SOUND: composition, installations, performance, releases

"In that place, the air was very different"


Music, Technology, Innovation graduate concert, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK, 30 November 2016.

Echo Echo Dance Theatre, Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland. 7-9 September 2016.


This multichannel sound installation premiered as part of ISSTA 2016: Temporary Autonomous Zones, curated by Brian Bridges.

The piece creates imaginary places from field recordings I have compiled over several years. For each installation, I make new recordings from the environs as a personal response to place. As these are added to the available sound pool, the piece accumulates its own sonic "memory", changing over time and with each rendition.

In this case I arrived in Derry three days in advance, and spent the time walking the city walls, talking with museum staff, sitting in quiet environs, watching children play in the public fountains, and so on.

On the long journey to Derry I had wondered if I had allowed myself enough time to gather sound recordings, but the truth is I had more than enough to edit and process for the installation. My listening practice has developed to a point where I hardly need to hit record. I wait for the right moment.

Four sets of speakers were used in the studio, each stereo pair playing their own source material. The speakers were disposed about the room, encouraging listeners to find their own preferred listening position. Many chose to move about the space, creating their own mix as they go.

The sounds were not played in a fixed manner. Rather, a Max patch controlled which sounds were to be pulled from which sound pool, and played for how long. The process is aleatoric, but the results are strongly driven by the source material.

Steve Batts, the Artistic Director of Echo Echo, together with members of the company, performed a response in movement on Friday at 5pm. This intervention was a wonderful example of the unexpected opportunities made possible by the open nature of this generative composition. I was very pleased and wish to send them my warmest thanks.

I look forward to developing "In that place, the air was very different" to reflect the special properties of other places.

Journal entry

Derry in the sunshine. Murals being refreshed on the bogside. Tourists wandering the walls. A plaque to fallen Irish (and Canadians) in the Great War. The mystery of what brought them together. The stained glass of St. Augustine's refracted on the carpet. A silent well, a respite.

In the Bloody Sunday museum, the brother of Michael Kelly, shot dead at 17, tells us the name of Soldier F. There are no memories, only the reality of right now. It's all still happening. A slide-show of images plays in a sparse room. The sound of the player reloading. If we had heard this report from the building opposite, would we have known it was the last sound we'd hear?

A blue screen.

Another blue screen.

And then one more.