I’ve borrowed Tim Prebble’s title for those great posts he does called “Detritus” which collect bits and pieces of stuff from around the internet that is interesting, exciting, inspiring, etc.
I hope it’s not too ego maniacal that some of the “detritus” I’m including here relates to my own projects, but if I don’t shove it all into one blog post, I will never get around to documenting any of the stuff that I’m doing!
Firstly, I’m excited to announce HEARth.
While all’s been quiet on the blogging front, I’ve been beavering away in the background with my good friend Stavroula, to produce a programme of activities to compliment the main Audiograft festival programme at Oxford Brookes University. We’ve called it HEARth because it is a friendly, welcoming sort of a project, and because it has a lot to do with listening and hearing imaginatively. I think that “HEARth” was actually Mark’s idea for a project name; also, when I told Mark that I was keen to find ways of creating more social opportunities and more (ahem) FUN in the Audiograft festival, he said “why don’t you and Stav just get some resources from SARU and come up with something amazing?”
This was a good suggestion which we have followed. I have a lot of fun working with Stav, and we share a commitment to the idea that art should involve play and mischief, as well as lots of critical thinking and industrious making. We also both believe that you don’t have to sit quietly in a concert hall or be ever so serious in a gallery in order to be DOING art. To this end, we have come up with a fairly packed schedule of stuff to happen during Audiograft that is not concert or gallery-based, including a book club focused on great sound descriptions in novels; a buffet for cold, hungry artists + mates before the concert in The Holywell Music Room; an after-party to which everyone is invited to bring their favourite obscure vinyl; and loads of other stuff all of which you can read about on the dedicated HEARth page and also on the main Audiograft festival website. We have also produced a friendly guide to Oxford for visitors, which tells you where to go to buy stuff you might need, to escape from the intensity of the festival or the busyness of the city, to eat tasty morsels, to marvel at wonderful things, and to drink fine beverages.
Stav listens to marvels at the Oxford Brookes Headington Hill campus, with its associated Audiograft installation
Audiograft is taking place 27th February to 2nd March 2013, and the HEARth programme runs right alongside it.
Between now and then I also have to prepare my presentations for The British Library, and for my trip to Leuven for this. I am really excited about both of these things and cannot wait to meet up with the other artists who are going to be there!
Speaking of which, there are some fine projects by other artists which I have been thinking about a lot lately and which I want to mention here.
The first is Twitchr by Kathy Hinde. I have blogged about this work before; it is a map to which you can upload the sounds of birdsong and then ‘play’ just like a score. The map uses Audioboo, and its geo-tagging function. When you upload sounds to Audioboo, you can pinpoint the exact location where you recorded them. If you add the hashtag #twitchr to your recording, the Twitchr website is able to scoop up your recording and place it on the Twitchr map. I spent a happy time recently uploading some of my recordings of birds in Estonia to the map, and playing them together in a sort of remix of memories of my time in that country. I especially enjoyed revisiting the beautiful song of a Nightingale thrush heard deep in the Estonian countryside in Mooste…
…mixed with the outrageous scratchy throatsong of a rook, recorded in Väike-Õismäe.
The relationship between sounds and places is one I consider very deeply, however somehow the connection between these two things is reinforced through seeing sounds ‘pinned’ to a map. You can see in the map accompanying the recording made at Mooste how tiny the little lane was where the bird was singing, and how flat and open the rural space was that surrounded the little bird. You can almost hear the space in the resonance of the recording… Curiously, the Nightingale thrush decided to sing exactly beside one of the noisiest features in the landscape – a buzzing box, filled with mysterious electronics – right through the night. Conversely, Väike-Õismäe (as can be seen very clearly in the map accompanying the recording made there) is an urban development, quite deliberately planned to have a peaceful lake at its centre, and to radiate outwards towards the busy encircling roads that lead to Tallinn. Listening to both recordings and seeing them on the map causes me to think more carefully about the flora and fauna of different environments, and the relationships between these, architecture, and sound.
Not only does Twitchr reconfigure our consideration of places, music, nature, birdsong and mapping in all kinds of new forms, but it’s also a really creative and lovely way to find other people working with field recordings featuring birds, and to learn more about birdsong in general. I love this recording by Tony Whitehead of an enormous Starling flock. How amazing is it to be able to hear this sound, and locate its source at the RSPB Ham Wall Nature Reserve, Somerset?! Just listen to all those tiny, tiny wings.
Also, interacting with the Twitchr map and accompanying Twitter and Audioboo activities started a bit of a chat with Simon at Sounds and Images, who was able to help me to identify this wonderful birdsong heard on the way home from Reading the other day, down by the canal, as being that of a Robin.
A project like Twitchr can be a hub for much creative thought, sharing, and discussion about something as simple as “what was that amazing sound I heard on the way home the other day?” As an artwork, it invites you to be part of a process, and to take art ideas away into daily life. It mixes up maps and sounds in a way that shows you that you can, too.
Perhaps then it’s no surprise that one of the HEARth activities involves conducting a soundwalk specifically to show interested parties how to record birdsong and upload it to the Twitchr map!
I have also found another project online which involves birds and which I’d dearly like to be able to go and see for myself, were it not showing 500+ miles away from me. It’s called Birdsong and is by Jennifer Cantwell. You can see a set of photos here on Jennifer’s Flickr page. For this project, Jennifer has recorded the sounds of birds located in different places around the British isles, and as I understand it, each bird’s song has been housed in a birdbox covered in machine knitting. The machine knitting for each birdbox features a design based on an interpretation of the visual display of soundwaves in editing software. Like Kathy Hinde’s project, Birdsong mixes up ideas of place, mapping, representation, and sound. The two projects are obviously distinctive, but it is interesting to me to see how different artists take forward related ideas in completely different ways. This video of Jennifer talking about Birdsong is interesting, I had not previously considered the idea of a visual representation of a soundwave being site-specific before, and I agree with what she says about links between distinctive regional soundscapes, and distinctive regional textiles.
Site-specificity aside, the translation of sound into textile patterns is something I am interested in; Florentine embroidery is the traditional technique which looks to my eyes most like the shapes and patterns of wave-forms, and I am intrigued at how Jennifer has developed soundwaves into stranded knitting designs.
Of course I have been working on my own knitted projects which relate to sound, but this shall be the subject of a future post. For now, here is a tasty glimpse:
Finally in my roundup of what has been going on around here, I had the great pleasure of going to ALL THE MANY PEOPLS by Jennifer Walshe on Monday night, and it blew my mind. I will publish a separate review of that event, but to give you a very small flavour of what it was like, I’ll leave you with this video from Electric Eclectics, made a few years ago.