Today I witnessed a live BBC Radio production outside of a traditional radio studio. Based in Ferens Art Gallery, Hull and as part of the Art is Everywhere weekend in conjunction with the Turner Prize 2017 Maryanne Hobbs of 6 music broadcast inside the gallery space.
It was fascinating watching the set up. From a tech point of view she broadcast via a laptop and a mic which was so portable and which moved with her according to when she was interviewing guests or speaking to the audience. On a table next to her was an artist Sam Winston who was drawing in relation to the music she played…relevant in a how do we visualise sound/music way. There seems to be more of this theme around in contemporary music and art platforms currently. Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival ran a drawing in response to sound workshop during November.
On the opposing side to her desk was the sound/mixing desk and a small area for the string quartet playing plus two keyboards for Philip Selway.
The audience were allowed to roam in and out and producers and BBC staff moved around taking photographs.
I include it in research methods for the reason of analysing radio as performance. I loved the informal nature of the production. It combined watching performance, dialogue, live art with a broadcast. It made me think of using this format in a production and most certainly added to my interest in creating content for radio shows, perhaps in a sonic art way as the shows produced by Resonance FM. More recently I’ve listened to many Radio 3 and Radio 6 shows combining elements of word and sound in their shows, thematically linked to a specific set of ideas, genres, or concepts.
Radio also for me is one of the formats/mediums in which the ‘intimacy of sound’ can be harnessed. I find there is a particular resonance when the theme of the radio broadcast, the voice of the presenter and the particular time of day synergistically mould together to create a sonic world in which one can find oneself ‘in tune’ and spoken to directly. Almost on a one to one. Or perhaps one can feel a part of something greater, when there’s an awareness of many listeners tuned in at the same time. This naturally is enhanced by social media’s role in being able to communicate directly with the DJ and therefore a community is created.
Radio as performance. One to consider. I was musing on the journey back home how to conduct a radio show as a soundwalk as a live event, not pre-recorded (aside from some of the music to be played)…is this possible?
Ableton Loop Music Makers Summit 10-12 November 2017, Funkhaus Berlin.
I have returned from a weekend in Berlin at a summit/conference which was both inspiring and engaging. Primarily although I haven’t been using Ableton specifically for sound editing purposes I liked the look of the speakers in the programme and it became the perfect reasoning to opt for a weekend in one of the most creative European cities on research purposes!
It’s been over 20 years since I last visited this city and I have very fond memories of being well looked after by friendly democratic East Berliners in a large squatters block. I recall the starkness of the architecture and the particularly bleak weather. In essence not a lot had changed. The industrial urban-ness of the city remained and much of it seemed to have become a large canvas for the painting of graffiti.
The Bauhaus designed Funkhaus was something else altogether. The former DDR home of German Radio broadcasting and production was both austere externally yet rich and acoustically warm internally. Totalling 50,000sq metres it’s size is impressive alone.
Ableton’s programme was diverse and impressive covering areas of music production, creative methodologies, new sound technologies, music in eduction and providing workshops, sound installations and performances there was a lot to absorb. I highlighted 3 primary sound people I wanted to listen to: Kate Gately, Catarina Barbieri and Jenny Hval.
Kate Gately. Talked in a Q&A format and showed a film of her recording sounds around the city she lived (LA). The primary interests for me in the context of my own practice was listening to how she records and then how she translates those sounds to her sound/music production. She spoke of her internal processes and the struggle in trying to find her ‘voice’ sonically but that she built up her studio over time in way which works well for her. (i.e.: she processes sounds standing and edits sitting down in two different workstation areas within the same room). I really find this level of unravelling anthers practice useful. I can find when in the sound booth working on my own sound projects that it’s an isolating experience where I am constantly questioning what I’m doing, or researching how to achieve a particular sound effect etc. So in some sense knowing other’s who are at a professional level further on than I still ask similar questions of themselves is a form of relief…
Catarina Barbieri. Was a joy to listen to and to hear. Her words really resonated when she talked about minimalism in her intention with the modular synth music she makes. She spoke of using only single note(s) and creating patterns of permutations from that one note. She spoke of minimalism in Eastern music structures (particularly Indian classical) which struck a chord with me. She talked of how often Eastern traditions would begin by trying to tune into the sound which was already in existence as opposed to ‘creating/plucking/playing’ a sound/note from silence. It reminded me a lot of having sat in many traditional Ragas musical performances whilst travelling in India years ago and how the sound did seem to drift in and drift out without there being a particular start or end. I think I have been trying, albeit in a more basic way, by my overuse of fade in’s and fade out’s on my own pieces…!
