January 2015 – review of project progress

Since beginning the project in July 2014 I have visited the following English Heritage sites:

Bradford on Avon Tithe Barn

Uley long barrow

Nympsfield long barrow

Stoney Littleton long barrow

Over bridge

Mere Fish House

Belas Knap long barrow

Hailes Abbey

From my field trips to these sites, I have made field recordings and initial voice-based sound works from recordings (audio link). In combining my voice and each site to see what sounds are generated, I have created a collection of ‘working drawings’ in both sound and image.

The ‘sound-sketches’ (as I will call them) of my first encounters with each site, reflect interactions between myself and the site, with the traces of its history being present in the physicality and acoustics of the site and its current form.

The visual sketches (both 2d and 3d) provide additional insight to these voice-based encounters, by visualising my experiences and memory of the sites, and as plans for, or representations of, the sound-sketches. In one case, I have also used an existing online English Heritage audio guide to make a 3d drawing to imagine visiting a site I was unable to visit (Maiden Castle, Dorset).

Availability of the work in progress

These existing works in progress are already available to the public on this blog, and the sound work can be streamed for free or downloaded via the Site Singing Bandcamp site. I have mainly used Twitter as a sharing tool. Of course as with many methods there are advantages as well as limits to the effectiveness of this.

So far the blog and the materials on it are chiefly documentation of a working process. But there could be other ways this material could be used at different phases, which could help generate increased feedback and promotion of the project.

Selection of sites for the pilot projects

In respect of the plan to make a pilot project of three downloadable voice-based sound works as a complimentary or alternative form of interpretation, I have decided on the sites which I will use to make three more developed sound works.

The barrows (as a group, focusing especially on Stony Littleton, Uley and Belas Knap)

The Tithe Barn

Over Bridge

This combination of sites offer me a range of historical ranges and acoustic environments with which to make many exciting contrasts. (More on this selection in the next post). But I am sure that traces of the other sites will maintain a presence in the project as a whole.

Current ideas about the downloadable sound works

I am aiming that each of these works will be between 5 and 10 minutes long each. I will make repeated visits to each site, and develop works from the recordings I make each time, with my findings from each visit informing the aims of the next. This way ‘compositions’ will evolve, but with the raw material being the voice recordings from the sites rather than notes written down and conventionally sung.

The aim is that interaction with the site itself, in all its phases of existence, defines the work as much as possible. My voice will be the tool to make the site ‘speak’. I am terming this approach ‘vocalising site’ – where an own voice is used to give voice (or rather, multiple voices) to a site.

The downloadable tracks will be musically informed, while retaining the improvisatory nature of my sonic and vocal explorations so far. Underpinning this phase of the work will be a wide approach to ‘polyphony’ (‘many voices’), in form, technique, and concept. So the finished pilot projects will exist somewhere between ‘sound’ and ‘music’. Hopefully this will portray a more sensory side to visiting heritage sites, and inspire the public to seek out lesser-known sites and have their own experiences of them.

Through my repeated visits and supporting research I will consider how the tracks will be accessed and used.

Shorter term side projects can be used to contribute to / test out aspects of this ongoing work, e.g. developing techniques and promotion. For example I recently used some ‘vocalising site’ approaches in the public sphere with Engaged Voice, a week-long process based exhibition I did at the Edwardian Cloakroom in November 2014, as part of Bristol City Council’s Creative Spaces autumn programme. This lead to the creation of a site-specific sound installation, which the public were invited to use as a basis for their own singing.

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