phreatic obfuscations

“The morning’s baldness dissected the straight line of horizon. He raised his head and saw the arc of the bitter flight as petrels sheered out of the Atlantic on the tilt of the crystalline plane; and the waters streamed off it down to an infinity where Choughs ran red-legged and inchoate in their golden, golden cage. He swerved his gaze: landwards! And the sea hauled him back: come rest in my bosom, come suck and gnaw with me at the stubborn land. Then all will be sea and all will be sea and all will be at sea; and all will have returned, free as dolphins who, so many aeons ago, faced the same choice and chose. Can we say we chose right?”

(from ANTICLINE – GPS-triggered located smartphone work for Westdown Quarry)

Sometimes I think ‘hey, you’re supposed to be a poet – so what’s with all this digi-stuff???’

screenshot1

Currently laying out GPS-triggered walk-poem ANTICLINE thru’ Westdown Quarry (goes live 15 Aug). This involves:

  • writing the poem-text
  • recording the poem-text (main voice: me; other voices: synthesized)
  • editing the recordings (in Audacity or Ableton Live)
  • processing the recordings in Ableton Live (above screenshot left of screen)
  • converting the recordings to mp3s (takes up less space in app)
  • composing the final mp3 soundfiles into the landscape (ie configuring the experience-design taking topographical considerations and features into account, as well as how long it should take an average walker to walk across a sound-region. In this case the mediascape is linear, which means it must ‘make sense’ both ways – there, and back)
  • testing the simulation in-house
  • testing on-site
  • lots of swearing

The actual process is fascinating and can get obsessive: instead of composing onto a scoresheet, or even by feel, you’re composing into a real landscape: you’re overlaying a virtual soundworld onto a real place which can only be heard in that place – nowhere else on earth. You have to decide whether there are scattered soundpools which have to be ‘hunted’, or whether it’s a continuous experience (in this case it’s continuous); you have (as above) to consider how long an average person will take to walk through the soundpool; that they may not walk thru’ it at all, but simply stop and listen until it finishes (how does this affect the experience?); whether to loop the tracks – which leads to one kind of experience; or simply play them once only; are they to be programmed enter/play/keep playing on departure, or enter/play/fade out (or stop) on departure/start again at same place  on re-entry/start at beginning again on re-entry? What sounds do you want to place on which topographical features? What sounds are there there already? Do soundpools overlap, and if so, what does it sound like?

RALPH HOYTE 29 July 2015

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Seed Forms

I have been making some seed forms reflecting the windblown catkin seeds typical of both birch and hazel – major pioneer species within the disused Mendip Quarries.

caroline sharp catkins  DSCN7141

Using a mix of stoneware clay and clay from seams excavated as part of the modern day quarrying process at Whatley Quarry and collected stems I have been sculpting forms which evoke these catkins and their windblown nature.

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Caroline Sharp 24 July 2015

Sculpture in a day.

Enjoyed a terrific day at the Somerset Earth Science Centre working with competition winner Charlotte McKeown making her ‘sculpture in a day’. We all collaborated to grind, weld, glue and assemble the conveyor belt inspired piece and were delighted to help charlotte successfully complete the work in time for the 5-o-clock opening.

e SESC Charlotte #2 e SESC Charlotte #1 e SESC Charlotte #3 e SESC Charlotte #4

 

 

Duncan Cameron  17/7/15

All Hail Effluvia

RALPH HOYTE: Battened down the hatches and got seriously down to the actual act of creation this week (impending deadlines always help inspiration, of course). I’m creating SYNCLINE in Fairy Cave Quarry with my frequent collaborator Phill Phelps (audio engineer, coder, musician). It all started with me saying to Phill, ‘hey, how about hanging autonomous speaker units off the rim of the cliffs and beaming sound into the quarry?’ (see earlier entries).

Fairy Cave Quarry - speaker locations general 1

So far we’ve bought most of the gubbins: 6 megaphones (more waterproof than conventional speakers, being made of metal), the mp3 player circuit boards, the wiring etc. We’re waiting on the bike batteries to drive the things – held up in China, I believe.

