I’ve blogged a little already about the Words on Resilience residency. I’m waiting for the final tweaks to the three screen audio-visual installation to be made for the virtual gallery and in the meantime I decided to begin work on ways of presenting the work for radio and sound installation.
The audio work can be streamed or downloaded from Bandcamp
There are two components, the spoken word and the music. I took some time with the music - recording, re-recording and remixing both new and old ideas from both musique concrète and electronic sources. For the spoken word layer I listened through hours of recordings and selected those passages, both conversational and read, that I thought best represented the writing and the ideas of the writers.
Perhaps the biggest difficulty in a conversational practice with a tangible outcome is that of discovering how to draw the listener into the pace and flow of the actual conversations themselves without merely presenting a document of the events. There’s also the added challenge of lending some kind of consistency to conversations and readings captured both in the field (literally) and in different interiors. The next phase is to experiment with the spatial distribution of the voices in a multi-channel version of the work.
I've started working as digital sound artist in residence at the Heart of Hawick, under the auspices of Live Borders here in the Scottish Borders. The most immediate benefit here is that I won't have to fly and burn up fossil fuels at a time when the planet is turning to shit.
The brief is to work with non-professional local writers and performers, taking inspiration from stories, poetry and reflections. Audio recordings of their work will be collected towards the production of sound pieces linked to the theme of resilience. These audio pieces are to be hosted in a virtual gallery of which I know little right now but will report on soon. I'm told that something is happening at the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival (SMHAF) in May of this year. I don't know much about this either but you'll be the first to know. In fact I don't know much about anything yet and I'm already three weeks in. Maybe it's a conceptual residency where you have to guess what happens next. Never mind - the meter's running.
My aim is to create a series of environmental portraits rather than simply create some kind of documentary. I suspect the virtual gallery will determine the shape of some of the work. I'm also interested in recursive methods of exploring the theme, for example by having participants comment on their own readings. This technique brings out deep emotional and psychological layers.
I’m curious about how people manifest resilience in difficult times. We've all had to suffer the consequences of a pandemic over the last two years. I’m also curious about the reasons why people choose to practice forms of art or creativity, whether they wish to express themselves, respond to internally or externally driven challenges, unfold a method of working, reach the culmination of a period of research. Resilience manifests itself across all of these activities. Sound is a somewhat austere medium yet the rewards are unique. Responding to human situations by means of sound alone can allow facets and nuances of human experience to emerge that cannot be rendered in the visual domain. I want to continue to develop my interest in what I’d call the anthropology of radiophonic practice, that is to make sound works that examine and investigate challenging human contexts by means of the human voice, human activities and environmental sound. This extends into the anthropology of work and workplaces and into the complex relationships between an individual and wider society.
Cyclops is a work for radio using voice and the sounds of industrial machinery. The work touches on noise, capitalism and the worker, presented through the lens of Karl Marx's Capital.
In the noisy world of the cities, streets and workplaces I often think of the relentless stress caused by machinery on our sensory apparatus, particularly on our ears and thereby on our mental and physical health. During the industrial revolution, and still in many countries to this day, workers suffer the double oppression of capitalist exploitation and the excesses of machine noise. Perhaps the noise of these 'machines of cyclopean dimensions' stands as a fitting metaphor for capitalism at large. Capitalism as social and political noise.
Both Cyclops and Jericho are flexible enough to work as performance pieces.
Recordings were carried out in the Scottish Borders and Southern Estonia. You can listen on Bandcamp. The audio file is 24bit/48kHz and the download includes a 12 page pdf catalogue.
I recently published Jericho as a digital downloadand before that I wrote three short articles on recorded sound and sympathetic magic. I'm currently at the R&D phase of a new project for radio called Contagion. This will combine my interests in electroacoustic composition and photography, taking account of the ideas developed across the three Marcel Mauss articles in the form of spoken word layered with different sounds.
The pandemic has forced many of us to dig deep in our respective practices. Some good work in different media is emerging from engagements with the domestic and other immediate environments. In Contagion I want to look at and listen to those objects in the domestic and personal environment which carry sympathetic resonance of the kind discussed in my articles on Mauss and magic. Listening will involve activating and energising objects of interest, paying attention to interior and exterior spaces and using recording technologies to reveal sounds beyond the everyday experience. This will be followed by a deep consideration of the musical potential of such sounds though this won't be a musical composition as such. Looking will require taking stock of the hundreds of possessions accumulated over years that we insist on hoarding for sentimental or even irrational reasons, then figuring out how to represent these as photographs, whether as still lifes or as elements in a documentary investigation. An (anarchic?) archive.
I’m curious about how we try to understand sound, its mechanics and manifestations, its social and political contexts, in short the anthropology of sound.
Jericho is an audio work for voice and environmental sound which examines scientific and historical understandings of sound. It's published on Bandcamp. The publication includes a twelve page pdf catalogue.
All recordings were taken in and around the Scottish Borders town of Jedburgh, both day and night, in January 2022 using a matched pair of Audio Technica 3032 omnidirectional microphones in a head-spaced barrier array.