Aroundsound

Over on my visual art page, I’ve been writing about my first delvings into sound art. Overlapping with this was the Disruptions series of workshops run by Nisha Ramayya for the John Hansard Gallery. Linked to the exhibition Many voices, all of them loved, the workshops were loosely themed in response to this – marginalised or unheard voices non-human voices, our sonic environment. Who speaks for who, and why?

The responses and media were highly varied – abstracted visual mapping, video, text, multi-layered voice, non-linguistic vocalisations – and the output can be found here – just scroll down for the links. There’s some wonderfully diverse, experimental work, well worth a look/listen.

One thing that became clear was the importance of sound in our locked-down, Covid-cancelled lives. Spending most of our time at home meant becoming much more aware of, and connected with, the sounds around us. The backdrop comes to the fore. From the perspective of my own process, I realised that in the absence of my usual work/life routine, I was measuring time very differently in an attempt to avoid becoming completely dislocated – I want to know what day of the week it is even if it feels like it doesn’t matter. This led to a text-piece, The hearing of the days (hit the link and scroll down), which charted the passage of a week by its sounds (Monday is Vegboxday, Tuesday is Binday…) or lack thereof. From here I started thinking more about the sounds themselves, how they have their own existence and how I might convert them to text or human voice.

Having spent a lot of time sat on our garden swing-bench, its creak was etched into me as an earworm of sorts and I recorded it. I then sat, listening to afternoon sounds and trying to render them as text – how do you spell a blackbird’s song, a sparrow’s chirped alert, or the sound of a hoverfly mimicking a bee? There were no aircraft. No-one’s going anywhere. We are all familiar with cloudbusting, seeing shapes in clouds, but the sonic equivalent? Not so much. The initial outcome was Soundbusting. I then went on to try vocalising the non-language, non-human parts of the text, recording and overlaying them in an attempt to reconstruct my sonic environment using my own voice – a transduction, sound-text-voice-sound. This became Sonic Environment 1. Is it relaxing (suburban garden), creepy (creak of horror-film rocking-chair), or something else? Is something added or lost during the stages of production? Does it still evoke the image of trying to relax during the anxiety of a pandemic, segregated, but aware of neighbours’ proximity in our narrow Edwardian-terrace strips?

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