So much for the hardware. The software, in this case, is the poemscripts I’m writing. ‘Poemscripts’? The technology, that is to say the form, decides the content. Let’s say I wrote a conventional poem and simply divided it into 6 parts, or voices. You’d have 6 voices possibly overlapping each other. This would be mere cacophony. So the point is, how to compose for 6 ‘voices’ in this setting. I decided to set up 6 buckets, theme them, then simply dump all material pertaining to that theme into that bucket. Current buckets are:

  1. Fluid (refers to the nature of the material, not a description of the content. The voice is fluid)
  2. Geology
  3. Intelligence (on themes of ‘what is intelligence’)
  4. Lists (of relevance to the two quarries)
  5. Oracle (oracles lived in caves and prophesised)
  6. Quarries (related to these particular quarries)

No human voices were abused in the making of this work. They are all synthesised. Each ‘theme’ has a synthesized voice. The synthesised voices were virtually auditioned (which led to some rather amusing conversations, e.g.: Ralph: where’s Ana? Phill: she’s downloading. Ralph: tell her to get a move on, we haven’t got all night! Phill: OK, she’s downloaded – but whatiszname … Ralph: Oliver, English Oliver – Phill: he needs upgrading, that’s the old voice, let me get his updated voice…)

So far we’ve got:

  • Veena: Indian, female: lists
  • Moira: Irish, female:
  • Kate: English RP: geology
  • Alice (a-lee-che): Italian, female: Latin & intelligence
  • Susan: American: fluid
  • Chantal: French: quarries
  • Oliver: Standard English: Oracle1
  • Alex: American, female: Oracle2
  • Fiona: Scottish: possible fluid
  • Kyoko: standby

Each quarry/medium of delivery demands a different mix. SYNCLINE in Fairy Cave is fractured, often broken, gnostic, hermeneutic. Not only do we have a quarry, where things which were not meant (!) to be seen lie exposed to the sun, the air, the gaze; also things here were smashed up, pulverized, blown apart, make up our roads, we drive Mercedes GLA45 AMG 4MATIC’s on them; but also: SYNCLINE – the earth in her groanings moved, she fractured the rocks, they were made molten, or lay flat and serene whilst the millennia snowed calcium on them. So the words are fractured, groaning, the millennia have sowed inconformity in them, things have intruded on their reverie, the notes are incongruous, scatty, effluvial…

Delivery is ‘in progress’. The mp3 readers are just … mp3 readers, They don’t do fancy stuff, they just read file1, read file2, read file3. So we sow ‘blank’ (silent) files in amongst them. The amount of silence depends on the nature of the voice. So Veena, for example, takes 8 hours to finish her list, and only then loops. Susan is more vocal. But we have to sow enough silence in amongst the files so that the chances of cacophony are small (but cacophony is sometimes good). Then we simulated on Ableton Live. Then we turned some down so you get the effect of the megaphone nearest you is loudest (of course), and the others are at various distances (which they will be, depending on where they are aimed). Then we considered the level of each, so we’d know how close you have to get to a megaphone to hear it. Then we put an echo on some. Then we decided we were tired and there were too many variables to code, so we went and cooked supper and drank cider.

ANTICLINE in Westdown is for a different media: GPS triggered smartphone media. So people will walk through the quarryscape. Will you expect ‘a story’. Maybe you’ll get one, maybe Discobolous will eject his head from the bedrock and stagger forth. I don’t know, I’m currently writing it, I don’t know what he’ll want to do, say. Maybe nothing.  Voices? They haven’t spoken, yet.

 

Ralph Hoyte  16/7/15

Opening Week – STEP 1

Our opening week of Step 1: installing artwork, signage, running school workshops, guided walk, making a sculpture in a day, press launch and official opening at Somerset Earth Science Centre has been a whirlwind of activity!

