Unit 3: Sound Arts Project
You read extraordinary descriptions of listening experiences, you recognize them, but they are un-reproducible. This imaginative dimension disclosed by words is crucial, and it was important for me in my 20s: to find descriptions of music in literature, in works of anthropology and in travel books, and to hear that music in the words, while knowing that the reality was going to be different (Toop to Cascella, 2010).
The roots of this project go back two years to my time on the London College of Communication’s ABC Diploma in Sound Design and Music Technology. One of my many ideas for the ABC Diploma’s final project was that of a paper instrument. During research into this idea I discovered that it was possible to use the sharp corner of a piece of paper as a crude form of combined stylus and loudspeaker: amplifying the sounds pressed into the grooves of a vinyl record. Though the paper instrument idea was ultimately discarded, the idea of the paper stylus and loudspeaker combo continued to hover on the periphery of my imagination.
While struggling with my initial idea for this year’s final BA (Hons) Sound Arts and Design project, a discussion in one of the accompanying lectures bought the paper stylus and loudspeaker idea back into sharp focus. A fellow student was discussing a project that revolved around music and memory. This led me to thinking about my formative electronic music influences, the power of the written word in the weekly music press back in the early 1990s and an interview with David Toop from 2010 that I had just recently discovered (from which the quote at the beginning of this essay is taken) where he discussed his then newly published book Sinister Resonance. I remembered a small review dating from August 1993 in the Melody Maker’s Singles column by the writer Simon Reynolds that 20 years down the line still resonates with me. His description of the Metalheads 12-inch vinyl single Angel – an ‘ardkore jungle record not easy to obtain in St. Albans: the city in Hertfordshire where I was living at the time – so fired my young imagination that I felt compelled to try and recreate this unheard record on my lowly Commodore Amiga home computer. Needless to say I failed, but if it was not for the fire that Reynolds’ small spark of a review lit within me, I very much doubt that I would be where I am today. I decided there and then in that lecture that I would take these thoughts and ideas and combine them with the concept of the paper stylus and loudspeaker.
With this piece I wanted to expand on Toop’s idea and somehow convey the power of this ‘imaginative dimension disclosed by words’ (Toop to Cascella, 2010). By holding the review in one’s hands and plunging the sharp corner into the record’s grooves, I wanted to give some impression of how I heard and, through the vibrations of the paper loudspeaker, felt the ghost of the music within Reynolds’ words.
Cascella, D. (2010) David Toop. Frieze Blog [Internet], 17 August. Available from: <http://blog.frieze.com/david-toop/> [Accessed 25 May 2012].
Metalheads. (1993) Angel [Vinyl]. London: Synthetic.
Reynolds, S. (1993) Singles. Melody Maker, 28 August, p. 33.
Toop, D. (2010) Sinister resonance: the mediumship of the listener. London: Continuum.
Tutor Thomas Gardner’s comments:
This was a beautifully planned and presented piece of work, which drew on both your specialist options – providing a counterpoint to the high-tech ‘instruments’ class (by using no more than a piece of paper) and the group nature of the improvisation class (by focussing on text).