photo Tanya Coulson
A hay field at midnight – midsummer – in Oxfordshire at the festival Supernormal 2017
People gathered at the Octopolis venue – a bird hide – part of the outside secret woodland cinema curated by BEEF for Supernormal17.
Nearly a hundred people turned up to experience the work walking in single file along a narrow path through a hay field in the moonlight.
Speaker carriers, there were six of them, were dispersed along the line of walkers. Every so often the line stopped and people listened while people’s eyes became accustomed to the darkness.
Please use head phones to listen
This is one of the tracks used in the walk. The sources of sound are all received from outside our earth’s atmosphere emanating from stars – pulsars at different distances and our own sun.
At the end of the field the line of promenaders followed the lead walker back along the path they’d just walked. Like a sedentary dance the outward walkers passed the returning walkers along the line, and their sounds crossed creating another version of the star sounds to listen to.
The quality of the summer air, the night sounds, the recorded star sounds and the clouds revealing the moon, prompted one of the walkers to say that it had made the experience of the vastness ‘above’ more vivid.
Richie Smith at last found a venue keen to have his idea incorporating his collection of 25 cymbals, up till now, and for the last few decades, stacked in a cupboard at home.
Supernormal 2017 welcomed his idea of a performance/installation with the cymbals offering the woods at the festival grounds in Braziers Park, Oxfordshire as a venue.
As he announced, it was a double first, to install all of the cymbals after so long, PLUS having the family performing and improvising together, which had never happened before.
After the 35 minute performance, Richie explained that it was a pleasure to have such a first experience for those reasons, but from where the audience was listening they may not have heard the full potential of the sounds that came from the metal percussion as some of the frequencies could only be heard up close. He therefore invited them all in to try for themselves, which they all did!
Here are the audience playing the cymbals for themselves…
‘As it happens such a unique experience will never happen again where my partner and I and our two sons will play altogether for the first time. Thanks Supernormal it was a gas.’ Richie Smith – joined by his family Will Pegna, Louie Pegna and Shirley Pegna.
[For the whole 35 minutes see https://vimeo.com/232147409
Flight to Isafjordur
Please listen with headphones to all the sound
Exploration of the landscape via a hydrophone, geophone, contact mic, shotgun mic, pair of omni mics offered up experiences of the radically different terrain and these sonic experiences allowed me to feel more part of the environment – rocks, water, ice and all.
View from Bolafell Mountain 625m high looking out in the direction of Greenland. Here the snow and ice stays on the high ground through the summer.
The strange surfaces of rock, lava, peat, water courses and unfamiliar crust embellishment on the land tempted me to want to find out what sound signal and vibration could be experienced from this new place.
Please listen with headphones to all sound
Sound from under the ground
Shih Yu and Katherine filming at the jetty.
Sound through the jetty via hydrophones
Hydrophone on the jetty
Here at the jetty at Isafjordur, sounds travelling through air and water picked up through the fabric of an iron and wood jetty were picked up with an Aqua hydrophone.
Water was on the move everywhere down the sides of the fjords. Here’s the sound of a stream picked up with an Aquarian Audio H2A hydrophone with particular icy quality.
Sound of the small stream
The AKG C568B shot gun mic and geophone-senor-RTC-4-5hz-375ohm and Sound Devices 744T recorded were also very exciting to work with. Thanks to SARU (Sonic Arts Research Unit) at Oxford Brookes University, I was able to try a variety of different pieces of equipment lent to further my process of working recording sound through the air and through materials other than air.
Ready to record
Thanks to artist Katherine Lyons-Burk for an invitation to collaborate by contributing to the sound for her work concerning identity in the landscape and go to Iceland. I was able to work with her and filmmaker Shih Yu Chu, and try equipment I have not used before. Katherine was invited to work at an Arts Iceland Residency.
The resulting video collaboration, Contested Landscapes, was created in just over a week. It is part of Katherine’s project working with the organisation Mind that is concerned with mental health issues. Katherine also created workshops in Norfolk (Autumn 2017) with young people based on identity following on from her work in Isafjordur.
I’m pleased to have been invited back to Arts Iceland to create work supported by their Residency in Isafjordur in the Westfjords. I feel I have only just scratched the surface of possibilities of both the culture and landscape with the trip this summer, which offered a taste of otherness.
I especially loved the Arctic Terns and their acrobatics. This one however did not like me and here’s the evidence of its rather accurate dive bomb! Too close for comfort!
With the sound of Pulsars on several hand held speakers, two performers inadvertently walked in to the crypt of St John’s Church, infiltrating a famous artwork….
Accidental infiltration into – Line Describing A Cone by Anthony McCall
Our peripatetic journey through St John’s Church, in the vaults and outside the gates into the traffic filled streets, on their Video Club Night maybe added to and created some ‘chaos’ to the event Beyond Chaos! Waterloo, London.
BEEF – Bristol Experimental and Expanded Film – contributed several works to an evening of works. http://www.beefbristol.org/
As a member of BEEF I was part of this cohort of artists, and brought a version of Pulsars where I experimented with using the Pulsar star sounds on 4 speakers held by two people. The speaker holding performers made there way round the visiting different spaces.