Hearing her music played live was really special and enhanced by the huge speaker stacks of the auditorium and general high level of audio kit. The sound was very polyphonic, rich and hypnotic. From a performative perspective, they had cleverly set up a camera to access how she was using the synth and this gave an added performative dimension to a production which otherwise would have been quite still.
Jenny Hval. I listened to her in conversation with Frances Morgan (The Wire) where she spoke at length of some of her inspiration for writing and of what her creative process looks like. It was refreshing to hear her eclectic recording ideas, for instance she spoke of having ideas whilst driving, recording them into her phone and putting those spoken words straight into her music, unedited. Other aspects to note which were of interest were her performance ideas, her use of an iPhone onstage as both recording and performative tool.
research and residency at Casa deli Artisti, Canale di Tenno, Trentino, Italy
It’s been 4 days since the return from Italy and the MA Research Trip/Residency at Casa degli Artisti in Canale di Tenno. There is a lot to reflect upon.
Initially I really had thought I’d not be able to follow through in going. It would be the first time I’d left my daughter for that length of time and for that distance. In the months leading up to it I confess to having had several nights waking up in panic at whether it was the right thing to be doing. Yet it also felt like too good an opportunity to miss and perhaps time apart would be a healthy experience rather than an anxiety driven negative one.
So on 22nd April I found myself sat on the plane with others from the group heading into the unknown. If I’m being totally honest it was the unknown I was craving. The stepping out of the ‘usual’ the sense of adventure, the ability to be someone else, to have some autonomy, to take a risk and most of all to ‘see’ and ‘hear’ a different place. I’d been to parts of Northern Italy previously on occasion so had some sense of what may lie ahead but never had I been up in the Dolomits or indeed on an MA trip.
In advance of going I had read a little about the area. I was curious in a psychogeographic way what the place may ‘feel’ like and how far I could wander off the beaten track. I had these thoughts in mind in advance. I also had some pre-conceived idea of what kind of work I may do out there (which turned out to be quite different when there). It was tricky knowing what to take in terms of materials & equipment. As much as I wanted to record and edit sounds out there I also didn’t want the ‘burden’ of taking my heavy laptop or indeed my printing tools. So I chose the bare minimum. My Zoom recorder, a set of cow bells (more on them later), some grey & white drawing paper and a selection of 5 acrylic paint colours (white, bronze, silver, purple & blue) & some pre-prepared cyanotype paper.
We arrived after a 10 hour journey on Saturday evening. It took a while to find between us and the coach driver who had never been to the house before. It involved leaving the coach in one of the lay-bys and walking up cobbles with noisy suitcases late at night. The place seemed deserted, there was no sign of life. Inside Bianca & Fabio, researchers at University of Trento greeted us (with they 13 month old baby). Everyone was fairly beat by then but a few of us went to have a sneak peak of the house and the exhibition space.
It was old. The next morning we met Manola & Juri who run the Dolomit Learning team and gave us a sense of the area’s history. It was with them we would potentially spend the next two days getting a feel of the place and going down to Riva del Garda on the shores of the Lake. At this stage I’d begun to play with some of the Cyanotype paper with remants used from the garden. I’d figured it was the only sunny day forecast and needed to make the most of it.
I hadn’t yet had a really clear goal in mind except I wanted to explore Lago di Tenno, a glacial lake higher up fro the house. We went as a group that afternoon and it was far less remote than I had envisaged. It was disappointingly quite touristy and accessible. For some reason I had in my mind a sense of needing to scramble through the wilds to get there but it turns out there was a path and a coffee stand next to it. The water was a stunning colour though – turquoise. And the sounds of what it turns out we think were crickets was overriding. I went off to record some of their incessant clicks.
After a couple of days it struck me there was an inherent Tension i was feeling between wanting to be part of the group and wanting some solitude and to be on my own. This began to form the start of the working process for me. By the time I got to Tuesday I was in need of retreat and passéd out on going to the 2nd of the tours, instead choosing to stay at the Casa and work/walk/wander. Two others stayed and did their own version of retreat. It was also the day I really felt I was missing my daughter and began to muse on what and how do we keep connected when far away. In the situation of working with the group I also began to reflect on relationship dynamics. How we work alongside each other, what each other’s personalities were. Some of this internal dialogue began being reflected in the stories of the area Manola & Juri had told us of the people in the region. The conflict and the understanding of those who lived in the Alpine regions alongside those who lived at a lower level nearer the Lake.
