Living Steam was commissioned in 1998 by Sonic Arts Network as a site-specific installation for the Kew Bridge Steam Museum. The museum is housed in a former pumping station by the Thames and features the world’s largest collection of working Cornish beam engines including the enormous 100 inch Grand Junction engine. The piece took the form of an eight channel composition in which the live sounds of the engines were juxtaposed and combined with transormed recordings creating a kind of concerto for beam engines and electronic sound.
I have put a complete stereo mix of the tape in the player to give an impression (but you really had to be there!)
Triptych was commissioned in 2001 by the London Science Museum’s contemporary art programme and funded by the Wellcome trust. It consisted of a performance event held in the Who Am I gallery in the then recently opened Wellcome Wing for 3 live singers with eight channel electroacoustic sound. The brief was to explore the gallery’s theme of identity, which I tackled by using singers from different vocal traditions – Jessica Summers (classical soprano), Barbara Gaskin (popular vocalist) and Najma Akhtar (Indian vocalist). I wrote material which each interpreted according to their own traditions. The electroacoustic music merges and transforms their vocal identities while the presence of the live musicians in the space reasserted their individuality as they walked among the gallery visitors.
I am currently re-working the material as a locative iPhone app to be launched in Spring 2011. You can hear a stereo mix of the electroacoustic tape above. The image is of a repeat performance given in the 2001 Colourscape festival.
This was another piece of museum sound design which also allowed me to experiment a bit with spatial structure. I worked with interactive designers Rom and Son to produce two pieces for a major exhibition on Nelson and Napoleon at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. The important part of the project from my point of view was the stairwell installation which was designed as a transitional space between a room focussing on Nelson’s domestic life in rural England and a room on the floor below which looked at the Battle of Trafalgar. I used sound design to literally take the visitor out to sea, with different sounds on each level, so that at the top there was a church bell, birds and horses, and sea sounds from below could be heard in the distance. As you walked down toward those sounds the church bells were replaced by the tolling of navigation boyes and the birds by seagulls etc. For each sound at the top there were corresponding sounds lower down so that a musical narrative emerged for each visitor as they moved through the space.
The other part of the project consisted of a 5.1 Battle of Trafalgar interactive exhibit. The sound described the battle and you could watch ship movements projected onto a huge table and interact to find out mor details about the ships involved.
The Moods and Music project was created with designers OnTap and Simon Grosser for the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam. A commercial project using classic music from a variety of genres while (frankly) forcing footage from Heineken adverts onto the visitors, it nonetheless had interesting formal properties that have a strong relationship with other pieces on this site. The idea was to get people to mix and match different soundtracks and video clips to experience the variety of emotional moods and nuances that music can impose on an image. The interesting element for me was the use of visual and audio icons, little abstract loops of video and sound which drifted past the viewer who would use two joysicks to zoom in, revealing the clip or music associated through nice transformation effects. I can’t really post examples here for copyright reasons so you’ll have to try and imagine it!
Boomtown is quite a pivotal work for me. Created in 1998 for the 150th anniversary of the borough of Oldham, it was a multichannel installation designed to accompany an exhibition about the 19th Century Radical movement and ran at the old Oldham Art Gallery for six months. Archive interviews are used alongside industrial sounds to examine the personal and social histories of some of the town’s inhabitants. It launched my personal interest in oral history and spoken word in sonic art. It also introduced a way of working with space in which the movement of the audience determines their experience. Individual stories are located in small speakers around the room allowing each audience member to focus on individual narratives while simultaneously being aware of the whole. This draws attention to the personal experiences of the speakers, while positioning their stories within a wider context of social history.This is a stereo mix of the 8 channel original.