Speakers and Mp3s
Performer carrying the sound in the space -photo Pier Corona
Listening to extremely far off sourced sounds has kept me engaged over the last few months. Radio waves from Jodrel Bank (UK) and the Parks radio telescope (Australia) have prompted me to think of the un-imaginable distances these sounds travel to our ears. For instance…
Crab Pulsar B0531+21 – 6,500 light-years from Earth
Vela Pulsar PSR B0833-45 – 1,000 light-years from Earth
PRS B0329-45 – approximately 3,500 light-years from outside our Galaxy
Our closest star, the Sun – 8.2 light-minutes from Earth
– photo Pier Corona
Audience passing the speakers
Pulsars was performed in the Holywell Music Room at the Audiograft 17 Festival in Oxford. http://www.audiograft.co.uk/programme/thursday/
Holywell Music Room Floor Plan
Twelve performers holding small battery operated speakers were dispersed all around the auditorium, the multiple sound sources being amongst the audience. The performers were seated at first, but moved about in some sections of the piece, accentuating the spatial element of the work.
During the 20minute piece each speaker played had it’s own dedicated track of sound, like an orchestral part. The sounds emanated from the performers MP3 player, attached to the speaker.
Each star had a section of the piece where variations of mainly the same star could be heard. Different rhythmic pulses heard in the work corresponded to the rotations of different Pulsars. In the last section of the piece all the performers gathering together and walked out en masse, through the front door into the street
Better with headphones
– photo Pier Corona
One of 12 speakers dispersing the sound
A commissioned work for Audiograft 2017
photo Richie Smith – Sky
This is an excerpt – at the moment a thumbnail sketch- from a commissioned piece for Audiograft 2017 and currently a work in progress. This sound work will be a performance of recorded sound heard via multiple hand held speakers in amongst an audience. It will focus on sound from pulsars found in and outside our galaxy. Different rhythmic pulses heard in the work will correspond to the rotations of different pulsars. Jodrel Bank research describes a pulsar as,
‘ …a highly magnetized neutron star, with a radius of 10-15 km. Radiation is beamed out along the magnetic poles and pulses of radiation are received as the beam crosses the Earth.’
The distance between the listener and the original source creating the energy we eventually hear is extreme. Although the amount of light years varies for each different pulsar heard in the work, in the course of attempting to think about these distances our imagined landscape is extended, via the sound.
One of the pulsars heard in the work will be the Vela Pulsar.
‘Vela Pulsar -supernova remnant PSR B0833-45 is the debris of the explosion of a massive star about 10,000 years old.’
This piece progresses the work I have done in the practical research for my PhD where I sonified live streamed alpha muons (cosmic rays) to an attic in Bristol. (You Are Here – 2013 http://vimeo.com/111437221). The energy source of the alpha muons was estimated to be from the galaxy Centaurus A or NGC – 5182 and situated 11 million light years from earth.
photo Deborah Weinreb – Primal Performance
Here below is an excerpt from the sound track that accompanies Primal (2016) a short film by Vicky Smith. The film is distributed by CMIR and has also been performed with live sound track at the Edinburgh Film Festival 2016 and Visions in the Nunnery Festival at Bow Arts London 2016 amongst others.
As an immersive photochemical and sonic experimental performance, the sounds from the cello played with different materials, i.e. paper plastic and tin, go hand in hand with the analogue nature of the filmmaker’s process – physically marking the 16mm film stock.
Also in the audio track are pre recorded subterranean sounds played from a laptop. The sounds, recorded with a basic pick up and metal sheeting clamped to bedrock, are in synthesis with the visual elemental energies and ‘primal’ intentions of the film.
This excerpt is from the end of the film PLAY IT LOUD!
photo Tanya Moulson – Ear Extensions
Sonic Hide and Seek features active listening where the participants’ aural landscape is extended. Ear extensions or low-tech listening devices are individually constructed by the participants. These amplifying devices increase the capacity of the listeners’ ears to listen overhead, into and above trees, and also into small hidden crevices, down holes and along tracks. In the city similarly, listening above the rooftops and down alleyways – Breaking The Rules 2016 BEEF Summer School.
photo Tanya Moulson – Nonhearing or Nonseeing
Part of the activities include a collaborative tracking game which involves two people, one non-seeing listener and one non-hearing guide, helping each other to follow a sound. When one sense (either hearing or seeing) is impaired, the other senses then became more focused creating an alternative sensory experience.
photo Tanya Moulson – Listening Up
Manipulating the imagined geographic journeying of sound to our ears causes us to think, not only about the space around us but our habits of hearing and our ability to listen.
Sonic Hide and Seek has visited:
Sound Territories – Fermynwoods Contemporary Arts – Northants
Fir Tree School – Wallingford, Oxfordshire
South Wales University – Cardiff
Breaking the Rules – BEEF Summer School – Bristol
photo Tanya Moulson Listening Horns