During all of these days I was picking up snippets of sound recordings. Of general village atmospheres, of water in the lake, of yachts, of church bells (which chimed every hour), of mountain sheep & goats, of local dogs, of conversations, of night time acoustics in the stone walls and tunnels. It was this inter connectedness of sound and form which formed the basis of the installation I chose to do for the final show day.
In the garden I’d found many larger stones, some of which I’d used to hold down the cyanotypes earlier. They seemed perfect to use for their symbol of stability and for the fact that everywhere are stone patterns and the entire village is in itself a homage to building in stone. Everywhere I walked was on a myriad of stone patterns, all the walls were made using stone formations. So I chose to begin painting these stones with symbolic forms representing connection and relationship. Alongside this I began drawing out sections of the stone walls and the ‘spaces in-between’ as a metaphor for our interconnectedness. I was going through a kind of stripping back, of deconstruction, of simplifying thoughts to their most purest form.
Ever action felt very intention and not wasted. The rubbings of white chalk on grey paper over the stones was in itself a small meditation on the animals who walked into the lower part of the house to feed. The hung cowbells on the wall was a symbolic gesture to the co-existing relationship between human and animal. The painted stones left exhibited on stone stairs against a white wall were intended to be a symbolic gesture of how we move through & around our own human relationships. The water in a bowl from Lake Tenno was a reminder of how we rely on water for our survival. The sounds playing directly from the recorder were a way of sonically tying these relational aspects together.
What struck me most about all of the time I spent here was that for the first time I have brought an emotional content into my work. I think it is what I have wanted to do for some time but never felt at ease doing so. It was in essence only by going away, by leaving home that I found some kind of voice to be able to do that. Posting this content out and even having to talk about it to the exhibition guests felt like an extremely vulnerable place to be yet almost a necessary place.
Now back home I am hoping I can tune into that voice I found to continue to weave it through my future work in Studio Practice and indeed through the remaining MA and beyond.
I ventured down to the Yorkshire Sound Women networking event on Sat 4th March at Heritage Quay at the University of Huddersfield. The group were celebrating International Women’s Day (a week early!) by showcasing the work of their members and to celebrate women working in technology and sound.
What a diverse array of talent! It was a great afternoon and a very accessible environment to walk in. I chatted to several women there: Sara Brannan who showed coding and performance and who’d made a visualisation of sound installation, Amy Beeston who was researching at Sheffield University into how we respond to sound, Zoe Blade and Nina Richards who had total command and knowledge to build circuits and manipulate modular synths.
There were other demonstrations there. I had a ‘play’ with some technology using both Max msp and an old xbox to generate sound on body movement, and with a vibrating plate which formed sand patterns at differing frequencies. There were musicians there playing with electronic amplified flutes and another woman building circuit boards which generated different sounds.
It was inspiring. And impressive. And intriguing. In terms of my own research I connected the most with Amy’s work and we decided after a longish conversation to swap details in the event we could explore the potential of a future collaboration together. She’s based in Sheffield and comes to Huddersfield for monthly sound women network meetings and was suggesting I set up a Leeds network as there had been interest from women in Leeds! So I’ll give that some thought..
Recently I came across the work of Pauline Oliveros and her work with the Deep Listening Band. I watched her TEDex Talk entitled ‘The difference between hearing and listening’ which resonated a lot with the way I perceive sound and space. She talked of discovering the effects of acoustic properties in spaces and the impact it has on both audience and player. Her band improvised playing music within a cistern they entered (14ft underground space) which had a great impact on how she was perceiving sound. And I think the notion of perception is certainly an interesting one as people would perceive sound differently within a shared space.
I need to read of more of her work as she has developed a system called the Expanded Instrument System an electrical signal processing system which she used in performance and recordings. From her foundation she developed Deep Listening retreats with the premise to highlight the benefits of greater sonic awareness.
With a little bit of polite asking and with the okay of both Jez Riley French, sound recordist and Paul Ratcliff, Head of Film and Music at Leeds Beckett University I went to hear Jez speak to the undergrad students at Leeds Beckett. So that was an interesting experience – me and a lot of 20 year old boys…didn’t feel out of place at all. It’s 2017 and sound/film is still so gender specific.
