Petrichor – a Lit[h]any for Rain

Petrichor condensed at the Sounding Paths Residency on Ano Syros in the summer of 2019. It came from a desire to connect with the sounds of stones and pebbles, a longing to explore what it is like to crave the rain, to wait for, to make ritual for rain. How it would be like, in a place of consistent drought to experience PETRICHOR – the smell that rises from the ground when rain falls after a long dry spell.

πέτρα (petra) meaning ‘stone’
ἰχώρ (ichor) meaning ‘blood of the gods’ and more recently : ‘watery discharge from a wound or ulcer’

This word petrichor, fascinated me, a word filled with longing, a word evoking stones – the sound of stones hitting other stones, a word with a metaphysical connotation, a mythical story, a word evoking sound rituals to communicate with the clouds, the ocean, the tides.

I started with exploring the space vocally – finding places of wind or water to sound in. Close to the Ano Syros monastery where all the residents were staying there was an abandoned windmill. This was my first sounding location.

Improvising vocally from the door opening, not entering yet, but placing the recorder at the edge, catching the sound reverberating inside, rather then singing at the microphone in the space.

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My second location was the water source, down in the valley below the monastery. There too, i used the same tactic, improvising at the space, creating reverberation, a way of merging. By then i had made myself familiar with the sonority of the bells hanging on the terrace of the monastery, and introduced the scale i connected to that, with the microtones included.

The idea to find a way to work with the bells came from hearing a service, that took place in one of the many small churches on Ano Syros. It made me think of the question ‘how do people ask for rain here’ and later talking to Ioanis and Daphne confirmed my suspicion, that the church/ the priest would play the major role in reciting a litany.

That is how lit[h]any came into the project

“Litany: a series of petitions for use in church services or processions, usually recited by the clergy and responded to in a recurring formula by the people. 
synonyms: prayer, invocation, petition, supplication, devotion, entreaty; archaicorison
                         “the lips of others had moved also, repeating the litany”

In adding the [h] i added the stones – stones i gathered at the beach, and took up to the monastery. Stones i hung with a white cotton thread from bush wood collected from the abandoned windmill / source valley. Creating a mobile that i attached to the center bell.

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What followed was waiting for wind – when i hung the stones up, i made sure they would have enough space to dangle without hitting each other at the slightest breeze, but to be close enough together to hit each other and the bell when the wind would really start to blow.

While waiting i started editing the improvisations into sound pieces, and found desire to create the sound of rain from gentle tactile interaction with one plant from each species of plants growing on the walk down to the windmill. Recording these interactions and editing them into small rhythmical patterns.

Wind came, and so did a crying day – a day where nothing felt right, and release had to be found in tears – and tears came, from a deep well, release gave way to exaltation – dancing alone on the terrace, dancing for the moon, with the moon that was waxing and nearing full. then wind came. I recorded the stones hitting the bell – i recorded from inside the bell, to escape the wind.


The phrase “the lips of others had moved also, repeating the litany” – triggered something – it made me see mouths moving, while the sound that came out was the whisper of the dried plants. My great co-residents were willing to volunteer their mouths for the project – and we recorded their lips moving, in the blistering heat, repeating a lit[h]any of consonants – consonants as stones – speech as rain.

One of the last steps was walking the stones to the windmill and back, feeling their balance on my shoulder, hearing the sound of the stones hitting each other, the sound of the stones brushing against the dried plants on the path.

For the presentation a short video / sound piece combined all this material. The projection happened on a wall that had marks of previous use. I stuck the dried plants from the abandoned windmill path to the wall with paper tape, a fan brought movement, adding to the liveness of the projection.

It’s in the moment of final preparation that the unexpected happened. Just when the last plant was taped to the wall, rain started to pour down, a thunderstorm came over Syros, in matters of minutes water was streaming down the streets, an impressive down pour that maybe took a good half hour. The smell afterwards was … petrichor.

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