It’s been a busy August with our second development stage of The Observatory (previously A Quiet Life) – my new multi-sensory opera for people who can hear and people who can’t.
This time round the focus was one completing Stephen Bentley-Klein’s score, and allowing choreographer Mark Smith more time to develop the sign language element of the piece. You can find out all about it here. We performed an unstaged, concert version of the complete piece at the Greenbelt Festival on Monday 26th. Audio and video from this should be available soon.
I’ve also written a little blog post for Improbable on Listening. Go have a read:
I’m currently in Los Angeles, where I visited the Museum of Jurassic Technology. I can’t really describe it, so you should have a look at the website:
I recorded the following sound whilst there. The Museum itself is quite labyrinthine, and I follwed this sound through several rooms before I tracked down the source.
This week I’m responding to Abigail copeland on the stella* website. Generating work from both sides of the Atlantic, we are continuing our collaboration online by making public responses to each other’s work. I’ve been using Garage Band and a series of digital audio-manipulations to create a piece of ‘music’ in response to Abbey’s thoughts about virtual communication. Here’s the end result, but please visit the stella* art chain to get the whole picture.
On a recent visit to the far north of Scotland, I found myself crossing the Atlantic to the Orkneys. Having studied archaeology as a teenager, the islands have long held a fascination for me. This odd outpost of the British Isles is full of pre-historic monuments, better preserved than many on the more populous and busy mainland. Skara Brae is unique; a paleolithic habitation that survived untouched for centuries as it was buried under the sand dunes, revealed finally by a storm in the 19th century.
On the day of my visit, warm sunshine met a strong wind, and the coachloads of American tourists wandered around the site trying to appear impressed. It’s a quiet affair atmospherically, but the soundscape was extraordinary. As we tried to connect with the everyday lives of those generations of early farmer/hunters, the modern farm close by provided a background of distressed cattle. The wind ripped through my wind shield, building an almost tangible wall of bass, in and out of which the inhalation of the sea shuffled and drifted.
(photo from http://lawhf.co.uk)
listen to it: skara brae
Over at Am Gallery I’m this weeks artist in the Digital Chain, responding to Tim Spooner’s video and thinking about golems.
I was interested by the idea that golems can’t talk, and the sound of what seemed to be a hairdryer appearing fleetingly in Tim’s video made me think about the everyday golems in our houses: inanimate objects made animate by humans. I threw this together in response – it’a a sort of audio sketch, if you like. It’s a conversation between a hairdryer and kettle, with a bit of time-shifting applied to it. By the final section, you can almost hear human voices in it. I recorded the sounds using piezzo pick-up microphones, so the sounds are the vibrations from within the household golems rather than the audio you pick up through the air when you listen to them ordinarily. It is made to be listened to through headphones.
am gallery golem
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about uncertainty and its uses. Working with stella* on our performance about astrophysics, it occurred to us that uncertainty can be a powerful creative tool. Scientists have to maintain a healthy level of uncertainty so that they keep questioning hypotheses and generating increasingly rigorous investigations. As artists, we also feed off uncertainty. Curiosity is another word for the same drive, perhaps?
I’ve also been listening to aural uncertainty: the space between words and the sounds of hesitation and thought. We verbalise this process often, but it is the part of conversation that our brains, or ears, edit out. In response, I have made a five minute piece using the gaps and umms cut from a 25 minute conversation with a colleague. Have a listen:
I’ve been playing with my new piezzo pick ups. These work by recording the vibrations of the surface on which they are placed, rather than recording airwaves like regular mics. The following recordings are the surface of the sofa, a towel and a radiator.
Two manipulated responses to museum space.
First is a recording taken in the V&A Middle Eastern & Islamic gallery. Splitting and looping the left and right audio tracks, one has been gradually sped up, whilst the other has been gradually slowed down. The resulting echoes, re-echoes and distortions highlight the acoustic experience of the gallery, as well as documenting and interpreting the different attitudes of the visitors heard responding to the space and the exhibits. Both left and right tracks picked up someone humming or singing to themselves, one tunelessly, slightly bored; the other hummed a fragment of a prayer call whilst contemplating an exhibit.
Second is a selection of different ticks from the gallery of clocks at the science museum. These have been overlapped and time-shifted, exploring the idea that time is relative, not absolute, and thinking about ideas of the quality of time; visiting museums is a way of attaching value to time, being seen (or heard) to ‘spend time well’.
(Headphones are recommended).
science museum response
Some recordings from a series made in collaboration with Irish dancer David Bellwood. These impromptu dances are recorded in various parts of London, and are concerned with questions of tradition and diaspora, as well as investigating the effect of urban architecture on the dancer’s body. Dance is a form of thought for the dancer, and the environment disrupts or defines that thought in different ways. There is a mutual erosion taking place, as well as a collaboration between the surfaces of the city and the acoustics of the dancer’s movement.
(These are best when listened to through headphones)