Harp and Things for Active Crossover

I am working on a new piece for a performance next Friday at The Rising Sun Arts Centre in Reading. The performance is part of Active Crossover; a project by Simon Whetham. Here is some information on Active Crossover:

Active Crossover 2011

‘Active Crossover’ will be running in four gallery spaces in the year 2011. South Hill Park in Bracknell, Wolstenholme Creative Space in Liverpool, Millspace in Armley, Leeds, and Soundfjord in London.

Active Crossover 2011.01 runs 05.02.11-03.04.11 in the Bracknell Gallery, South Hill Park, Bracknell. 01.04.11 Closing Weekend Event features performances from Jonathan Coleclough, Cheapmachines, Mark Durgan, Felicity Ford, Martin Franklin and Simon Whetham.

Active Crossover is an electronic circuit used in speaker construction which enables sounds to transmit acurately across space. Whetham writes on the AC website that this specific aspect of speaker construction finds a kind of parallel in the way that sound projects often grow out of social relationships, travel and communication, being ‘transmitted’ from one place to another, through interaction, concerts, radio, etc. As sounds literally move across space inside or from various components within a speaker, so, too, do they move less literally between the geographies where artists work and play and listen. A consequence of this idea of Active Crossover as both a technical term and a metaphor for the community aspect of sonic practices is that Active Crossover projects tend to involve travel and/or collaboration.

The artists therefore involved with the gig next Friday at The Rising Sun all received the following information from Simon Whetham regarding our performances:

each pairing starts with a solo set of approx 20 minutes, a crossover collaboration of approx 10 minutes and a second solo set of approx 20 minutes once again.

I have been paired with Mark Durgan and am busy now familiarising myself with his work. I am intrigued to see what will happen when our work intersects during the crossover; I think one of the rich aspects of Active Crossover is that performers get to experience a collaborative approach to performing, and to meet each other’s work head on in the soundmix… it’s a wonderfully practical and experiential way to get familiar with other practitioners’ work.

I have decided that for this concert I intend to play the harp which I have inherited from my Aunty Hilary. The harp is out of tune and missing many strings, but I love the way it sounds and the more I play with it, the more new noises I discover within it.

Having spent 3 years massively exploring the value of everyday sounds, I find I feel resistant to forcing pitch and tone onto this instrument which is full of stories and capable of making many amazing sounds just as it is. I have therefore not replaced the broken strings, nor tuned the instrument. I am instead exploring its soundworld and finding that it sounds like a ship creaking in the night when you rub the soundboard; that it sounds like a 1980s engaged telephone tone on certain strings; that it sounds like the discordant harmonics of big, Church Bells in other places… I like the idea of exploring the harp outside of its usual context and extending its soundlife beyond delicate irish folk songs strummed by women in long dresses into a world with less distinct borders between sound and music.

There I am, aged around 7, playing Beethoven on the piano at a Butlin’s holiday talent show.

I intend to tell the story of me and this harp in my performance, as this exact instrument is the one which pre-empted my choice to learn piano as a five year old girl, and therefore it is the first object in a story which now finds me listening to the sounds of pigeons cooing; wind blowing; traffic; the sound of my computer fan, etc. I want to reconcile these worlds; the world of prescribed music as set out by an instrument, and the world of sonic possibility…

I had to re-read my thesis last weekend in preparation for my Viva which is on Monday. In it, I came across this:


…that’s a good starting point for thinking about the slippage I want to create; a playful, imaginative dialogue between the found sounds of the world, and the specific sounds of an instrument…

Here are my very first forrays into playing the harp. They are very rough and I was really just trying out lots of little musical ideas on it. It is my intention to strip back from this busyness and to bring in other sounds from the harp which are less like its usual uses. The squeaky sound part way through is Joey coming in, perturbed by the reverberant string noises!

first play by felixbadanimal

I hope to see you next Friday at The Rising Sun.

2 Responses to Harp and Things for Active Crossover

  1. Pingback: SARU practitioner Felicity Ford performing in Active Crossover gig | SARU – Sonic Art Research Unit

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