pre-residency research 2 – soundings

His exhibition ‘Speakers’ consists of 5 large sculptured heads of women – all molded/painted in his graffiti-esque style which is bold and colourful. In each of these heads resides a speaker pointing forwards, playing a looped track that is individual to each head. Each of these tracks consist of random musical elements – abstract/street sounds/classical music/other compositions that present female composers. Technically, all the speakers connect to a workshop below where Ableton (music programme) is running.

Soundwise, I had to understand what was going on at the exhibition: what was sounding, what was the technology used, what was the protocol of taking over soundscapes, what were the possibilities that I could take? During the exhibition, Nicolas’ soundscape looped continuously during the day. The week before I came, the nearby experimental sound group from Oxford Uni (Empres) came to set up a week-long improvised and looped soundscape which was recorded in Oxford, collaborating with various people living in Oxford, as well as poets and other Oxfordian science/social figures. The changing of these sounds over the course of the exhibition felt like an evolving train from the original sources, suggesting that this element could become a fairly important part of my response. My own set of worries about taking over Nicolas’ soundscapes became less and less of an issue, and became more about what I could actually do, as opposed to what i could preserve.

Bear in mind, there are always a set of limitations which pop up when you least expect it, and a lot more tech to organise.

I will create a composition that uses the 5 heads like a 5-channel speaker system, even though they are facing different angles in the room (possibilities of feedbacks). Most likely option is 5 bounced mono tracks that are specific to each head, which encircle the room like a 5-channel speaker system. The speakers do not have any subs, nor holes/grid, which means that sound that I compose with, cannot be heard in total accuracy. The speakers are incased inside the heads, thus changing the quality of the soundwaves when you finally get to hear them. Additionally, it would be difficult to mix the levels and re-balance the sound properties until I get down to the gallery space properly. There would be no live mixing in the Piper Room itself, so any adjusting of automated levels et al for each of the tracks has to be bounced and uploaded onto the gallery computer before checking whether it satisfies better, or needs further tweaking.

Collated sounds:

Sounds could be collated throughout the week, from various sources. This is the point at which the audience might have the greatest effect on the whole performance.

Audience responses:

If a question was placed to the audience when they arrive into the room during the week, what would that be, or what would they be? How then would I assimilate their responses into the performance over the week?

Could they be given tasks or questions?

  • Tasks that allow them to go out of the gallery into the city to observe, gathering information before coming back into the gallery with thoughts/words etc.
  • To have the ability to write down their responses onto small post-it notes for me to collect at the end of each day.
  • They could be video-ed (heads) talking about their responses, and definitely recorded as audio for me to collect at the end of the day.

These collated responses can then be incorporated into the software and/or edited into a video (talking heads); the post-it notes could be gathered; and the audio could be edited to be added to the composition in the 5 heads.

Q: What are these questions?

  • What memory would you offer to the space, why?
  • What do you feel when you look at these heads?
  • What emotion/feeling would you like to leave with these heads?
  • Who do you see when you look at the heads?
  • Can you see yourself in these heads?
  • What would you do to fill these heads with the respect they deserve?


Pictureof head

Fig. 1 What’s inside a head?

Since the connection of these voices to these heads are fairly direct, it seems a straightforward decision to have the heads ‘talking’ as if the voices recorded by the audience are actually coming from these heads themselves – thus ‘humanising’ the heads, giving them a sense of embodied presence.