Cities and Memories – Sacred Spaces

C&M Sacred Spaces_2

“Sacred Spaces examines the crucial role sound has played in our spiritual and religious lives for thousands of years, and explores the sonic similarities between different religions, and different types of sacred space from across the world.”

A Better Resurrection – Reimagination of  Sound #92 – St Thomas, Oxford – Pealing Bells, late evening.

I came to this project quite late but although sound #92 was the only Sacred Spaces field recording available, I felt it was a good foundation for a reimagining, not only in the rhythmic  beauty of the sound but also the associations I have when hearing pealing bells.



The only information I had about St. Thomas’s, was its close association with the early days of the Oxford Movement, which I began to research in more detail. I also have a great love of poetry and it has often been the subject of my music. This led me to the devotional poetry of Christina Rossetti, who was a follower of the Tractarians or High Church Movement. I chose A Better Resurrection (1862), as it expresses the process of transformation from isolation and emptiness towards spiritualism and renewal of hope due to her faith.  To me, church bells seem to reflect and be a sonic representation of this journey.

I knew that I only wanted to use the bells themselves and a voice, no other instruments, as I wished to marry the tone and rhythm of the poem to the field recording. I took phrases from the poem and rearranged them in a way that they expressed the journey from isolation to hope, repeating phrases, similar to repeated bell changes. The final section has some reference to call and response, as in a church service. With experimentation and processing of samples, the underlying bell sounds morphed into a slow ‘hymn like’ tune, a bit like a small church organ but not losing the essence of the bells. The final section of redemption is reflected in the use of the original pealing bells, overlaying one sample from the beginning and one from the end, referencing the joy of rebirth, as with the spring buds after winter frosts.