Caves and the sound of the feminine

Caves and the sound of the feminine

“Magic above and below” Mole Creek, Tasmania

I am currently immersing myself in Tasmania as part of my project as a resident artist. As part of this, I am exploring the sounds of the feminine voice in relation to caves.

As I write, I have a view of the old gums which seem to be happily chatting to me, a good glimpse of Opossum Bay and wonderful fresh air. I have already dealt with spiders, a scorpion (I think) and I had a late night visitor of a masked owl when it flew into my window: we then watched each other for a long time. I like this kind of living.  Hearing the birds. Being near nature, and in nature (although I am reconciling my ability to love all of the crawly aspects-a work in process).

Several events led me to coming down to the Apple Isle. One was a desire for quiet. Silence. To hear nature and the birds. To hear the breath of nature and my breath and how they relate.  One was to discover the cave structures here and make sound in them, where I felt that it was “right”.

I know the physics which relates to our voice and speech, including our vocal tract. However, as someone who never really excelled at physics and acoustics, my exploration seems to be more intuitive in nature rather than prescriptive. One such structure in Marakoopa Cave (photos) was deemd by a physicist as having a certain structure that would make a wonderful sound. Sure enough, amazing it is. It sounds like a didgeridoo when a low hum resonates in just the right spot. I was tall enough to reach the spot, alas my lower range was not up to the challenge of resonating to make the exact harmonics. Higher notes were interesting, just not with the same resonant qualities. In King Solomon Caves there were two places where the sound would resonate into infinity. Almost shaped like a long stem of broccoli atop a wedding cake, my guide and I toned and made a beautiful sound that resonated spectacularly throughout the cave. A sense of feeling at one with the cave. A true interconnectedness between nature and ‘man’. 

I was at Gunns Plain’s Cave last week and Geoff, a wonderfully funny guide took me through. I was the only one on the tour. A theme which continued, luckily for me throughout my cave adventures. There was a moment where the lights were off and we were standing in the dark. The distant sound of the river below felt comforting, perhaps a little like amniotic fluid, and I was moved to tears by the complete and total peace and calm that entered my body. It was a true state of being. Nothing to do, nothing to see, just being. Revitalising. Incredible. They run musical concerts there which would be amazing. And yet, whilst I was there I only wanted to listen to her and not make sounds. A lady on one of the tours exclaimed when the lights went out “Oh I’m scared!” The same lady after several minutes said that “It was magic”. That is the nature of how the caves are. Compelling and somewhat repelling at the same time.

This is a theme which continued to the other caves. Some desire sounding and some are encouraging us to listen to them and to ourselves. I went to Yarangobilly Caves in NSW a few weeks ago, and the North Glory Cave entrance really wanted to be sung to. Not so much the South Glory Cave. Interestingly, the North Glory Cave was not open and it was felt that there was much there inside her walls. Each structure having their own story, their own history. Part of my process is listening so intently to this so that I can ascertain what I feel is wanted. And make sure it is not from ego! Often I will get a feeling like someone is holding my mouth gently shut when I am not meant to make sound, and when I am meant to a different quality of breath enters for the inhalation. I am learning to respect and respond to these ever so subtle changes in feeling. More and more I have experienced the magic of the cave responding with a gentle wind, with her own song, not dissimilar to the sounds I had sung. Incredibly subtle. Like a sound made of gossamer thread, not a metal band.

One of the guides was so relieved when we both came to the conclusion that one part of the cave, that seemed to be designed for acoustic bliss, did not want sound in it at all. Paradox. Listening to the feminine intently. Honouring the ancient aspects of the cave. Asking permission to be within her walls. Recognising the ancient magic of the cave and all that it represents. Powerful indeed. 

The feeling once inside is innately beautiful. Deeply restorative. Some of the structures date back to the Ice Age 440 million years ago. A time when the whole world was geologically connected. There is something so awe-inspiring and powerful in that. Cave spiders found in Tassie are also found in Chile. They would have been geographically next door during Gondwana. Glow worms seen in the wild. Who would have thought maggots would be so gorgeous? Certainly not me.
Which got me thinking (I have been doing a lot of that here). Caves are often seen as feminine. We know that they symbolically represent the womb and feminine consciousness. Going deep into the internal psyche as Jung would say. Including the shadow aspect of ourselves. That which is hidden, unseen but oft deeply felt. How can we alter the unseen to the seen, the unheard to the heard. So that we may find ourselves within.

Is it that there might be places within the cave where the masculine voice is amplified and the feminine voice is amplified so that they may reach true harmony together? Quite possibly. I am continuing the exploration….