Rehearsal No. 2

This was the second time we had all met together to work on the collaborative piece of performance we would shape. The last meeting was the end of May and it had been 4 weeks since our first tentative steps were taken. I had mused on the ideas and concept I’d initially brought in, themes of renewal, repair, of seascapes and heartbeats. I had wondered what elements of sound would bring these themes together to form a coherent whole. Whether the elements of sound, movement and performative actions would convey the right level of contemplation, intimacy and depth that I felt the themes had.

Leading up to our 2nd rehearsal in Leeds Beckett’s studio space I’d begun to think about the circle itself. Was it big enough for two people to perform in, did it show the interplay of relationships, the weaving in and out, was it a constraint? I added another circle into the sketches and thought perhaps that would add a further space to come in and out of. I envisaged Maria and Steph to perform in both those spaces yet what I’d not expected was that they would invite me in to use the space with them. We met outside the space today and talked outside in the park before trying to work it out in the space. It helped. We were all exhausted for differing life/work reasons and so sitting talking through ideas really helped take some pressure off over taxed minds in which to let ideas develop in time. So we talked of other circular spaces and when they suggested I draw one of the circles and fill it with salt with them it seemed natural to add a third circle into the final performing space.

Through our talking we got to map out the stages of the performance which had a structure as follows;

  1. The room is bare except for lines of tape on the floor. Audience will enter the space and find a seat. The first soundtrack will play while this is happening.
  2. We enter the space and begin to mark out our circles (3 in total) and to then fill in each circle. This may or may not have a mic input to external speaker.
  3. I leave the space and set up sound for later.
  4. Maria & Steph perform (on floor and walking along path) and meet at the edge.
  5. I trigger soundtrack for Maria & Steph to move in the final section.
  6. We all then take our section of tape and pull it off the floor to reveal marks underneath.
  7. We all leave the space.

We spent 4 hours today walking this through, shifting ideas back and forth – trying things out. Discarding some, retaining others. It’s an interesting dynamic to work in collaboration. I found it a process of both inputting then stepping back, testing ideas brought in, seeing if they worked. Trying to find the subtle sensitive balance between fulfilling their needs for the project, my needs for the project and what we were conveying, what the audience received.

It is however a slightly improvised piece and may shift on the day. We also decided that the space we performed in was also to be a working space and therefore we would have feet marks outside the circular forms, a laptop and string we used may be left lying around, marks of our process would be visible, there would be transparency.

 

 

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Quest

In a quest to find the sound of our heart, in an electromagnetic frequency sense I got in contact with two cardiologists through a friend working in the NHS.  Although for some time I’d been recording my own heartbeat through the use of a contact mic, the signal was low and the sounds are a reverberation through muscle, skin, tissues, bone. I was aware also of the use of the Doppler for recording foetal heartbeats. An echocardiogram uses a doppler to hear the whole heart cycle and to listen to each heart valve, the right rhythm indicative of a healthy heart. It is one of the most common tests for electrical activity. What I was trying to ascertain though was could a printed ecg heart wave rhythm be translated into different frequencies. When the sinus wave peaked did that correlate to a particular pitch? Could we hear the sound of our hearts in a different way?

I started to look into the shape of an ECG waveform:

ecg

positive deflection – when the electrical activity of the heart travels towards a lead.  negative deflection – when activity travels away from a lead.

The electrical activity of the heart flows in many directions at once – the wave on a ECG represents the average direction.

Height of a wave – amount of electricity flowing in that direction. A regular sinus rhythm 60 -100 beats per min (82bpm). Ultrasound – above 20Khz (20,000Hz).

