Samples of my work

I am currently investigating the possibility of creating a soundtrack for a film. The commissioning body involved has asked that I provide samples of my work so they can get an idea of what I do and hear the quality of what I can produce. I hoped the questions raised by this potential project concerning sound and imagination might be of interest to some of you, so I am writing this post about the project and my intended approach towards it with audio samples. I hope this will be acceptable to the folks who want to commission this project, and interesting to all of you readers.

The film was made in 1935 by women in Shoreditch who wanted to provide antenatal care and education for young mothers-to-be. As such, it has specific social and historic resonances which I feel any soundtrack should reference. The film features a woman bathing a very tiny baby and has subtitles throughout, which meticulously explain how to keep drafts away; how to wash baby properly; what temperature water should be, etc. The footage is in some ways very banal and slow-moving, and it is also somehow very intimate.

The challenge is: how can the soundtrack support the everyday realness of the film without being boring? And if the soundtrack is interesting, how will it draw the viewer to what they are seeing rather than becoming a giant distraction? If the mundane qualities are lost through hyper-real sound or an OTT approach then the charming intimacy of the film will be lost as well. However, the sounds also have an important role in keeping the slow-moving film interesting, and if the sounds are too subtle or seem just like the natural soundtrack of the footage, then the result might not hold an audience’s attention. These issues re: how to celebrate the everyday and the ordinary lie at the heart of my practice and were key questions for The Fantastical Reality Radio Show in association with Mundane Appreciation, a radio reverb/Sonic Arts Network commission in 2008, archived here. I feel, however, that the gameshow-esque quality of the FRRS in assn. w. MA is too comedic for the content of the film, and so my approach to the soundtrack would be more like that which I took in creating audio for Around the A4074, which was also about something very ordinary (the daily commute along an A-road) and which trod a fine line between celebrating the ordinary nature of the road, and also revealing its specialness.

The result was a one-hour documentary produced for BBC Oxford entitled Around the A4074. This is largely a talking/music piece as it had to fit into the BBC production style. However, there are some sections in the documentary which demonstrate both how I layer field recordings so that they evoke a specific place and time, and also how I build atmosphere using location sounds.

I am thinking specifically here of the section I recorded around Caversham, where I went out walking to gather field-recordings from around the road:

Around the A4074 (one hour long BBC documentary) – direct link to mp3 file

Section of recordings from my first walk around the A4074 road – direct link to mp3 file

The sounds for the film will be different; there will not be the same din of cars that exists on an A-road, and I do not think that narration will necessarily be appropriate in this instance. But the layering of field recordings and the collection of sounds from specific sites to create an atmosphere would be similar in my approach. For the film, the sounds collected would be from interior spaces like those in the footage; old, creaky buildings with rattly sash windows, featuring enamelware and bare floorboards, referencing interior spaces like those domestic soundscapes which I documented for the sound diaries UK SoundMap project, which I co-run with Paul Whitty. There are 31 recordings in total from this project, but some of the quieter and more atmospheric recordings – recordings closest to those I might make for the proposed soundtrack project – include the following examples:

Joey going out of his cat-flap. This is a very quiet recording, with a lot of time in it between our cat’s decision to go out of his cat-flap and then back in through it; but there is subtlety in the quietness and the sound events which I think should be matched in any recordings made for the soundtrack – direct link to mp3

Suburban garden on a weekday afternoon – a very simple, slow recording, which documents slow-moving traffic, urban birdsong, and a neighbour’s noisy DIY activities; direct link to mp3

Cleaning the toilet – this was a recording I made for both political and sonic reasons; I wanted to document the invisible and necessary labour which keeps the world going, (such as toilet-cleaning). The recording is now on the UK SoundMap along with the previous examples, and as well as having achieved its political aim, the sounds are very descriptive of the surfaces and objects used in the task of cleaning the toilet; direct link to mp3.

In my correspondence concerning the soundtrack for this film, I stated that sometimes the best way to bring sonic interest without losing the “realness” of the subject matter is to use materials and sounds which reference the things which the film is about, i.e. the health and care of very small infants; the practice of care; and makeshift, DIY domestic environments. I said that I want to record the sounds of the objects in the film very closely so that the textures of things like the floorboards, the bus passing outside the window, the wooden furniture, the enamel bath from the period in which the piece was shot, etc. feel very near. Many recordings which I have made over the past few years have been precisely about this; about meticulously documenting the near; the familiar; the surfaces and objects which are closest to us in our lives. The following audio is from my presentation on World Listening Day at the SoundFjord gallery and features many of the sounds which are close in life from both personal and material perspectives. In this recording: the sound of a broken tungsten filament in a lightbulb; the sound of sprinkles pouring into a ceramic bowl; the sound of a bath-bomb recorded using a hydrophone; the very quiet sound of traffic on my road moving slowly; the amazing sound of an experimental sound art concert in the space outside the concert hall, mixing with the sounds of the seagulls; my family celebrating my Godmother’s 90th birthday.

