First field trip with another singer – Over Bridge and Gloucester Cathedral

Having until now been a solo project, just before New Year 2016 I invited another singer,  Chloé Turpin, to join me on a Site Singing field trip. I had thought about it a long time, and was nervous to ask, it felt such a bold and new direction for the work. I was so happy that she said yes, we have worked together before, and I know Chloé to be a brave and exciting vocal artist who takes on new challenges wholeheartedly. We can work very instinctivley together, and for the same reason I also approached a third singer, Leila Gamaz, who also agreed to be part of the project. She sang with me at the opening of my 2016 exhibition Polyphony, and we also sing together every week with Bristol Sacred Harp, and our voices together always feel like more than the sum of their parts, augmented somehow and enriched by the other. I have been long coveting an idea to create a live imersive vocal work from Site Singing, and it seems the beginnings are falling into place – especially since we have now been invited to develop the live work as part of The Stage (Working Title) at The Arnolfini, Bristol on the 14th and 17th of March 2017 more details here.

The first step was taking Chloé on a field trip, and here are some photos and audio from that site visit, in mid February 2017. We returned from this trip with shining eyes and a new found excitement, it was a great day which felt very significant for us both.

 

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On the way to Over Bridge: Gloucester Cathedral

 

This audio was made on the first Site Singing field trip where I took a fellow singer along with me. Having made every field trip solo until now, it felt a radical departure, and a little like introducing one friend, the singer Chloé Turpin, to another friend, Over Bridge.

I let her choose which site we should visit and she chose Over Bridge, just outside Gloucester. On the way to the bridge, we passed through the city centre, and we stopped off in the Cathedral, as neither of us had ever been inside (I had seen it closed on a previous trip, she had never been to this city before). It was stretching the parameters of the project a little, as it is not an English Heritage site, and definitely not ‘lesser-visited’, but we couldn’t resist!

We went inside and were amazed at the sights and sounds within. We found a small side room which felt a little secret, and started out first voice work of the day spontaneously in there. You can hear the voices of visitors and the wonderful reverbarent acoustics – both these native sounds informed the resulting voice work. I found it interesting that some quite modal melodic elements found their way into what we were doing, so there was a calm hymn-like quality which kept coming through in what we did.

We each carried a hand held field recorder as we moved slowly around the space. Careful listening reveals that it sounds like there are more than two voices – the singer opposite can occasionally be heard across the room. We had 1hand held field recorder each, and this audio is panned left and right to give a spatial effect to the combining sounds. One of the recordings is shifted a few seconds behind the other, to accentuate the echo effect.

At one point a lone woman, a stranger, stepped into our little side room and spent time listening in silence. She left without a word, and the encounter felt very beautiful and intimate.

 

Over Bridge: first visit with another singer

 

This track is panned for a spatial effect, best heard on stereo speakers arranged to face each other with as big a gap between as possible, or on stereo headphones.

As I wrote above, this audio was made on the first Site Singing field trip where I took a fellow singer along with me. Having made every field trip solo until now, it felt a radical departure, and a little like introducing one friend, the singer Chloé Turpin, to another friend, Over Bridge.

I let her choose which site we should visit and she chose Over Bridge, an abandoned Victorian stone bridge, just outside Gloucester. For this recording, we stood under the bridge, one of us on each side, and called across to each other, in a form of improvised ‘call and response’.

This is a very multi-layered site, sonically speaking. There is the contant presence of traffic, yet we agreed that you feel strangely invisible at Over Bridge, like it lies in a slightly different dimension, concealed from view in some parallel multi-verse. It feels grand, lonely and forgotten, from another time and place, like a huge whale skeleton.

Careful listening reveals that it sounds like there are more than two voices – the singer opposite can occasionally be heard across the river as well as the recorders having picked up the echoes were being bounced back by the under-curve of the bridge. We had one hand held field recorder each, and this audio is panned left and right to give a spatial effect to the combining sounds. One of the recordings is shifted a few seconds behind the other, to accentuate the echo effect.

 

Over Bridge: recordings made under the neighbouring modern bridge

 

For this recording, we stood under the modern bridge built in the 1960’s alongside the abandoned Victorian stone bridge. We had one hand held field recorder each, and this audio is panned left and right to give a spatial effect to the combining sounds.

Careful listening reveals the trembling of the metal on the bridge caused by the cars over heard.  I remember how the different size and weight of the vehicle made a different pitch of sound, and different accompanying textures. As mentioned above, this is a very multi-layered site, sonically speaking. There is a constant hum of distant cars, like an ambient drone, together with immediate cars and trucks over head which cause a whooshing and click click sound. It was interesting to listen back and see this reflected in the sounds we chose to make. There is also birdsong from the surrounding trees and bushes, rather neglected and weed ridden. A kind of desolate space, which also somehow feels a bit secret and illicit through its abandonment.

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