I digress. The talk was fascinating. He talked of the main kit he uses which consists of good omni mic’s, contact mic’s, Hydraphones and a two channel Sound Devices recorder. Then we listened to many projects on which he has worked which are listed below:
Humber Bridge (Opera North commission for Hull City of Culture 2017) – haunting sounds using contact mice inside the tunnel of the Humber Bridge and some pick up of the wind and traffic ambience.
Howard Assembly Rooms (Leeds) – he placed microphones on the roof of the building whilst the orchestra played inside and what a lovely sound. Although the projector in the room was buzzing and their was a slight hum from the speakers, what was heard was a drifting sound of an orchestra in an architectural space. He also used a Geophone to hear ‘through’ the building.
Teleferrica’s Italy – used microphones on the tension wires. Really supersonic sounds came through. Very Star Wars – turns out this is originally how George Lucas’s team recording light sabres and other flying sound effects back in the 70’s. The ‘zooming’ sound effects came from insects colliding with the tension of the wires.
Antenna cables (Iceland) – contact mic on cable – sounded very ‘primordial’ to me, low sounds with some high pitch frequency overlaid.
Score for a Print Rack – he recorded 8 hours of playing two bows against a traditional metal print drying rack. Interesting!
Fence in Iceland for the Acoustic Cameras Project – the project is recording soundtracks from around the world.
Johann Johannsson – he is working with him and some of Jez’s recordings have been used in Bladerunner. Recording again through a building lovely sounds of strings came through over a low pulsating hum.
Fire – of the more unusual sound experiments was the hazelnut. He stuck a fine needle in a contact mic, added a hazelnut on the end and set fire to it. It was really interesting, especially towards the end when the sound of the nut creaking and groaning came out.
Hydraphones- he played the sound of water beetles and tadpoles in a pond near where he lives.
Glacial Lake – Fjallsarlong, Iceland – beautiful location – recorded the sound of millions of ice bubbles – sounded high pitched like a tweet of a bird and water running sounds.
Lava Beach (Iceland) – hydra phone stuck deep in the sand of a lava beach with the sound of the waves crashing overhead. Nearly came out and hit the audience – we all jumped back…super powerful.
Electromagnetic/Infra/Ultra Sound – he used an ultrasonic detector in geothermal pools in Iceland – this wasn’t quite the sound I was expecting. It was higher in pitch and sounded a little like rain. I had expected a lower frequency deeper resonant sound for some reason. Perception…?
Lightbulb – with ultrasonic detector and a coil pick up on a florescent lightbulb strip. Pitch changed when the lightbulb heated and cooled down.
Audible Silence (Tate Modern) – he had 7 days on his own recording areas of the turbine hall at Tate Modern. Sounded like a low eerie hum with some high pitched sounds in there also.
VLF Dectector – this was one of my favourite sounds – recorded in Japan. The VLF detector picks up radio fallout in the universe (i.e.: from stars exploding). The sound was immense. Crackly sounds but then a really strange movement sound which was the sound of a shooting star trail. How cool is that…?
He talked of other aspects like playback volume and recording volume for field recordings which was useful as I’d put my input recording volume high but he said that isn’t needed on his Sound Devices recorder as the pre amp is such good quality. I may need to higher mine through on my minute Zoom.
So glad I went and listened. Learnt a lot which I can now input into my own sound recording experiments.
About a month ago I was invited to speak at the Cornmill Arts Space in Ilkley as part of their Polikana evening events. It’s an idea based on the Petchakucha format whereby each speaker has the same format to talk about a theme, their work or something of interest. The format is 20 slides, 20 seconds per slide for approx 6 minutes. The original Petchakucha format is slides only yet at Polikana the boundaries are a little broader so that video and audio can be added to the presentation.
I was very nervous. Some of the people there were fully immersed in their practices and had been for several years. It is curated by Gary Winters (Lone Twin Theatre Company) and Simon East (Sonolope) and a diverse and broad set of 6 speakers were asked to present including Joe who runs the Cornmill Arts Space, Lorna Jewitt, who has just completed this MA Creative Practice, Alice Fox textile artist and Jez, local filmmaker.
Yet I thought it would be a good idea for my practice to test out some ideas, gain valuable feedback and introduce sound as a part of my practice. It was a great evening. After my talk I met with Tom Beardsley, sculptor and Simon East both who have recently heard Susan Philipz speak at Leeds University and it was great to share sound related ideas with both of them.
They both curate a new weekly night called the ‘All Ears Listening Club’ at a local venue in Ilkley and after the talk they invited me to submit some of my sound experiments to their night. (very chuffed)….so all in all good to build confidence in speaking and good to network with like minded people.