MK International Festival talk

This Weds, 23rd July, I will be joining Ray Lee, Kaffe Matthews, Prof Allan Cochrane and Dr George Revill of the Open University at MK Gallery for a panel discussion entitled One Person’s Noise is Another Person’s Music – the panel will discuss the ways artists can embed their work into a place, challenge perceptions of sound and encourage us to listen and hear differently. The talk is part of the Milton Keynes International Festival IF:Sonic Day and is free to attend.

Station X in Hut 8 Bletchley Park

Station X has been installed in Hut 8 at Bletchley Park. Originally shown at MK Gallery Project Space, the installation feels completely different now that it is sited where all of the material was gathered. My piece, “Carrier Waves, left and right channels” alternates between acoustic and electromagnetic modes, traversing the boundary between audible and inaudible signals collected from Blocks C and D at Bletchley Park. As you walk into Hut 8, the thin walls provide a relationship of osmosis – blurring inside and outside acoustic space.

Station X is part of Arthertz Ghost Stations until 6th October.

Bletchley interior, Rachael Marshall

Photo: Rachael Marshall

Station X at MK Gallery Project Space

Station X opened on 3rd May at Milton Keynes Gallery Project Space. Having access to Blocks C and D at Bletchley Park has been an amazing opportunity and it was exciting for the four of us collaborators to realise the installation. Transferring the sounds and sights of the Park that we had been so immersed in to another space was a compelling and poetic experience. I have been delighted to be supported by PMC speakers who have provided speakers of incredible clarity that are printed with Rachael Marshall’s wonderful photographs of pigeons. Station X is at MK Gallery Project Space until 27th May.

Photo: Rachael Marshall Speaker: PMC loudspeakers

VLF recordings at Bletchley Park

I have been making lots of recordings recently on the Explorer E202 of natural radio signals finding mostly sferics but also the occasional (very exciting) whistler. This week I have taken E202 to Bletchley Park to see what electromagnetic signals I can pick up there. Plenty of hum mostly, the site is right by the train line and hums like one enormous generator. I have been trying to find increasingly more isolated spots around the perimeter in the hope of getting away from 50Hz and its overtones…

Inside blocks C and D the pigeons continue their performance.

photo by Rachael Marshall

Whistler storm

I have been researching natural radio emissions such as whistlers, sferics, auroural hiss and chorus caused by space weather. I plan to use recordings of these for a new sound installation – 5 Minute Oscillations of the Sun – planned for an outdoor site in Milton Keynes this summer, supported by Milton Keynes Gallery and Arts Council England. I am enjoying long walks as far from electricity as possible with an Explorer E202 – listening to the usually inaudible electromagnetic signals that surround us. It is amazing being able to tap into these imperceptible waves and listen with “radio ears”. Paul Nicholson and Wolf Buscher monitor VLF radio signals on a 24 hour basis and make them available as a fascinating live stream.

Wolf drew attention to a whistler storm that occurred on the evening of 28th February and I plan to use his and Paul’s recordings of this event for the sound installation. Prof Bill Chaplin at BiSON has kindly supplied data relating to the acoustic modes of the sun ( the 5 Minute Oscillations) that I will be using as the basis of a more tonal composition that will mix with the electromagnetic emissions – presenting an artistic response to the electromagnetic and acoustic energy of the sun.

Deconstructing Dad – Raymond Scott at MK Gallery

Stan Warnow‘s film – Deconstructing Dad, The Music, Machines and Mystery of Raymond Scott – is showing at Milton Keynes Gallery on Friday 12th August, 6.30pm. The film is my choice for the New Art MK screening program and despite its critical acclaim, has only been shown a couple of times before at festivals in the uk. Stan is the son of Raymond Scott and the film provides a fascinating perspective of the pioneering composer’s relationships, personal life, work and inventions.

View the trailer here…


Read Stan Warnow’s post about the MK Gallery Deconstructing Dad screening on his website, where you can order the film directly on dvd.

Speaking Out at Tate Modern


Speaking Out, The spoken word in artistic practice – symposium at Tate Modern on Saturday 6th Feb featured performance and presentations from Tomomi Adachi, Dani Gal, Caroline Bergvall, Nye Parry, Trevor Wishart, David Toop, Imogen Stidworthy, Brandon LaBelle, Inua ‘phaze’ Ellams and Oswaldo Macia.

Cathy Lane (of CRiSAP) presented the work of selected artists that feature in her book ‘Playing with Words, the spoken word in artistic practice’ (2009).

Tomomi Adachi performed a piece for voice and infra-red sensor shirt whereby the gesture acts as a “kind of modulator for the voice”. Sampling his own voice in real-time and modulating it via his movements within the shirt, he built up a complex and captivating cacophony. The putting on and removing of the shirt (including the resultant soundscape) formed part of a performance that, concluding with the neat folding of the shirt, provided aural humour that transcended linguistic boundaries.

Caroline Bergvall’s ‘Say Parsley’ discussed issues surrounding the 1937 linguistic ‘shibboleth’ in Haiti where the pronunciation of the Spanish word for Parsley: ‘perejil’ became a matter of life and death. Her work on ‘identity, gatekeeping, mishearing and imposed meaning’ made for an informative and thought provoking presentation.

It is said that prior to drowning, one’s life flashes before the eyes. Trevor Wishart’s ‘Globalalia’ put me in mind of how those last moments might be if the recollection was purely aural and what was flashing before the ears was every human vocal utterance ever made – a monumental piece.

Perhaps the most compelling work, Brandon La Belle’s ‘The Sound at the back of the mouth, almost’, was presented largely without sound. Questions such as ‘Where does my voice reside?’ and ‘What sounds does it make within the space of thought?’ were projected as white text on a black background and engendered an introspection that sought to ‘follow the voice in and outside the body’, aiming for the ‘inner voice as the paradoxical coupling of sound and silence’.

It struck me that contemplation of this inner voice seems prescient as the global communications network continues to grow and real aural arenas are replaced by virtual ones to which we, as a species, are (arguably) unsuited.

In Spaces speak, Are You Listening? (Blesser, B., Salter, L. MIT Press, 2007) Barry Blesser argues that humans are not designed for our current auditory environment. He quotes Robin Fox, from Conjectures and Confrontations, Science, Evolution, and Social Concern (Fox, R, New Brunswick, 1997)

“In some sense, (spaces) are human because they are human inventions. It is one of the paradoxes of an animal endowed with intelligence, foresight and language that it can become its own animal trainer: it can invent conditions for itself that it cannot handle because it was not evolved to handle them. ”

According to Blesser, “The aural architecture of our modern spaces trains those of us who occupy or inhabit them.”