Heart Matters



It is only really at this point in the final project Practice 2 module that I am beginning to pull together the floating fragments of my aims. To clarify what I am trying to achieve. I realise on reflection that doing the creative work brings together the why more organically. However, I have been stuck in my mind as usual trying to think it out instead of feel the way through.

Over the last couple of months time in the darkroom has gestated prints using sea salt both in cyanotype form and as photograms. It’s structure and luminosity have brought this mineral to light. It works well using light as a medium and will at some point be worked into the final program in the shape of some visual media.

I’ve turned to film also as an exploratory medium in trying to express some of the ideas I’m working with. In these exploratory months I’ve filmed the sea, the movement of waves in and out, a walk along the tideline and I’ve filmed people, people moving in an arts space, responding or not to the space and each other and where they find myself. For each of these mini films I’ve made some short soundscapes to accompany the way the visuals move. Most of these have been piano based and using few notes as per my minimalist practice of working.

There have been recurrent themes: sea, movement, salt, minerals, relationships between human and land/sea, relationships to each other.

More recently I have returned to an earlier recording method I had employed, that of recording body sounds to include that of the heart beat. There is a theme of heart, rhythm, electrical fields, bodily substances which are underlying this project. The embodied sound, the physicality/materiality of sound. I began to wonder how would an ecg reading translate to an audible signal.

Luckily I was put in contact with two cardiologists and was able to ask them some technical questions. They suggested using a doppler, yet this measures velocity not electrical activity. The process I am trying to get to may well be harder than first imagined. I perhaps need to speak with a physicist? Perhaps I can score the heart rhythms to create musical notes?

And now I have a harp in tow. My aim over the next few weeks is then to combine the heart beat sounds, with those of perhaps harp strings and add them to the recordings of the dancers moving across salt? (this should be in prep for the next two weeks all being well)…



Sounding Leeds


Today I took advantage of a cancelled workshop introduction at LCA to catch the remaining speakers at Sounding Leeds, a one day symposium exploring the past, present and future uses of sound, media and music in public art & social practice. It was timely as I am beginning my research into areas of sound used in art within the local geographical area as part of the Research Methods 1 module. It was equally as useful to tap into the arts networks and get a sense of what artists and educators are working on and with whom.

I found Alan Dunn’s talk particularly interesting as he’d directly worked with Chris Watson, who is primarily known in the larger world as the sound recordist on David Attenborough’s documentaries.  What I hadn’t realised is how he works on a really grassroots level. Alan spoke of bringing Chris into his work at Leeds Beckett University to engage students with the basic elements of sound recording. He takes the students to Maplins to buy a basic contact microphone and then they hunt out quiet places in the city such as tunnels. He mentioned how he uses the basis of these simple exercises to great more multi layered pieces of sound/music work.

His talk really demystified some of the areas of sound recording for me around having the ‘right’ equipment or even knowing exactly what you are doing. It made experimenting and feeling out of your depth okay and an acceptable place to start from someone so experienced and competent at the top of the industry.

Luckily I also heard James Mabbett speak. His most recently project was a sound project within Leeds Central Library which was played back to us as an audience with audience feedback voiced over the top. It sounded initially like an organ being played amongst the vaulted ceiling spaces of the library and yet I realised he had left certain instruments out for people to play themselves. An interesting concept and slightly more difficult to curate I imagine as he did find the ambience he was intending became broken when a young man started playing rock songs on the guitar!

As I’d expected somewhat before entering the Sounding Symposium it was predominantly makes in the room. There were two female speakers in Sue Ball of MAAP and Marion Harrison another Leeds artist which sadly I missed hearing. I will make this a part of my next mission to search out other sound artists in the region and try to make connections there.

I was so glad I went down though as it’s so fascinating seeing other practitioners work and to see the scope of what may be possible in terms of project funding, space acquisition, collaborative working and creative ideas sharing.