Reading: An Open Gallery, some sonic experiences

It is also possible to experience many sounds in Reading: An Open Gallery. At the bottom of this page, you will find a sound curated and experienced during Reading: An Open Gallery.

The noise machine, permanent sonic installation, under railway bridge, A329 Road, artist unknown.

A testimony to industry and modernism, this immense work acts as a giant instrument that gets ‘played’ by the traffic passing beneath. The cavernous space under the steel bridge amplifies the multitude of tones created by the engines of cars, lorries, taxis, buses and other traffic, whilst the hard surfaces of the steel involved in the installation bounce soundwaves back and forth in the space.

The result of these elements is that the listener is subjected to a loud, continuous and accumulating soundwave comprising of many tones. The sound is very complex and is always shifting; the deep growl of a lorry may combine with the menacing, hornet-like thrum of a motorcycle engine and sometimes there is a pause when the traffic is either momentarily still or absent. The tiled walls on the interior of the piece further reflect the sounds, adding to the revereberant qualities of the work.

This piece reminds me that there was a time when there were no cars or lorries on the roads; a point when city soundscapes were determined by different loudnesses such as the grinding of cartwheels or the clatter of horses’ hooves.

Correspondingly, there was also a point in history when all the Western Cities became characterised by locations such as the space underneath this bridge; noisy, clanging, steely, metallic, roaring and immense. This is a construction roaring and resonating with the force and materials inherent in its rendering. It speaks of the Industrial Revolution, of Expansion, of Speed.

I experience these kinds of spaces with a micture of awe and terror. It is difficult to denounce The Greatness of Bridges, Railways, Roads, Steel, Engineering, or the Modernist ideal of Speed. And certainly one can argue that the thrilling, resultant roar of these things communicates effectively the force and power harnessed in their rendering. But there is a kind of sonic oblivion associated with such spaces which makes me yearn for quiet corners, for the sake of my ears; for the sake of hearing without physical pain.

And so to smaller sounds:

edible explosions, Sugar, Glucose Syrup, Lactose, Carbon Dioxide, Cocoa Butter, Flavourings, Colours, Foil Packet, inks, Curated at: The Sweet Shop, Harris Arcade, Reading, artist: JTS Ltd.

In contrast with The Noise Machine, which is very much external to the body and which deals with spaces outside the boundaries of the self, edible explosions is a work that has to be experienced within the confines of one’s very own mouth. It is specific to Reading because the sweet shop in the Harris Arcade in Reading is the first place where I have seen popping candy available to buy since I was a small girl.

It truly is an amazing substance; the tiny pings and pops occurring inside the mouth possess an intimate and unsettling quality; to experience edible explosions is to rediscover your mouth via surprise and juxtaposition. The soft tissues of the mouth are (one would think) an inappropriate location for explosive happenings, and the unexpected merging of the two ideas – soft mouth, hard pops – is utterly beguiling in its inherent, sensory contradictions. Popping candy merges sound, texture and touch into one thing and there is a really bizarre intimacy inherent in hosting such an experience in your own head. As the candy pops and bursts open, impossibly synthetic flavours emerge in a soft syrup, melting outwards from the explosions, and your ears reconfigure themselves to decipher the fascinatingly fizzy sonic textures. Although vaguely grotesque, this experience has an appealing quality rather like the design of its packet or the design of old-fashioned firework packets. Overly Bright, Overly Stimulating and Overly Crass, edible explosions will change the way you experience your own mouth, momentarily, and the resultant sounds will stay in your ears, fizzing pleasingly like alka-seltzer or excited whisperings, for a long time afterwards.

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