4 of us spent 2 days setting up artwork inside and around the grounds of SESC.  My artwork forstep in stone includes both new work inspired by features of the quarries (for Steps 2 & 3) and pre-existing work (for Step 1) that reflect how the quarries resonate with my interest in life forms.  The installation of my floating pieces involved adventures in a boat.   2 helpers were enlisted from Moons Hill quarry (both called Paul) to assist with this.  Slightly perturbed by the strangeness of it all to start with, they were soon singing rowing songs – delighted by the novelty once they relaxed into their new roles and we floated the first ‘Diatom’ in the water.   My other installations meant climbing up tall ladders, and wrapping ‘Lichen’ round a tree with helper Nigel.  Duncan Elliott dragged his heavy stone pieces up the road on a trolley, and built huge scaffolding frames to hoist up his ‘Age of Stone’ – a back-aching job, but worth the effort – it is magnificent!  Tessa Farmer arrived on a train from London laden with her intriguing boxes of insects, miniature evil fairies, worm casts and bell jar – the intricate work taking her hours to install – and Christina White set up her beautiful multi-exposure photographs in the Centre against limestone walls.

Some of this process was documented by Duncan Simey (see ‘wild-landscapes’ photos below) and filmmaker Jack Offord, for our final documentary film.

Installing Diatoms on Monday

 

Diatom

"'step in stone' installation at the Somerset Earth Sciences Centre"

"'step in stone' installation at the Somerset Earth Sciences Centre"

"'step in stone' installation at the Somerset Earth Sciences Centre"

"'step in stone' installation at the Somerset Earth Sciences Centre"

"'step in stone' installation at the Somerset Earth Sciences Centre"

"'step in stone' installation at the Somerset Earth Sciences Centre"

"'step in stone' installation at the Somerset Earth Sciences Centre"

"'step in stone' installation at the Somerset Earth Sciences Centre"

"'step in stone' installation at the Somerset Earth Sciences Centre"

"'step in stone' installation at the Somerset Earth Sciences Centre"

"'step in stone' installation at the Somerset Earth Sciences Centre"

We opened on Wednesday 8th July, and have already had a wide range of visitors of all ages engaging with our work, including 2 school groups through Somerset Art Works’ inspirED programme and some guided walkers through our collaboration with Somerset Wildlife Trust.  My half day workshop was with Yr 7 pupil premium students from Selwood School.  In small groups they created group wire pieces based on silver birch seeds.  Suzie’s workshop the next day with Castle School students resulted in felted balls using locally sourced wool.  Both sets of work will be exhibited as part of the Trail at Halecombe Quarry from Step 2 onwards.

Guided Walk at SESC Rubbings IMG_0368

Our first week culminated yesterday in the making of Charlotte McKeown’s sculpture with her in just one day.  This was her award for winning for our ‘Under 20’s Sculpture Design Competition’.  A bit like scrapheap challenge, a small, dedicated team worked hard to create the sculpture in a day.  Despite having prepared materials and got some parts together for it, the challenge was still a little daunting.  Our team included Charlotte, Lucja Korczak, who won the under 13 year-old design competition prize, her mum Aga, Duncan Cameron (step in stone artist and Strode College tutor to Charlotte), Nick Weaver (step in stone Partner) and me.  Perhaps the best thing about yesterday was how everyone worked together so well to make it happen and with such aplomb!    A slight rush to finish before the arrival of press and guests for our official opening at 5pm, the sculpture was installed by the Centre entrance.  Sarah Jackson from Mendip Hills AONB kindly did the honours to ‘open’ the event, and we all celebrated the start of an exciting few months ahead!

Kinetic Sculpture design - Charlotte McKeown

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Thanks to Gill Odolphie and Juliet Lawn at SESC for putting up with us all week and supporting us throughout!

 

Do please come and visit Somerset Earth Science Centre (SESC)  – open to public Weds 9am-4pm & special events

Artists exhibiting at SESC: Fiona Campbell, Duncan Elliott, Tessa Farmer, Christina White, Charlotte McKeown – young sculpture design competition winner

 

Fiona Campbell   12/7/15