I was interviewed about the work in progress, and selected some sound-sketches and photos to accompany the text. Many thanks to the Hannah Kemp-Welch, @soundarthannah , for the opportunity to talk about the work for the first time!
Site singing: exclusive interview with Ellen Southern
Site Singing is a pilot project to create downloadable voice-based sound works for a selection of English Heritage sites. Ellen Southern draws attention to the sensory nature of visiting a heritage site, relating this to its overall significance.
Ellen explains in this exclusive interview…
“For me this particularly means considering the sounds of a site – the present day acoustics and sonic idiosyncrasies which result from its particular physical history – and how each site can be experienced and interacted with using the voice.”
“So far, I have completed the first phase of the project, in which I have visited eight sites accessible by public transport in a day from Bristol, where I live. During these field trips, I encounter each site by experimenting with my voice, and making field recordings of its environs. I then layer and edit the recordings into short ‘sound sketches’. In this way, I have started building up a sonic language for each site. This will form the basis for three more developed works, which will exist somewhere between sound art and vocal music.
“I am terming this process ‘vocalising’ site, where my own voice is used to give voice, or a polyphony of voices, to a site. This process, and the resulting sound works, will hopefully highlight these lesser-visited heritage sites to the public, and contribute to visitor experience and interpretation. I also hope that the project will be of note to sound artists, vocalists and musicians, in that I am using the voice itself to compose for the voice.
“Taking my voice ‘out there’, into the field and away from conventional parameters, opens me to the unexpected, and frees me to explore sound-making without knowing in advance what will happen. If in doubt, I just ‘ask the site’ what textures and resonances to make. This is thrilling and scary each time – what if I go all that way and come back with nothing? But I always find something, even if I don’t realise at the time. As artists, we often have to frame our practice in predefined formal, academic, and professional ways. So I particularly value how this heritage project is reconnecting me to the intuitive roots of my practice, my own artistic heritage, through my adventures with sound and site.
“Encountering these sites is always surprising. No matter how many books or web pages I look at while planning my field trips, nothing compares to the potency of really being there. And for me, following maps and weather-beaten signs, getting muddy knees, and carrying rain-stained timetables is all part of it. I hope this comes across and inspires others to make their own intrepid journeys. And if they do, to consider the site not just as a thing to learn about as if in an historical bubble, but a place that exists here and now, in all weathers, to be met by you and your voice.”