They say ancient dramatic choruses were an extension of the forest; a space where poetry, ritual and music worked together and where the mythic, the biological, the geological and the human interacted with one another. This forest clearing is where I am doing most of my work. Polyphonic poetry is a central aesthetic of my practice, standing as it does at the intersection of sound and literature.
Aside from polyphony, other themes that crop up in my work include: interrogating the nature/culture divide through entangled performance with layers in the lived and imagined environment, the uncanny, eco-feminist ritual, and improvisation with electro-acoustic and electronic sounds.
The necessarily interdiscilinary nature of my work means it finds outlets in all sorts of places, including being disseminated as radio dramas, art installations, zoom workshops, cassettes, stage plays, operas and performance art pieces.
Alluvial Matters (Dartmoor, 2023)
[update:] We have been awarded an artist development residency at Dartington Hall for this work and will be in R&D in June, with a scratch performance on 28th June.
Interdisciplinary collaboration with performance artist with Sarah Blissett, investigating tin metallurgy on Dartmoor and its role in geology, history and psycho-geography.
We have begun by melting down lead-tin alloy toy soldiers into water to create micro sculptures. Known as Bleigiessen in Germany, molybdomancy is the practice of melting metals over a flame and using the result to predict your future. The ritual of melting toy soldiers to create new forms is an alchemical practice of renewal and communal healing from the extractive, colonial, industrial past and imagines a better, less polluting future.
The outcomes of the project will be site-specific performances of molybdomancy rituals, and an accompanying audio-visual experience.
I Wanna Be (In Center Parcs) (Royal Opera House/St Pancras Station, London 2022)
Libretto for a micro-opera for Royal Opera House and Casco Phil orchestra.
Based on my polyphonic libretto, the micro-opera I Just Wanna Be (In Center Parcs) (Taylor/Priest) explores concepts of time perception through an arguing couple who sing a duet at differing speeds.
This work was part of Europalia, a cross-European project for creating new site-specific operatic works for major train stations. In the UK, it was curated by Royal Opera House and Curated Places and the works were performed by Jette Parker Artists.
It is being revived in 2023 with new orchestration, for Wilderness Festival, Oxfordshire.
Mirror (NMC Recordings 2022)
Electronic sound poem based on automatic writing informed by nature, the unconscious, and the geological, mythological and archaeological layers around me in a specific woodland location.
I visited the same patch of land for a month and later went back to and recorded parts of the resultant poem in situ.
The final piece, Mirror, was released by NMC recordings, as part of their Big Lockdown Survey project. It was also played on BBC Radio 3 and formed part of the radio documentary, On the Trail of Joan Lyneham on Resonance FM.
Bone Ritual (Union Corner, Plymouth Uk 2019 and Phonic FM, Exeter 2023)
Interactive sculpture commissioned for Midnight Sun event and subsequently played in various locations 2019-2023.
I woke at dawn on the 21st June 2019 and wrote poetry to capture the moment of the summer solstice. I then went to Dartmoor and collected objects to add to the ceremonial sculpture. For the evening performance, I played the objects, including a sheep‘s skull, catkins, pine needles, rocks and bones and read the poetry.
The Assisi Machine (21 radio stations worldwide, 2018-present)
The Assisi machine is a radio series based on electronic sound experiments, polyphonic poetry and the outcomes of my Dartington Radiophonic workshops.
The work has so far explored bioacoustics and linguistics, notions of time in dramatic gestures, mental health, grief and mourning and notions of life after death. It has so far had three episodes commissioned over a five-year period!
I am open to making more if anyone would like to commission an episode for a radio art festival near you.
Forces (Minack Theatre 2021)
Forces is a stage drama for a youth cast and contains sections of polyphonic verse where nature is represented as a dawn chorus.
It was commissioned by the Minack for their New Writing Festival and performed in 2021.
On The Trail of Joan Lyneham (Resonance FM and Soundart Radio 2020)
Audio essay made for FIMTEC, Resonance FM and Plymouth Art Weekender. It was first broadcast 20 August 2020.
This piece was a documentary about Jodie Saunders’ Joan Lyneham project, a project to reconstruct the ideas of a forgotten female sound pioneer from Plymouth. I invited some of the musicians who had taken part in the project to an experimental polyphony workshop where we explored her ideas further.
The polyphonic choir has become a permanent fixture and we became Dartington Radiophonic, an experimental spoken word choir and has subsequently made several works for radio based on layering voices and electronic manipulation of the voice, using contemporary composition techniques.
Installation: Blackbird, Gulls and Surfer (Medellin, Colombia 2019)
Polyphony can be a way for the human to entangle itself with the more-than-human, as we become part of the dawn chorus. Blackbird, Gulls and Surfer was part of a transnational project of field recordings and responses to place which combined the hyper-local with the hyper-global. 2500 visitors heard the installation at the Fiesta del Libro y la Cultura, Colombia, in 2019.
Installation: Fingle Gorge (Medellin, Colombia 2019)
Surround sound installation presented in Medellin, Colombia, as part of the Fiesta del Libro y la Cultura.
Fingle Gorge is an attempt to connect with the hidden layers – mythical, prehistoric and Mesozoic – in the ancient woodland near my home where I walk every day. All the sounds are made entirely from the human voice, manipulated by various digital effects. It is a part of the overall area of my work of deep ecology, drawing together inner and outer landscapes.
Tin Moth (Various locations, 2018-present)
Tin Moth is another band of mine. We play homemade and circuit-bent instruments. We repurpose the detritus of modernity, bending circuits and turning ping-pong bats into banjos. We scavenge the moors for bones and the beaches for driftwood. Tin Moth began as radiophonic explorers working out of Dartington Hall’s Soundart studio where they improvised live on air on a weekly basis.
Recent performances include Islomga Festival of Sound (Plymouth), Music is Murder (Exeter) and Amok@ Artefact (Birmingham).
Full List of Plays and Librettos
- A.W.O.L. (Forthcoming with Moveable Type Theatre 2023 TBC)
- Libretto for ‘The Hardest Journey’ (Braithwaite/Priest) for The Royal Opera House’s Jette Parker Young Artists. This was a site-specific work for St Pancras station performed by Casco Phil and JPYA on 8th March 2022.
- Libretto for ‘I Just Wanna Be (In Center Parcs)’ (Priest/Taylor) again for the Royal Opera House, Casco Phil and Jette Parker artists at St Pancras.
- “Forces” (Minack Theatre, 2021). A dystopian verse play for children set in a time of climate crisis. Written as part of the Minack’s Emerging Playwright program.
- Documentary, ‘DNA Unravelled’ for Soundart Radio
- Radio drama, “Robyn Hoode: A New Telling” for Soundart Radio.
- Radio work: ‘Rain’ for Stellaria Media on International Women’s Day
- On The Trail of Joan Lyneham”, a docu-drama commissioned by FIMTEC and broadcast on Resonance FM, Source FM and Soundart Radio.
- “Excavation” Collaboration with Alice Armstrong for the Sonic Tag project. Broadcast on Source FM 2020.
- “Fingle Gorge” sound installation for Fiesta Del Libro y La Cultura, Medellin, Colombia, 2019.
- “The Bells of Canongate” (Radiophrenia 2020). An experimental mockumentary.
- “The Assisi Machine” syndicated to 21 countries on the Radia network in August 2018. Radio drama with verse elements and custom-made digital effects on the human voice.