For the film soundtrack I would want to select appropriate sources for making recordings for the soundtrack; the sound of an enamel bowl; water splashing; a baby gurgling; the very subtle sounds of fabric moving around an infant’s body; the wash of traffic outside the space; etc.

World Listening Day 2011 by FelicityVFord

I also think that voices will be very important in the soundtrack, especially to underscore the history and politics of the film. My main interest would be in finding women who currently work in healthcare and asking them to read out the subtitled instructions in the film. Voices are full of information about regionality; identity; gender; class; profession and so on. Consider these amazing examples of people speaking, which I recorded and edited for recent projects including Craft NI’s August Craft Month, and the Tuned City Festival, in Estonia:

Maureen talking about the relationship between sound and making; direct link to mp3 here

Kaisa talking about the sound of the komposter on the Estonian buses; direct link to mp3 here

For the film soundtrack, I would like very much to bring in the voices of contemporary health workers, to update the video and also to show its legacy in the people who still work to provide antenatal care in the community. I have done a lot of work with voices in the past. The best recent examples are probably the collages I created from knitters talking about what they hear or listen to when they are knitting, which I prepared during my knitsonik residency at Prick Your Finger. Although – obviously – these examples are about knitting, they demonstrate how field-recordings and people’s speaking voices can be used together to create audio and how field recordings or incidental sounds can be introduced to create rhythm and punctuation:

When I knit I can hear… direct link to mp3 here

When I knit I listen to… direct link to mp3 here

I concluded in my outline of proposed approach that I feel adapting some of the lullabies and written music of the period and giving it contemporary treatment and instrumentation will bring the final piece of work together. By way of demonstration that I can write, play and sing “music” competently, I present the following examples of my very early work with sounds, which are narratives with music played, written and recorded by me in the background.

Boy by FelicityVFord

Boy uses music throughout to tell an unusual love story using accordion, keyboard, lullaby and spoken word. I think the gentleness and closeness is similar to what I would want to create for the soundtrack, but the instrumentation is incorrect. In reference to the 1930s, I would want to use an old upright piano in a drafty village hall somewhere and adapt the basic chord/verse structures of the music which would have been popular at the time when the film was made.

Whale is another narrative work with background music composed by me. For this piece, I created a seascape using the sounds of my bath, and whale sounds using shampoo bottles, underneath which I composed piano music. I wanted there to be some slippage between the objects associated with beautification and the content of the piece, (which is all about being teased at school for not being beautiful). This slippage between materials and imagination and this sensitivity to subject matter are exactly what I would hope to achieve in creating the soundtrack for this film.

direct link to mp3 (Whale) here

Sorry for the long and involved explanations, but I hope this gives a thorough indication of what kinds of works I have produced in the past, what my imaginative approach to sound entails, and the potential which exists for me to create new kinds of work in the future.

For further examples of my audio work please see the four podcasts which I produced for Sound and Music’s Cut and Splice festival in 2009, which were commissioned in order to give a frame of reference for all the works on display in the festival. This series went into real depth about how sound captures the specific qualities of spaces and rooms (ROOMS & CHAMBERS); how tape is the archetypal domestic media for capturing the spirit of home life (TAPE); the relationship between feminism and sound art (DIFFICULT DOMESTIC); and the “found” rhythms and patterns of daily life, as translated into music (HABIT & ROUTINE). Direct links to mp3 files below:

DIFFICULT DOMESTIC – by Felicity Ford, commissioned by Sound and Music
HABIT & ROUTINE by Felicity Ford, commissioned by Sound and Music
ROOMS & CHAMBERS by Felicity Ford, commissioned by Sound and Music
TAPE by Felicity Ford, commissioned by Sound and Music

Thank you for listening and downloading.

3 Responses to Samples of my work

  1. Pingback: The Domestic Soundscape » Archive » Bathing & Dressing parts 1 & 2

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You may transmit content found on this website (excluding my knitting patterns which are protected under International copyright law) under the following conditions:

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