If we could hear the voice of nature, what would it say?
Can we use technology to strengthen our connection with nature?
These are the fundamental questions guiding my work, which encompasses poetry, drama and electro-acoustic music.
Some areas I’m especially interested in are as follows:
Following on from two summers’ studying with Stevie Wishart and Alice Oswald at the Dartington International Festival, I am creating poetry which uses more than one voice.
By deploying Polyphonic principles from Early Music and World Music, we might better capture the motions and cycles of nature.
Audio ambiguity as a dramatic device
Rorschach audio, Electronic Voice Phenomena, Cross-Linguistic coincidences and other instances where the listener might interpret audio in different ways at different times are a great tool for radio drama.
Alchemy and esoteric theories of music
I’m researching ancient music theories, including Pythagorean music, the music of the spheres and Hindu Ethnomusicological principles. These are being fed into my radio dramas as magical/sci-fi technologies upon which I can hang various plot developments.
Pure vocals with effects
I’ve been creating pieces using samples which only originate in the human voice box and body, but then adding effects chains to them.
I collect bones, sticks, sheep skulls and pine-cones on my walks on the moors and then amp them up and create haunting electronic effects with them.
Having trained as an Anthropologist and Archaeologist, I often write poetry from the point of view of talking skulls and prehistoric people.
Below are some of the projects which have come out of this research. (Click the pictures for audio links.)
MIDDLE – A ritual for the precise middle of a festival
MIDDLE is a multi-sensory piece to be performed at the exact middle point in time of the festival, as close to the geographical centre of the festival as possible.
This ritual is performed in the spirit of Wagnerian total art, appealing to all the senses, and uniting body and mind in the field of awareness.
It is intended to capture the feeling of pure being and becoming which is accessed when we are truly ‘in the moment’.
All the music and lyrics and even the instruments themselves are created on-site during the festival, using found materials.
I collect leaves and pine cones and sticks around the festival site and then make musical instruments by amping them up with pickups, making rattles, broomstick basses etc. The song lyrics are found poetry based on overheard snippets of conversation from the festival.
At the exact middle point of the festival, Saturday afternoon at 4pm, the MIDDLE ceremony happens. We perform the words and instruments, taking cues from the shapes and movements of the clouds and hills and humans and birds around us at that moment. We burn incense made from flowers and bark collected on-site, pass around foraged foods and wear clothes and masks made from found items.
As a bonus, we can give a workshop, showing how to make driftwood instruments and write found poems.
This summer, I am collaborating with Susan Taylor on her show, La Loba.
La Loba is a wild woman archetype from Mexican mythology who collects bones and reanimates dead animals using her song.
Susan has created the most exquisite poetry where she imagines herself into the character of La Loba.
I will be providing a musical soundscape using instruments I have made myself using bones and skulls collected on the moors.
The Assisi Machine
The Assisi machine is the story of a machine that can translate birdsong into human speech. The machine’s creator has died under mysterious circumstances and his machine is at first thought to be a hoax. The drama unfolds through extended drone sound pieces where we hear a machine trying – and eventually succeeding – in translating birdsong. And, it turns out that the birds speak in beautiful poetry.
The dramatic movement is not through dialogue or gesture, but through the interplay of poetry and drone music. (Drones are a recurrent theme of my practice, as they force us to focus on change, which in this case drives the drama.)
The Assisi Machine explores these questions through radiophonic experimentation, myth, dramatic verse and dialogue. It was broadcast by Radia.fm and syndicated to 26 stations worldwide in August 2018.
Tin Moth is a group of like-minded radiophonic explorers working out of Dartington Hall’s Soundart studio.
In the audio link above, we are improvising Drone music using circuit bending and home-made electronics.
I am kind of obsessed with drones. They work as realpolitik and metaphysics, which is odd.
First, there is the drone of the sitar or the bagpipes, which Indian musicology says is the sound the universe makes. It may or may not also be the music of spheres, either way, it keeps the world in existence, in balance. This drone works busily behind the scenes, just like worker bees, who are also drones.
Military drones work busily behind the scenes. They fight wars at a safe distance on the West’s behalf, ensuring that the capitalist system remains in existence. If the fighter drones stopped, our world would collapse, just as, if the music of the spheres ended, our world would collapse.
Our improvs are broadcast live from 1-4 every Wednesday on Soundart Radio.
We also teach others to make their own circuit-bent dreams in a regular hacking club:
Drones Over Keyham
Video of Drones Over Keyham (2 mins)
I have started a band, Drones Over Keyham. We are an all-girl Electro Punk band. I play electronics and bassy things (sometimes a 303, sometimes a bass guitar).
Drones Over Keyham were commissioned to close the Plymouth Art Weekender in September 2018. We were also ‘fresh find of the week’ on BBC Introducing in May 2018. We have been described as ‘the best band in the Plymouth underground’, which I guess is something.