite and limestone hills, pine forests, and translucent rivers and falls. Concealed within the topography are two hydroelectric schemes comprising a network of underground shafts and tunnels used to pump water to and from an interconnected series of lakes. A sequence of high voltage power lines threads its way through the terrain. Charged particles saturate the air.

Scattered throughout the luminous countryside are memorial stones, burial grounds, and various ruins indicating a long and troubled history. While traversing this deeply melancholic place, I am struck by how familiar it is. Unsettled by my initial encounter, I return at dawn to investigate further. What I discover is a landscape steeped in folklore, rumour and tragedy.

Boleskine comprises an unfolding set of sound recordings made over a three-mile stretch of General Wade’s Military Road that connects the villages of Foyers and Inverfarigaig. Fieldwork evolved spontaneously in the form of improvised responses to situations I encountered along the road. By channeling acoustics, pressure and resonance, the recordings reveal a deep and complex world of natural and manufactured sound. In some respects, the fieldwork draws on psychogeography as a means of improvising with place, but is equally informed by psychoacoustics, whereby the microphone is used to register latent events embedded in the environment. Together psychogeography and psychoacoustics provide methods for conjuring a landscape rich with natural, anthropogenic and geophysical phenomena. The metaphysical pall so synonymous with the parish of Boleskine, and widely promulgated through the transgressive works of Kenneth Anger, Aleister Crowley, and Jimmy Page, is explicit.

The recordings of Boleskine House allude to something peculiar inhabiting the now-derelict site. An uncanny presence is voiced as resonance, humming and modulated beatings. The confluence of discordant sound emitted by the spatial and material structure of the decomposing building recalls the tension and reverie underscoring Page’s soundtrack Lucifer Rising (1974). The arcane recording provides a compelling testament to the uneasy relationship between this isolated hamlet and the occult. While the troika of infamous occupants all departed some time ago, the house appears to still yearn for their company. Boleskine situates the metaphysical alongside the prosaic in order to offer a carefully calibrated encounter with a place of curiosity, imbued with atmosphere and shrouded by intrigue.

Philip Samartzis