Reflecting on ECG waveforms and recording my heartbeat gave me the rhythm translated as a sound wave. On further conversation with both cardiologists I discovered that the Doppler is velocity based and the signal will be different from the ECG, ie the doppler is listening to the speed of blood circulating around the heart, the ECG is recording the electrical signal. It’s the electrical signal I want to map the sound of. They suggested I need a physics expert and that’s where I’ve reached a stopping point. It may be that this can be translated into a bigger project, to begin mapping the body and it’s sonic capacity in different ways. To work in collaboration with a team. It may also be a non starter.

heartbeat wave

This mini research however and the notion of measuring velocity and thinking of volumes of liquid set me thinking of the capacity of the heart, it’s holding capacity, it’s significance as a vessel, or set of chambers, not only in a physical sense but in a metaphorical one.

A holding of expectation, a carrier of emotions, a signifier of feeling.

Early Micro Beginings

It’s Practice 2 – the final journey through the MA Creative Practice. It’s the only project for which there has been no external exhibition to work towards (outside the University degree show). It started not as an outward facing project but of an interior one. One which would culminate over time. I intended to let the project unfold organically and see what it would be like to not over research. There were elements from previous projects to envelope in. The minimalist manifesto I’d written last year would form the backbone of the way in which I worked, pairing elements down, using less.

In the earlier stages of the project I found myself not only listening more, but watching too. Watching people move in public places, along the coast, seeing what I could see when I slowed down enough to watch. This led to a series of short very mini clips of film which I found sound for. There seemed to be a good serendipitous relationship between finding sounds in my piano whilst watching these moments. short film series.

On the back of the research for the dissertation and an intense period of writing and reflection on the use of sound within an arts practice I moved my practice forward by entering into the darkroom for a period of time. It felt like the most succinct environment for an incubation of a new project. Time in there stood still. Lingering in the wet rooms of Vernon Street made play possible again after the long writing and research. I chose to work with both cyanotype and photogram methods. I find both of these methods of contact printing experimental, tactile, fluid, unknown. The material I’d chosen to work with primarily was salt, metaphorically for it’s cleansing and preserving properties and sonically I thought I’d find some interesting sounds from working with it in a sound recording capacity. It also is a constituent of the body and therefore felt resonant with exploring an embodied sensory phenomenological essence of this project.

 

Salt scan copy
Detail of Salt Photogram

It lets the light through well and gives structure and form. I let myself play around with these crystal forms for some time, exploring how much light to let through and which light sources I would be using. It wasn’t immediately obvious what the material was and therefore the references were ambiguous and they had an visual element of how it may appear when looking through a microscopic lens.

 

Having worked with a very small radius of space and time since the early days of the MA through parenting and work constraints and hence learning to work with the micro elements of life, small things, small moments, captured time in minutes, it felt resonant to produce more work at this level. There were no grand gestures, but smaller incremental changes, acute visions in the mundanity of life. This really has been a constant in the realms of MA work I’ve produced.  In previous sound installations completed this last two years I have used found environmental sound, breath, microphones in small places in the natural world, a sort of a quieter walk through the world yet with an active ear.

salt lines photogram
salt lines photogram
salt line photogram
salt line photogram

I began to record some qualities of the salt falling on salt, salt falling on different surfaces, salt being moved around on wood and then the idea came to explore the possibilities of working with dancers. I began to wonder what this material would sound like under moving limbs and what shapes maybe left by the human interaction. This was the next chapter to explore and I got in touch with Beth, leader of the MA Choreography at Leeds Beckett University.  She was very supportive of my initial ideas and said she’d speak with her dance group to see if there was initial interest. This is explored in the next post…

Approaching Nocturne Film

Clare has released this final cut of the Approaching Nocturne event back in June at Studio 24. It is a good use of both soundtracks (mine and Ben’s) and shows both the dancers and the choir in performance. Also a good overview of the visual art. Although already critically reflected upon in Practice 1 I wanted to include a link to it here as I hadn’t previously got adequate footage of the event as on the day I was so concerned with sound EQ (note to self, remember to always have a filmmaker in with you!).

 

 

Sound Women Network

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..

 

 

Deep Listening

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.

One to follow up on….

 

Jez Riley French Talk

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.