Since I first raided the vaults of the wonderful North West Sound Archive in Clitheroe Castle for the installation Boomtown in 1998 I have frequently returned to the use of spoken word material in one form or another. In collaboration with Cathy Lane I created the Memory Machine, an installation which interactively gathered and recycled the memories of visitors to the British Museum in 2003. We subsequently edited an edition of Organised Sound on the theme of Sound History and Memory. More recently I have been working with more everyday found texts in the form of messages left on my answering machine in The Two if Us and My Name is Sarah Simpson, both linked to Cathy’s Playing with Words project, which surveys the wonderful world of spoken word in sound art practice in the form of a book, a cd and website and a live DVD. The image on this page is the original text for The Two of Us.
Posted on 2011-03-12 18:56:09 .
The Two of Us was my original contribution to the book, Playing with Words, a project curated by Cathy Lane at CRiSAP in the University of the Arts London. It was devised for the printed page with no immediate thought of live performance. It occupies two facing pages (see image at the top of this page), one containing a transcription of a message left for me by friend and fellow composer Gordon McPherson, to whom the piece is dedicated, the other containing a pseudo-manifesto statement structured around the text of the message.
The piece has developed a life of its own as a live performance which I have done at the Conway Hall, Tate Modern and at the German launch of Playing with Words in Frankfurt, from which the video was taken. This version is also on the live DVD.
Posted on 2011-03-12 17:07:07 .
Since the Playing with Words book appeared, the project has been extended to incorporate a live DVD, a cd and a website.
My name is Sarah Simpson was created for the audio cd and website. It features a re-imagining of some of the many cold calls I regularly get from debt relief companies on my landline. Since I made the audio version, this piece too has migrated into a new manifestation as a gallery piece in the exhibition Silencer, curated by Mark Jackson at the Payne Shurvell Gallery in 2010. Here a 1960s telephone rang intermittently with a variety of ringtones. When answered the piece would play out through the handset. You can hear the original here or find a collage from the exhibition on the Payne Shurvell website.
Posted on 2011-03-07 17:00:26 .
The Memory Machine was a collaboration with Cathy Lane which was installed at Cybersonica 2002 and (significantly) reworked for the British Museum as part of the Museum of the Mind exhibition in 2003. It was in essence an interactive oral history based sound installation which gallery visitors contributed to by recording their own memories of the British Museum, which were mixed, fragmented and transformed into an evolving musical soundscape. Visitors interacted with the Memory Machine via a 1960′s telephone in the gallery space. The sounds were heard via two 3 channel sound systems in the corridors leading into the exhibition space (above the historic reading room in the Great Court). The Memory Machine combined visitor memories with interviews with museum staff and collected an archive of more than 8000 contributions.
Posted on 2011-03-07 14:54:44 .
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.