In a nutshell…
I love singing, and I love discovering unusual places. I started this project as a way to combine these things, and explore them in relation to each other. Site Singing is an independent, evolving sound-artwork, and you are warmly welcomed to follow this blog as the journey unfolds.
More about Site Singing
In what ways do heritage sites have ‘many voices’?
Can vocal encounters with such sites produce new forms of ‘polyphonic’ response?
How can such responses be used to share, and contribute to, our understanding, experience and interpretation of historical sites?
This blog has been created to document my development of site-specific sound works at a selection of English Heritage sites in South West England. The works will use voice to explore, and reflect on the significance, of historical sites, with the initial aim of creating downloadable sound works for visitors as a form of alternative interpretation – although I trust the parameters of the project will expand beyond this. Having spent much of my childhood being physically in and around ancient sites and castles, I hope to draw attention to the sensory nature of visiting such sites, and relate this to their overall significance.
For this initial phase of the project, I will select some of the less frequented sites in the English Heritage guide book, which can be reached by foot and public transport within a day from Bristol. I will conduct sonic explorations of each site, working directly with the acoustics, and responding to the existing sounds of each site. Using a simple hand held recorder, I will create field recordings of this process, which can then be used to create inital vocal ‘sound sketches’: multi-layered sonic drawings using the voice. These will be the starting point for developing new compositional possibilities for the singing voice, and will hopefully lead to creating unique auditory responses which will enhance individuals experience of the sites. I hope that beyond the downloadable sound-works, the project will also eventually expand beyond this, into a music release, and hopefully the development of an immersive, composed live ensemble performance for voices.
I see the historical story and significance of an individual site as being tangible in its current physical presence, and for me, that means in experiencing its acoustics. Every site as has its own sonic language or ‘sound-world’, with its latent resonances, or ‘voices’, waiting to be found. In this way, heritage sites offer and enable sensory experiences which hover between past, present and future.
My blog entries will document the work in progress, through which I will further develop my approach of ‘vocalising site’ – using my own voice to give voice, or a polyphony of voices, to site. This will in turn widen my concepts of what voice, and working with voice as a compositional tool, can be. I will not be aiming to necessarily make flawless ‘choral’ sounds, but rather to use my voice as openly as I can to respond to each site, thereby also challenging and augmenting my own relationship with my voice. Through this, an inter-related site, sound and vocal practice, I aim to reflect each site individually, including its relationship with its surroundings, and the conditions of the time spent there.
Ellen Southern, July 2014 (updated November 2016)
This independent project was initiated with the blessing of English Heritage, and has emerged from my ongoing work around voice, performance, visual art, and composition. For more on my work see: