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Aeolian Percussion by Max Eastley

Where the breeze warbles, and the mute still air
Is Music slumbering on her instrument.’

from The Aeolian Harp; Samuel Taylor Coleridge; 1795 (quoted by Max Eastley on his web site)

Starting to look back over the year I realize how many of the events I have been to have featured soundscapes. Sound, as opposed to music, has gradually infiltrated the arts and more recently become a starting point and an event in itself.

Starting in February I went to the wonderful symposium In the Field organised by CRiSAP, Creative Research in Sound Recording, held at the British Library. Most recently the wonderful sound recordings of the British Library Sound Archive were used to great effect by Julian Hoffman in his presentation on the Hoo Peninsula at the Shorelines Festival.

In the summer in Greenwich Park during the Greenwich and Docklands Festival I caught Audible Forces on its tour around the festivals. This was “a landscape of wind-driven sound installations. These intriguing kinetic, sonic creations produce other-worldly sounds as nature’s unseen force breathes life into them.” Definitely quite geeky but captivating. I think I might have mentioned before my liking for wind harps, but this took them to another realm altogether. There is a taster video here.

The recent Sound Matters touring exhibition produced by David Toop with the Crafts Council shows sound art forging links with other forms of making, notably craft practice. I caught it at the Stanley Picker Gallery in Kingston. The exhibition does demonstrate the basically non visual nature of many sound works! However the essays in the booklet make interesting reading to enhance the exhibition, particularly Mark Sinker linking the potter Michael Cardew and his son, of Scratch Orchestra fame, composer Cornelius Cardew.

Max Eastley featured again with a piece called Landscape, a sound sculpture operated by a motor fitted with magnets, which moved tiny metal balls across a painted canvas, creating a changing landscape.

Landscape by Max Eastley

Landscape by Max Eastley

Ismini Samanidou’s textiles are woven to link cultural history and place. Her Weave Waves were a collaboration with Scanner (Robin Rimbaud). Large pieces used software to visualise recordings of their own breath, translated digitally to create a weave design.

Weave Waves by Scanner and Ismini Samanidou

Weave Waves by Scanner and Ismini Samanidou

A smaller piece mapped the loudest points of sound in London and Manchester and had an accompanying soundscape recorded in the locations.

Weave Waves by Scanner and Ismini Samanidou

Weave Waves by Scanner and Ismini Samanidou

Other works were not so much art pieces, and in fact the other, to me, most successful was the purely audio piece by Cathy Lane, Tweed. This was a composition from the Outer Hebrides, where Harris Tweed is produced, weaving sounds of looms, of weavers talking and of their natural environment. It skilfully used repetition to create patterns in sound.

Sounds of Making in East London by  Dominic Wilcox

Sounds of Making in East London by Dominic Wilcox

A remix of the album above played on a prepared turntable with five arms, created by Yuri Suzuki. Keith Harrison used potter’s wheels as turntables combining ceramic making with a process of making sound. Sound Lathe by Owl Project used a wood-turning lathe to convert movement into electronic music as well as creating an object of wood. Studio Weave, best known for their experimental architectural projects, used a set of listening horns to capture and amplify the sounds in the gallery creating a new soundscape.

As David Toop says in his essay in the exhibition guide 

“…this sounding of action is a memory also. Sounds have the potential to open out into stories; they function as both recording and transmitter of complex memories, evocations of place, physical presence and the experiential richness of history.”

Or here is Richard Whitelaw, Head of programmes at Sound and Music,

“Something is intentionally made and that something has a physical manifestation, whether that physicality is embodied in an object, or in sound waves propagating
in space. Furthermore sound is implied within the act of making itself, the acoustic relying on physical activity for its trigger. Sounds, like objects, imply physical relations in order to be experienced, their characters always affected by the spaces within which they are viewed or heard.”

Further information

Recordings created by Resonance FM of all the makers are on the web site www.soundmatters.org.uk.

Review of In the Field http://some-landscapes.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/in-field.html