One of my favourite plays is The Tempest and particularly the speech that Caliban makes in ACT 3 – SCENE II. Another part of the island. It has always struck a chord with me –
Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open and show riches
Ready to drop upon me that, when I waked,
I cried to dream again.
Like most of my releases, Vox is about memories and also about the hidden songs that I hear when I look at things. My world has always been noisy and the divide between sight and sound blurred. When I look at the Sea it sings, which it probably does to some other people, but does your Concrete Mixer sing to you? Apart from the obvious mechanical sounds, does it have a voice?
It does in my world.
I have always been acutely aware of the mass of sound and noises that surround me everyday, even in the quiet moments. To me, the world has always been a hum, static, fizz to the ears, drones, and an underlying miasma of noise, even in the seemingly most tranquil of places. Of course, our brain filters out most of the superfluous sounds and concentrates on what it thinks is important. Somehow it doesn’t quite work that way in my world. When I look at things, sounds seep into my brain as a musical score and an orchestra plays.
Early one morning I recorded the sound of the birds in my garden and took the sound file and broke it down into its digital information. The birdsong was not as loud and clear as I had thought. It was masked and in competition with other sounds like running water, showers, children playing, traffic…. The quiet sections were unmasked not to be silent but to have traces of waveforms and the midi track only upheld visually what I had suspected. Taking just the one recording, using all this digital information, I created what turned out to be a very noisy track, ‘A Quiet Field’ for World Listening Day 2020.
This experiment with the underlying patterns of a sound recording, has set me off on an exploration. All the tracks on Vox began with the original field recording and I have included them as the base track, but via breaking them down into the digital information, I found hidden voices, patterns and rhythms. The musician in me then overlaid the patterns with electronic sounds to create songs that try to reflect not only the hidden sounds I hear in the field recording but also aim to create the atmosphere and the memory of that moment when I first heard the sounds.
As Caliban says, the sweet airs that hurt not but delight.