Caught by the River

In The Dark x The Grant Museum of Zoology

Diva Harris | 29th January 2017

Words and pictures: Diva Harris

Even if, like me, you’re someone who likes taxidermy, finding yourself in a room stuffed wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling with long-deceased members of the animal kingdom can take some acclimatisation; not least if said room is steeped in darkness. Last Tuesday, watched by the varnished turtles, jars of iridescent sea mice and countless pairs of wonky glass eyes which line the cases of The Grant Museum, I lent my ears to the good people of In The Dark, and was rewarded with an hour of underwater audio magic.

In The Dark is a collaborative, volunteer-run radio project, which describes itself as ‘a bit like a cinema, but without the pictures’. Having previously held live listening events in London, Bristol, Manchester and Belfast, this ‘Underwater Special’ was a product of their year-long collaboration with the museum, aiming to celebrate the natural world through sound.

A collage of radio snippets took we attentive listeners on a journey into the lesser-known depths of our ponds, oceans, and fishtanks. I now know how lobster – once the preserve of prisoners and peasants – came to be one of the most expensive foodstuffs in the world; I am newly familiar too with the story of ‘52 Hertz’ – a solitary whale of unknown species dubbed ‘the loneliest creature on Earth’. These more academic sections were bridged, most winningly, by forays into the artistic – such as Aline Penitot’s experimental work ‘Lene et la mer gelée’, and a partial recitation of Michael Blumenthal’s 1984 poem Fish Fucking. Best of all was the attentive provision of a list of links to the individual sound pieces used within the montage, encouraging further aural exploration at one’s leisure.

An evening well spent at the crossroads of intrigue, abstraction and enlightenment, I suggest keeping an eye (and ear) out for future In The Dark events.

Diva Harris on Caught by the River/on Twitter