Water of Life

‘Water of Life’ is an art-science collaboration between Tommy Perman – a visual and sound artist – and Rob St. John – an environmental writer and musician.  Funded by Creative Scotland as part of Imagining Natural Scotland, ‘Water of Life’ uses sound, visual art, photography and writing to explore water flows through Edinburgh, between the natural and the unnatural; managed and self-willed.


Exploring the lines that water threads through Edinburgh, the Water of Life package includes:

* Hand letterpressed folder on recycled card
* Set of six art prints by Tommy, riso printed using soy inks on recycled paper
* Set of five essays by Rob on water, art and the environment
* 7″ record pressed on recycled vinyl, with handpainted labels
* Download code

The set, limited to 300 copies, is available through our bandcamp page.

It can also be bought in Analogue Books, Underground Solushun, Vox Box Records and Red Door Gallery in Edinburgh.


Here’s some articles and interviews about the project:

A Closer Listen, 8th January 2014
Incendiary Magazine, 7th January 2014
The Active Listener, 6th January 2014
Record Collector, January 2014
The Vinyl Factory, 17th December 2013
The Quietus, 15th December 2013
Caught by the River, 11th December 2013
The Scotsman, 5th December 2013
Clear Minded Collective, 28 November 2013
Decoder Magazine, 21 November 2013
The Scotsman, 6th November 2013
The Herald, 6th November 2013

We also made Uncut Magazine’s Wild Mercury Sound playlist  and got a 4/5 review in The List magazine, which said that the project: “blurs field recordings with folksong, vintage synths and ambient electronica to create something at once natural, unnatural, and in perfect harmony with its source.”.  


Water of Life 7″ on recycled vinyl:

Field recordings made with hydrophone, ambient and contact microphone recordings of rivers, spring houses, manhole covers, pub barrel rooms, pipelines and taps are mixed with the peals and drones of 1960s transistor organs, harmoniums, Swedish micro-synths, drum machines and iPads: a blend of the natural and unnatural; modern and antiquated; hi-fi and lo-fi. Drum beats were sampled from underwater recordings, and reverbs created using the convolution reverb technique to recreate the sonic space of different bodies of water.

Many of the sounds collected around Edinburgh and used to make the record are available on our sound map.

WoL-InsertScan-Comiston-Image-WebA: Sources and Springs / Abercrombie, 1949 (4.30) 

Side A begins with a set of field recordings taken at the start of Edinburgh’s water network – the sources and springs at Talla, Harperigg and Comiston – slowly merging into a tune for Edinburgh’s imagined and unseen landscapes inspired by Abercrombie and Plumstead’s futurist vision for the city in 1949.

B: Liquid City / The Shellycoat (4.32) 

Side B is about confluences through the city: the pipelines, storm drains and sewers leading to sanitation and the sea, ending in a set of voices singing an excavated children’s song about a watery spirit said to haunt the Pennybap boulder by Seafield Sewage Works.

Additional voices on ‘The Shellycoat’ by Ruben Bee, Clarissa Cheong and Neil Pennycook.

We recorded the sounds of water in Edinburgh in lochs, streams, drains, springs, sewers, taps, pubs, baths (and so on…) using ambient, hydrophone and contact microphones.  Water is a conduit for a set of interesting sounds that can potentially tell us a lot about the diversity, health and use of natural and urban environments.

Click on any of the markers to find recordings of and around water at the marked locations.  Scroll south on the map to find recordings at Talla Reservoir – one of the main sources of Edinburgh’s water – in the Scottish Borders.

You can access (and download) these recordings through our Soundcloud page.  All the recordings have more information attached to them on where, when and how they were recorded.

This map was created using the excellent Map Maker website.

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