These three digital soundscapes are each, in their different ways, portraits of London. They were inspired by my love of the city; not the London of tourist brochures, but a London composed of people - working, talking, laughing or crying, and getting on with their day-to-day lives. The Russian director, Sergei Eisenstein spoke of `emotional representation' with regard to film: through montage (the juxtaposition of related but disparate images), the familiar is made more poignant, more intense and our sensibilities may be expanded as a result. Inhabiting a world midway between abstract music and radiophonic documentary these pieces are, to some extent, my personal attempt to create a sonic equivalent to montage film. These aren't random sound collages: it is what the sounds are about - where they are from, who made them and what they represent - that's of importance. Recognizable sounds are juxtaposed, hidden, decontextualized or coloured by digital processing techniques and editing, but they remain familiar and continue to tell a tale. Rather than provide a programmatic narrative I've tried to offer something less directive, and more open to individual interpretation. In a sense, these soundscapes invite the listener to use them as background music to their own memories of similar experiences.

My mother holds a wealth of memories concerning her life in London during the Second World War. In these stories from her childhood the horror of war is disguised, or perhaps made even more painful, coloured by a child's excitement and lack of understanding. And, of course, she tells them now from an adult's perspective, looking back at the person she once was. Her memories were familiar bedtime stories for me, so much so that I feel they are part of my experience too. During the Gulf war they began to haunt me; perhaps I realised, for the first time, how it must have been. With my mum's enthusiastic participation, I used her words, emotions and personality as the basis for this piece. Many of the recordings were made `on location', as my parents and I revisited the places where she grew up.

In Her Own Time is as much about my feelings for my mother as about the events she describes. More generally, it's also concerned with memories, places or people as they are now and were then, the temporal nature of sound itself, and the important legacy that stories provide.

In London, as in all large cities, even a short walk can involve abrupt transitions from one sonic, and social, environment to another. The source sounds for this piece are diverse, and all were recorded in and around Walthamstow, London E17, which I considered to be my home `patch' at the time. Although there is quite a bit of sound-processing, it is intentionally surreptitious. I used it to `light' a series of linked sonic films, letting the so-called ordinary shine through. The music travels through various environments, dwelling for several minutes in each. They include sounds from my back garden, underground `tube' trains, my local eel pie and mash caf , a noisy outdoor market, roadworks, rain. London E17 is dedicated to Paul Lansky, with thanks and affection.

The sounds used in this piece were recorded in foot tunnels underneath the Thames. These tunnels are reached by descending in large Victorian lifts, complete with mahogany panelling and raucous sliding metal doors. The tunnels are extraordinary, and the experience of interacting with them more so. As the doors open, the crowd emerges into a wonderfully reverberant environment, and many people immediately begin playing with it - stamping their feet, shouting, listening to echoes, making spooky noises with their kids. It's one of few occasions in everyday life when people spontaneously engage with sound, and the `effects' produced are surprisingly nightmarish. In the damp and dimly-lit tunnels, you could almost convince yourself that the journey may not end, or that you might be entering some dark, unknown world. This piece is a walk below ground in both the sonic and metaphorical sense, an imaginary journey in which the sounds of the tunnel, and the people, drift in and out of focus, become intensified or surreal or fade inexplicably to silence. Things aren't what they seem, until the music returns to the surface.

People Underground has also been used as the soundtrack for a film, Below the Surface by Paul Rodgers, with whom the original sounds were recorded.


Home | About SAN | Education | Sounds | Research | Membership | Links | Shop
Copyright 2002 Sonic Arts Network