A sonic impression of a panic attackRead More
Let your imagination loose on an in-the-dark journey with the work of theatre maker Jan van den Berg, lighting designer; Jennifer Tipton, physicist; John Pendry, sound poet; Jaap Blonk; and many more.Read More
Back in June I worked on 'The Listening Post' - an ambitious sound installation, co-commissioned by LIFT and 14-18 NOW that formed part of the 'After a War' exhibition at the Battersea Arts Centre. Writers James Wilkes and Tom Chivers led the project researching the history and lives of Battersea residents during the First World War. Their research into local archives and town records unearthed a wealth of material to work with, featuring stories from conscientious objectors, the struggles of munitionettes and the local paranoia surrounding activities of German bakers (below).
The pieces were produced and presented across more than 14 speakers spread throughout the installation, supported by work from graphic designer Lina Hakim and installation designer Gary Campbell.
Each section of the installation evoked a different feeling and theme, ranging from orchid growing to leisure activities (roller skating and hot air ballooning) before moving onto the darker tones of wartime industry and tribunals for conscientious objectors.
You can listen to James below as he gives a guided overview of the installation:
You can read a review of the event here.
The space between silence and noise
Last year, as part of an AHRC funded project, I was commissioned to make a short experimental audio documentary on the subject of silence. I was given freedom as to how I explored this subject and so I set out to capture the thoughts of those who worked with sound and in silent spaces.
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The result, unsurprisingly, was that silence meant lots of different things to different people and so thematically it was very noisy! This relationship between noise and silence was one I was keen to explore through the production and so the piece is filled with hiss, distortion and feedback in an attempt to echo the noisy subject matter. This was explored further through the use of interviews but also with extracts of the poem 'Describing Silence' which are intercut throughout. This piece written by James Wilkes was a response to his time spent in total silence and explores some of the self generated noise born out of silence.
- The piece features interviews with Sophie Scott (cognitive neuroscientist), James Wilkes (poet and writer), Sara Mohr-Pietsch (BBC Radio 3 presenter), Cheryl Tipp (Natural Sounds Curator, British Library) and Vidyadaka (London Buddhist Centre).
- The idea of distortion and noise influenced the production from the early stages and as work continued I really wanted to create an intense build up of noise that would level off and really help mark the silence experienced later on in the anechoic chamber.
- The piece written by James Wilkes 'Describing Silence' - can be heard in full below: [soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/79756417" params="color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_artwork=true&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false" width="100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]
- The interview and reading from James was recorded in an anechoic chamber based at UCL. The space itself is very strange to stand in, the best comparison I can think of is what happens to your hearing when you travel in a pressurised aeroplane. In terms of recording audio in there, it was actually a pretty boring space to record in!
- Although it did crop up in several interviews I was keen to avoid referencing John Cage's 4:33 - there are some great pieces on this already (particularly here: http://www.thirdcoastfestival.org/library/1258-john-cage-and-the-question-of-genre) and it justifies a much longer discussion than I could have accommodated for it.
- The piece was recorded on a Zoom H4n and a Marantz PMD661 with AKG D230 dynamic microphone. It was edited and composed in Ableton Live.
From porn wails to porn whales
The idea for this piece fell out of a session playing around with audio samples taken from various pornography films, in a bid to produce something for an In the Dark listening event. After a while of manipulating and stretching out these smutty samples I was struck by how much the moans and groans came to resemble the calls of whales.
After a bit of whale sound research I worked to manipulate these sounds until they modelled the range of sounds associated with whales. From the high-pitched clicks, squeaks and squeals to the lower frequency rumbles. The sounds become slightly more unsettling when processed in this way (although out of context they didn't originally sound that nice to begin with), removing the visual element with which these sounds were originally presented with, definitely made them more sinister. The high-pitched screams are particularly unsettling on their own, baring very little resemblance to the original sample.
However for the event this piece was to be presented at we were keen to finish with something fairly light hearted and I thought it would be much more fun to experiment and explore the concept of 'porn whales' than turn this into something dark and foreboding - there was plenty of that featured at the event anyway.
The sounds of the sea were added to provide a little context (recorded in Brighton on a zoom H4n) and the gentle, soothing music came from Kevin Macleod.
The piece was featured and played as part of the In the Dark 'One Night Stand' listening event at the Clachan Pub, London 14/05/12.
An added bonus - I thought I'd also share with you one of Isabella Rosseliini's great Green Porno films - 'Whale Sex' :
The latest In The Dark listening event: 'One Night Stand' took an unusual step into the murky world of erotica, featuring pieces exploring sex across the animal kingdom; from humans, to snails, to fish and finally to whales. The night proved to be so popular that we had to put on a second sitting, suggesting that sex really does sell, even when it comes to curated listening events.
Sofia Saldanha and I mixed and compiled the audio for the night, including the production of new material to interweave and transition between pieces. Audio featured included a beautiful and emotionally charged interview from the Dialogue Project, a rather unsettling but humorous piece from Canadian radio show Audio Smut (about masterbating in public places) and and a personal favourite from Danish producer Pejk Malinovski whose piece made reference to the artist Matisse by exploring the reproductive behaviours of snails (can be heard here).
