Sonic work

Thank you all so much for the wonderful comments you have left about The Felicity Ford Radio Show, PILOT. I have been blown away by your support and enthusiasm for the project, and am beginning to draft episode #2. The first show took about two and a half days to edit which is rather unsustainable, and which competes with other projects I am currently contracted to work on. So I shall continue working on the project with a view to streamlining and professionalising my approach to production, (hopefully without skimping at all on the SOUNDZ, WORDZ or IDEAZ) and we shall see where this new radio/podcast format takes us…

I truly appreciate your comments and feedback. For those of you who especially enjoyed Martin Stubbington’s wonderful animal drawings, here is a nice photo of him with a hawk behind him.

There is much exciting sonic work on this week; I travel to Northern Ireland on Wednesday to lead a “sounds of making” drop in session, along the lines of the KNITSONIKTM project which I led at Prick Your Finger back in May. The idea is that people will drop in and talk to me about the sounds of making.

I am also working on editing together further materials from Tuned City to add to our shorts page on the Tuned City website, which is wonderful, as everytime I listen back through to our sounds I am transported to Tallinn with its tall streets and omnipresent seagulls.

I am mostly editing sounds from Raul Keller’s site-specific torpedoes which were installed on a run-down stretch of beach. The striking stone edifice of the Paterei rises on one side of this beach, and to the other, lie views of the Linnahall with its vaguely militaristic, bunker-like aspects. You can see one of Raul’s torpedoes to the right of this photo, and the Paterei in the background with its solemn, stony edifice turned grimly towards the sea.

The Paterei sea fortress was originally built in 1840 as a fortress, and used as a prison from the 1920s. Later, it became a prison hospital. I believe it was decommissioned in the early 2000s, and it is now open to visitors. Walking around it is rather ghoulish, and one feels the proximity of the sea, the dampness of the stone, and the intensity of the histories lived out within its crumbly old walls.

The prison is an extremely forboding and sombre place, and as stereotypical as it sounds, there is a tangible atmosphere of suffering and abandonment inside it.

However there is a great sense of hopefulness in Estonia; a trend within which old, Soviet ruins seem to be being colonised by creativity and repurposed for brighter futures. For instance in spite of its grimness, The Paterei is now open as a Museum; Raves take place within it periodically; and there is also a fantastically makeshift bar which occasionally pops up on the beach behind it. One late night spent on this beach involving copious beers and a bonfire was especially memorable during my Tallinn stay, and Raul’s torpedoes on the neighbouring stretch of sand have an equally playful sense of reinventing the history of a place without forgetting what used to be there.

Buzzing atop wooden pillars, the little motors in his sonic torpedoes turned in the wind, emanating a sound not entirely unlike toy boats. They were at once extremely fun objects and also an unsettling reminder of the military uses to which the beach was once subjected. Raul (who is from Tallinn) gave Danny (who was on our documenting workshop) a wonderful interview in which he talks about the challenges of working in a site-specific way with such an emotionally loaded space, and also about the joys of thinking-through-making, and discovering all that one needs in hardware stores when making objects of this nature. I too can vouch for the usefulness of the hardware store when making sonic objects, and I love the sonic torpedoes and their buzzy sounds, complex references, and reinvention of space. To my mind there is something subversive about taking something as intrinsically violent as a torpedo and filling it with something as nonviolent as this little whirring sound, and I love how the motions which propel a torpedo through the water from actual submarines in this case become instead the means for propelling a noise through the air.

Vive la sonic torpedoes!

While I am editing recordings of these in action and Raul’s words about them, Valeria is busy working on editing our sounds from the Chromatico. The Chromatico is a sculpture featuring many concrete chambers which you can walk through, and each of which is designed to resonate at a specific frequency within the chromatic scale. This is what it looks like.

The nature of this piece means that exploring it, one feels compelled to make sounds and to listen to how they resound in different areas of the sculpture. Myself and Valeria spent a very happy afternoon goofing around in The Chromatico, variously clapping, shouting, humming, singing and whistling, and trying to see whether or not we could discern the relationship between the sizes of the concrete chambers, and the way that the different sounds we produced bounced around inside them. I love works of this nature which invite playfulness, interaction, and experimentation.

Following our own curious forrays into the sounds of The Chromatico, Tomas Ankersmit gave a sonorous performance using his saxaphone which I was unable to attend, but which Danny recorded. Valeria is editing this all together, and the results will soon be up on the webpage which features all our Tuned City shorts.

Skype – an Estonian invention, by the way – has proved invaluable to the continuing works of the Framework Documentation Team!

The other sonic work I have on at the moment involves documenting the works of Max Eastley for The Sonic Art Research Unit at Oxford Brookes University. I spent a marvellous afternoon on the roof of a London building recently, recording the plinks and plonks of Max’s Aeolian devices which were installed there and which were – through a remarkable series of transducers, wires, and amplifiers – being piped continuously down into the rooms below, where Gone with the Wind was installed at the Raven Row gallery.

I am genuinely enjoying the process of cataloguing Eastley’s works with aeolian devices, as this make me think very differently about wind and the way that various materials are sounded by its activities.

Metal ball-bearings, suspended on bamboo canes, and attached to bands of latex are moved by the wind. Metal plates are struck periodically by this movement, and the sound is carried down into the gallery where a listener hears something evocative of pastoral bells or suchlike. I wrote more about this here and I love the idea of wind activated instruments and Max’s gorgeous drawings of butterflies.

I also have a particular fondness for Max’s old lists of recordings with their everyday marks of useage, and their references to places, recording equipment, and sounds.

I would be lying however if I told you that my very favourite thing about the afternoon I spent at Raven Row was not the discovery of these fabulous chimney pots, which I was able to photograph in all their terracotta wonderment thanks to my fabulous telephoto lens. Which Victorian fashioner of clay made these beautiful cylinders with their distinctive, hatched markings? And when they did, did they ever think their handiwork would be so widely admired in 2011?

Vive la chimney pots!

Other than working with these somewhat spectacular sounds, sights and art content, I am enjoying immersing myself once again in the ordinary sounds of my home. There are cooking sounds, bathing sounds, tidying sounds and sorting out sounds. There are the sounds of rifling through drawers, listing old books on Amazon, making stock for risotto and computing away in preparation for all the wonderful projects I am working on.

And listening to these sounds is some of my favourite sonic work.

2 Responses to Sonic work

  1. That cobblestone road could just as well be in Germany, Austria or Switzerland. Amazing.

  2. Pingback: The Domestic Soundscape » Archive » Where August went

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