It has just occurred to me that most of my interest does lie in VOICE. What it means to have one and how we use it or indeed how we don’t use it. What does it mean to ‘use one’s voice’?
I think most likely this lightbulb moment has manifested due to having watched (again) The Kings Speech. A brilliant film on the psychological elements constraining the voice of King George VI. It is such a brilliantly sensitive and painful look into his world of feeling and his inability to safely express himself.
There are parts of this film which resonate a lot. The work I am leaning towards in sound will I hope endeavour to capture the use of voice as well as found and recorded sounds and musical notes.
As an experiment I’m thinking to develop ‘secret’ mic spots whereby i invite passers by to speak into the mic anything they wish. They use their voice in whichever way they choose without feeling the presence of another person listening.
This lightbulb moment has filled me with ideas…but its midnight and I should sleep..
I’ve just returned from a good 3 hours communing with the techs at Apple to try and save my hard drive and data. Last week I opened up my mac only to see a screen I’d never seen before. It is called the ‘recovery screen’. Things went downhill from there. After several phone calls and several rebooting attempts the system still couldn’t get back up and running in the familiar way it had usually done. The ‘recovery’ screen still floated in front of me like an ominous gatekeeper.
I won’t go into the lengthy processes one has to go through to get an appointment with the ‘genius bar’ at Apple, suffice to say it was painful. In the midst of this several day long process I began to analyse what information, documents, photographs I had on the mac. It was after all, only new to me since Feb 2016 so there wasn’t a huge amount on it but it was a significant period of work including all the documents relating to my exhibition at Leeds Gallery in May 2016. Most importantly though and the one which caused me the most sadness was the lovely photographs of my daughter especially the time spent with her on holiday over the summer and the photos of her first day at school.
To be honest I had no idea what was wrong with my computer except that I could no longer get ‘into’ it. I had been shut out.
So today I finally had an Apple tech look into it. On the positive side the hard drive wasn’t damaged physically. On the negative side it could only see the recovery partition and not the operating system. It was looking unlikely that my data was recoverable unless willing to pay a few hundred for it.
So what happened? My hard drive was erased. All gone. Not accessible again. Memories wiped out. And the operating system reinstalled. This means I have a working computer again with nothing on it.
So on the train home (and luckily it was the most bright of autumnal sunshine days) I mused on the notion of ‘erased’. What did it mean to loose all the information? I felt like I was grieving especially for the photographs and the time spent yet I realised also how memories really remain in the heart and in the mind. Our time together hadn’t vanished. Our shared moments had still happened. Since she was born I’ve rarely printed out a ‘proper’ photograph from a digital record. I’ve no hard copies of written work (except for my research proposal luckily). And so it brought me to a state of ‘letting go’. I really questioned what I needed to keep hold of and mused over how many multiple copies of work images I’d had. Then I was thrown into a state of realising many of my research proposal bookmarks would also have been erased. How many websites could I remember? Which resonated the most in my memory and which would be forgotten? How often do we keep so many bookmarks and be incredibly overloaded with information and resources only to never refer to them again? It’s feels like a form of deconstructing. Of stripping back all the layers to reach only those which are present for us right now.
In essence I was starting anew. Learning to take better care of my data. To work more efficiently. To only keep what is essential to both the creative process and to memories of life.
It’s the evening of the first day of presentations and a good time to reflect on what worked, what didn’t and what to learn from the experience. This first presentation I situated myself in past and current work. I expressed where I’d been creatively and what took me further along the creative route. I perhaps spoke too long about my own work instead of contextualising it further. Although in essence I have been in a commercial sales environment and operated like a small business and so my contextual reference points were enterprise related and not theoretical in nature.
It is though an area I need to begin working on. Perhaps I have too many theoretical ideas to bring in. It certainly feels like there are many strands of research material to investigate and I need to work through these to see which areas feel the most comfortable. At this point in time it is relevant to note that moving into the area of sound and recording is a new area for me and so brings with it extra challenges of not being an expert in the field, of not knowing yet what is currently being produced or what the latest areas of research are. Yet one essence of interest remains the same and has always been there and that is ‘effect’. What effect do sound & visual environments have upon us as humans? How can we better understand ‘us’ in the context of life?
The other point worth noting is my response to nerves. In the morning I knew there was some slight anxiety levels lying dormant yet they didn’t fully surface until my name was called and I was walking towards the front of the room. I remember those nerves so well, like a very uncomfortable familiar old foe. It’s to do with performance and being ‘seen’. It’s deeply uncomfortable. The only time I’ve ever really worked through these feelings was in the final performance of a week’s singing school several years ago when half way through a song I realised I had the power to communicate and engage the audience so that it became a two way connection. It was a powerful feeling and in that small moment all nerves dissolved. That is the essence of what I am aiming for in presentation two. I guess as it was noted today, that some of my work ideas touch on deep themes and suggest a certain vulnerability in myself also and hence the feeling of exposure when trying to talk about this to a group of people I’ve only just met.
Yet authenticity is what I greatly admire. I admire people who can do this. Be authentic and real and let themselves be seen. Most of my life has been an exercise in hiding myself away. Maybe this Master’s course is about to change all of that.
Last night I went to see Hollie McNish who was speaking as part of the Ilkley Literature Festival. I was blown away. Not only by her choice of words but also by her bravery in speaking the unspeakable especially surrounding being a mother. I can imagine reading her prose and poems are powerful enough, but to hear her read them out in the rhythm she does so well was really powerful and moving.
I’d not known much about her work before. I’d seen one video about breastfeeding in public which was uncomfortable viewing purely because all of what she said was true and it was such a sad reflection on the state of our society and how women are viewed as mothers.
There were collective murmours in the audience of agreement, of those that had felt exactly those feelings, of solidarity and of relief that here was this young woman so powerfully voicing all of what we felt.
And it was a insight into the power of performance. Something about being in a theatre setting (or in fact anywhere with a dialogue between a live person/s and an audience) gives strength to what is being communicated. It gives the space a special feeling and energy which is difficult to convey in a medium such as television. It reminded me why I love performance in all it’s different varieties. Music, dance, theatre, spoken word all have the power to connect us with each other and that is the key to the work I aim to immerse myself in during this MA journey.
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.