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!