52 Stories from 52 Photos: ‘#25’

The others get back in the car with a slam of the door and I stir in the passenger seat. Crackling awake slowly I clear my throat as we rejoin the motorway and begin my song. We speed through the empty roads as the sun comes up and the more I wake up, the deeper the others sleep. The exception, of course, being the driver who smiles at my song and taps his hands carelessly along on the steering wheel. Sun pours through the dusty windscreen and as we approach our destination I can see countless other vehicles just like us, with passengers just the same. The window opens and I lean out, continuing my song so the notes could drift softly through the air and into the open windows of fellow travellers. In the distance I can see flags waving in the breeze, brightly coloured tent tops and huge amplifiers — all there waiting in anticipation for me to arrive.

The car parked up, we join the queue and I drift away from the group towards some others who, among their camping gear are lugging a set of speakers along in a wheelbarrow. I sing as loud as I can and all around me the people begin dancing like dominos, moving as the tune reaches across to them. The sun blazes down on us and works as the disco ball for my tune. We move through the entrance in this way, entwined in the sun, the sound and the dance and I’m carried along through a great mass of people and sweet smoke. We bounce along through the fields and uphill, to the northern-most point where there is a circle of stones. There is a great crowd forming in the middle of it who are waiting for me and as I arrive, they bang their drums to my tempo. I help them chant along too and many people are moved by my song. There’s an old man with a pan flute who breaks away and I follow him back down the hill to the masses.

That night I come to life in many places at the same time. Somehow I am carried, surfing over the heads of the largest and loudest crowd and arrive at the base of a pyramid. On stage I weave in and out of screeching guitars, pounding drums, shuddering basslines and the howl from a frontman. At each crescendo I dive back in and across the outstretched arms of the crowd and am softly passed back to the band by all the audience in unison. Eventually the stage goes dark and the crowd all repeatedly sing one man’s name together. I fly on this wave of hope to where there is the whoosh of flames across the fields. There, everyone is gathered underneath an impossibly vast metallic spider, whose back is breathing fire. In the spider’s heavy underbelly there are men with computers and I help them with a different sound; one that pulses out of the arachnid and pushes those dancing below. I mingle the pulses with the hot light and many people in the crowd stop dancing and stand stationary; mouths agape, just listening to us.

The next morning I wake after a very brief pause in a glade. The clearing is calm and I play an acoustic sound to usher in the day carefully. I move from the clearing under the canopies and through a badger’s den of shrubbery, little ovens and conversation. Here I learn how I help people to create food and tools and peace without hurting any living thing. I climb up into a vast treehouse with my acoustics and travel this half natural/half synthetic eco centre, gifting anyone there with the only thing I have. I drift into a tent that says the letters HARE KRISHNA outside where I am greeted with free sustenance and I help the men and women inside to carve a rhythm and a melody out of very little. We chant the words on the tent together and this is enough for people in attendance to enjoy as much as some had at the spider the night before. I don’t understand my assistance here but I happily leave them with my song still going.

The next night I was drawn to more pulsing sounds and arrived at an old American diner sign, with people crawling all over it as far as I could see. Inside, I collide with the walls and the roof of the tent. Every person I bump beams a smile of joy. I leave and discover a crashed rocket ship, its nose buried in a mound of earth. Here, there is a great favela which I climb and soar above — recreating those Portuguese sounds mixed with all the other beats I’d learned. I follow these sounds to a strange, much darker corner of the farm. There is a school bus crashed into the side of a block of concrete and signs that say Hell. But the people there are the most joyous and free from all the many thousands I’ve encountered so far. I go further into this place and there is a great mound of old clothes all piled high on top of each other. At the top sits the reaper, made of t shirts and tea towels. He sits with his scythe, like a guardian on high while I stay on the ground, embracing dancer after dancer.

In the very midst of this underground celebration there is a girl; her eyes closed, her arms stretching upwards and she is calling me. I drift over in time with the beat and we dance wordlessly for a moment. Then I reach forward and with the bassline I whisper in her ear,

“Je suis musique: le bruit qui pense”

She opens her eyes and calls out in affirmation. The sound stays with her the night long, while I drift upwards, up far above her head, in and out of the speakers to find and to touch as many people like her in this place where I am born, I die, and I live again. Year on year.