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.