We were really keen to move past a linear playlist which simply presented the pieces rigidly, separated by silence. Instead we experimented in blending all the pieces together into a seamless mix. In many cases we produced short interludes and transitions to help take the listener smoothly from one piece to the next and to keep them immersed within the general narrative of the night.
Finishing off the event was 'Porn Whales' - an audio short I'd produced, manipulating the sounds of pornography to resemble the calls of whales (below).
After a bit of whale sound research I worked to manipulate these sounds until they modelled the range of sounds associated with whales. From the high-pitched clicks, squeaks and squeals to the lower frequency rumbles. The sounds of the sea were added to provide a little context (recorded in Brighton on a zoom H4n) and the gentle, soothing music came from Kevin Macleod.
Following the recent In The Dark: Cityscapes event I was interviewed for the Monocle 24 radio show 'The Urbanist' - we talked about some of the pieces played, discuss the power of audio and explore the nature of urban soundscapes. You can have a listen below, although I admit, I much prefer being on the other side of the microphone.
Listen here: [audio http://dl.dropbox.com/u/13042873/Urbanist%20ITD%20interview.mp3]
The Dustbin Man Cometh was also featured featured on NTS radio by Graham Dunning on his show 'Fractal Meat on a Spongy Bone' - the show's a nice listen for anyone interested in avant garde audio, featuring a jagged mix of experimental music, sound art and sonic experimentation. There's a blog associated with the show here and you can catch the show every second Friday between 8-10am on NTS Radio. Recommended listening.
You can listen to the show below:
I am delighted to have a selection of my audio works featured on basic.fm, a new broadcast project being undertaken by the Pixel Palace at Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle. Throughout the next couple of weeks the station will be playing a special eight hour show, composed from a collection of audioworks produced by international artists.
Have a listen - there's a great variety works being featured and the programme is continually cycling so you're always going to tap into something weird, wonderful and interesting.
You can also listen to the pieces I have featured below:
Adam as Machine
Bury St Edmunds
This is a short audio piece which was originally created for the In The Dark Christmas party - however it didn't quite fit the bill in the end, being as it is, devoid of any Christmas cheer. Anyway, I thought I'd better not let it go to waste and instead make it available on here - I suppose this is the obligatory Christmas themed post.
It's another short piece (see Adam as machine) which has fallen out of The D-Word, a documentary I produced over the summer which will be appearing on Transom.org early in the new year. This piece features pathologist, Dr Stuart Hamilton and was recorded in the mortuary at the Sunderland Royal Infirmary back in July. The material I recorded with Stuart at the mortuary only forms a small part of the overall documentary, yet I think it's interesting enough to justify an entire piece on it's own, maybe I'll get around to it one day.
Dr Hamilton explained to me how winter was a particularly busy period for the mortuary staff, with mortality rates increasing in the elderly over the colder months of the year. Another interesting point was that they tended to receive an increase in the number of decomposed bodies at Christmas, but I'll let you listen to the piece to find out why...
I'm not going to go into a massive rant on how important it is to make an effort to spend time with family, because I'm particularly guilty of not doing so. It just seems that the mortuary staff gain a depressing insight into the mistakes we make and how we choose to lead our lives.
An experimental sound piece which takes recordings made during a vist to Bury St Edmunds and weaves them into a surreal narrative, morphing between lakeside walks, market criers, street performers and birdsong. Recordings made using a Zoom H4n, edited and assembled on Ableton Live.
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An experimental sound piece I produced from recordings made whilst on a trip to Wales.
The piece was inspired and recorded during some coastal hill walking with my parents, and is a response to the peaceful stillness experienced whilst high up on a hilltop - the serenity of which invoked a rather dream like quality and as we looked downwards into the valley, the houses, cars and distant objects came to look like 'toys'...
Our response to sound and noise are influenced heavily by the psychological associations we have with them. Hospitals and their internal soundscapes obviously carry very negative connotations and in the case of young children these negative associations can lead to increased levels of distress and fear. However the reverse of this is also true, certain sounds can have very positive associations and the effect of listening to these sounds can be very positive and powerful.
Several weeks ago, I was walking down the central corridor of Liverpool’s Alder Hey children’s hospital when I became aware of the sound of birdsong. As I continued down I could hear quite clearly the sound of a single blackbird gracefully chirping through the din of the chaotic hospital. As I focused on the sound I found that it brought with it a sense of calm and I begun to lose the feeling of unease that I tend to experience inside hospitals. However, there was no sign of this little bird or any other wildlife inside the hospital, save from the colourful murals adorned across the corridor walls. I quickly realised that what I was listening to was a very special sound installation; playing out the wonderful recordings made by BAFTA award winning sound artist Chris Watson.
I’d come to Alder Hey specifically to talk with their Arts Coordinator Vicky Charnock to find out how the hospital had been experimenting with sound to improve the experiences of their young patients. I also got chance to speak with Chris Watson, the creative talent behind the installation and he explained to me why he chose to bring the sounds of a local park within the walls of this hospital.
The Dawn Chorus installation forms part of the larger Sonicstreams project which is a creative collaboration between Alder Hey and the Foundation for Arts and Creative Technology (FACT); the project aims to creatively explore the impact of sound on the human body.
You can listen/download the radio piece below:
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