My degree was in Linguistics and Anthropology and my practice is rooted in language; in its physical articulation and its semantic and acoustic properties. As such, I am involved in creating forms of sound poetry which break new ground in soundscape design. I use the international phonetic alphabet as my sound palate and run an experimental workshop into polyphonic speech out of Dartington Radiophonic at Soundart Radio.
This work is being realised in many forms, most notably as headphone operas or headphone dramas where all the sounds are made using the human voice, sometimes mashed up by digital effects. Ultimately, I think I am working towards a ‘total art form’ for poetry, which integrates poetry, audiodrama, narrative, soundscapes, collage and polyphony.
Finding a voice for the inexpressible is integral to my work, creating richly layered texts which speak out of the darkness, whether that be nature, the unconscious or mythological and archaeological layers around us. I try to connect the listener with nature through ritual and through play. My sound pieces are often site-specific and deeply rooted in the cycles of nature of Dartmoor, where I live.
Recent commissions include everything from creating plugins which turn a woman’s voice into a stag beetle’s mating call, a polyphonic poetry play for the Minack Theatre, and a sound sculpture made of sheep’s bones to accompany Susan Taylor’s wild woman play, La Loba.
(click the pictures for audio)
STAGE PLAY “FORCES” COMMISSIONED BY THE MINACK THEATRE
I was selected for the iconic Minack theatre’s emerging playwright program and invited to write a play for younger actors. Covid-permitting, this will be performed in October 2020.
“Forces” asks what would happen if a green revolution happened tomorrow and whether humans have the practical and emotional capacity to survive in tune with nature.
Inspired by working with Jennie Osborne, the chorus in this play is the voice of nature and they speak in a ‘dawn chorus’ which deploys polyphonic elements. You can read more about my obsession with polyphony and my experimental polyphony workshop here.
Experimental Polyphony Workshop
I lead a monthly workshop over zoom, investigating the use of multiple voices in radio drama/sound poetry. We have so far explored aleatoric techniques, deep listening, medieval polyphony, vocal effects and dissipation and decay in sound.
We welcome new members. Listen here.
DJING AT THE FESTIVAL HALL, SOUTH BANK CENTRE, LONDON
I was invited to play music for the bank holiday on the terrace of the South Bank, with the London Eye right behind me, as part of Twat Boutique. My selection took in Italo and Mutant Disco and some electronic oddities.
TWO ELECTRO-ACOUSTIC COMPOSITIONS COMMISSIONED FOR THE FIESTA DEL LIBRO Y LA CULTURA, MEDELLIN, COLOMBIA
Polyverse is a polyphonic poetry choir, if choir is the right word. We write and perform poetry for more than one voice. Everything is spoken, not sung.
Following on from two summers’ studying with Stevie Wishart and Alice Oswald at the Dartington International Festival, we deploy Polyphonic principles from Early Music and World Music in order to better capture the motions and cycles of nature.
Why polyphony? Polyphony is all around us. Nature is polyphonic (just listen to the dawn chorus). Some anthropologists believe the earliest human music would have been polyphonic. Poetry is meant to be heard aloud and what better way to hear it spoken than to hear two or more poets interweaving, bringing their different perspectives into play and creating mesmerising sound collages. That’s the idea anyway.
Click the link above to hear a sample recording.
Ritual was an interactive sculpture performed at Midnight Sun @ Union Corner, Plymouth Uk, 21st June 2019.
It happened like this: I woke at dawn on the 21st and wrote poetry to capture the moment of the summer solstice.
For the evening performance, I created a sculpture of mic’ed up instruments including a sheep skull, catkins, pine needles, rocks and sheep bones. Some I played across a giant drum skin, others I used contact mics and violin bows while simultaneously reading the poetry.
Click the picture above to see the full performance.
THE ASSISI MACHINE
The Assisi Machine explores storytelling through myth, dramatic verse and dialogue. It was broadcast by Radia.fm and syndicated to 21 stations worldwide in August 2018.
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 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.)
Tin Moth is a drone project made by 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.
We are sometimes invited to perform live shows. We have appeared at Islomga Festival of Sound, as well as Music is Murder Exeter.
We, well I especially, 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. 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 military drones stopped, our world would collapse, just as, if the music of the spheres ended, our world would collapse. Weird, huh?
PLYMOUTH ART WEEKENDER CLOSING PARTY
Drones Over Keyham were commissioned to close the Plymouth Art Weekender in September 2018. We put together a special set, called Art Is Dead using homemade instruments made from skulls and bones, as well as an 808 Drum Machine and other electronics.
Drones are an all-girl Electro-Punk-Art kind of band. 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.