Blast Theory residency (Private View Day)

So, Stage Three (see earlier post) and, predictably, there isn’t enough time… Not sure about the weather and if it will be possible to do the listening session and talk on the terrace. Eventually around 5, it brightens up and we decide to go outside for a shortened session; but even that’s a bit chilly by 7 o’clock and I don’t go ahead with the actual listening exercises. However, after talking to people, they said that they had understood exactly why, given the nature of my work, I had wanted to be outside, and that they had listened intently to the urban soundscape around them anyway. So that’s all good…

Inside, the studio room had been completely cleared – apart from the leather sofa, a music stand with the extant 7 bars of Luigi Russolo’s Awakening of a City on it and the dummy head on a plinth (wearing microphones and capturing the whole proceedings), backlit to provide dim ambient lighting. The audience entered in groups of 4 for 6/7 minutes at a time and were given individual iPods and headphones and invited to make themselves comfortable in the space and listen to the sounds of the Portslade traffic.

I was particularly pleased with these recordings, in terms of their sound quality and artistry, and the effect that they had on listeners was startling and very gratifying. A number of people said that they found the sounds completely relaxing, and I could definitely have left people in the room longer, but was constrained by the number of iPods available. The transformation of urban noise had definitely happened in that room.

I said in the talk that this was a chance for me to engage personally with this material having only ever curated and produced it, up until now. If ReAwakening of a City is to eventually become a grand collaborative noise symphony in the next couple of years, then this small work is my chamber version, a string quartet – working up the ideas in public, slowly edging its way towards the 21st April 2014, the 100th anniversary of the premiere of Awakening of a City in Milan.

So thanks to Blast Theory for hosting this brief, but very enlightening experience and thanks to all who turned up and listened to my work. For everyone else, the sound files are documented here. All I would ask is that you retire to a quiet space and put on a good pair of headphones. Enjoy!

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