Ultimately, I am working towards a ‘total art form’ for poetry, which integrates poetry, audiodrama, narrative, soundscapes, collage and polyphony. 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, albeit mashed up by digital effects.
Finding a voice for nature 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.
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.
My work connects the observer/listener with nature through ritual and through play. This work is often site-specific and deeply rooted in the cycles of nature in my native Dartmoor. It is an uncovering of hidden connections to the landscape, mythology, archaeology and flora and fauna under our feet and in the corners of our perception.
In the future, I’m also keen to expand into concrete poetry and typographic art, using printing and calligraphic techniques, notably typewriter art, ASCI-ii and similarly retro methods. I’m interested in exploring the image in a typographic context, especially with reference to Chinese pictograms and Japanese Haiku/Haibun.
Recent Commissions and Performances
(click the pictures for audio)
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.