Largely comprised of duos and trios, this section focuses on the unique resonance of the church site. Working with the limits of possible dynamic range, these recordings explore the use of physical space to create timbral variation, such as by recording an instrument at intervals across the length of the church.
Description of the project as a whole:
The brief I provided to my collaborators was simple – we were to bring instruments to the church, lock ourselves in for an extended period, and explore how the instruments, and ourselves, responded to the acoustic and aesthetic properties of the building. The recording of our explorations would proceed hand in hand with the creative act – a recording studio would be set up in the church to capture everything we did, as well as pen and paper used to produce a series of instructions for future collaborators. This document, created in tangent with my own experiments outside of the church, would form a cohesive score by which to orientate our movements. The demands of making such a recording forced us to directly engage with ideas of movement, embodiment, sense, and non-linearity. Rather than relying upon the prior utility of the church, the space was repurposed with a view to capturing its strongest sonic presence – whilst the presbytery, sanctuary, and quire traditionally might be used to project sound around the space, our goal was to record not only the sound source, but also the buildings acoustic response. As such, most of our movements took place across the transept, ambulatory, and crossing, with the more traditionally performative spots of the presbytery, sanctuary, and nave instead housing the microphones used to document our performances. Although there were some fixed objects we wished to record – notably the organ and piano – much of our initial work in the church focussed on trying to develop an understanding of the acoustic, historic, and social aspects of the building. The sessions would begin with a series of exercises – the participants moving or dancing through the church, reciting passages from the texts already present at the site (bibles, fire exit signs, etc.), and discussing the objects that resided there (the stained glass, the stonework, the community notice board, etc.). This would be followed by more sound-specific work - measuring the reflections and frequency response in different areas of the building, capturing impulse responses, documenting the relationship between the external noise of the street and the internal acoustics, exploring the effect of spatiality and reflection on improvisation/collaboration, and testing the sonic potential of existing resonant objects (pews, bells, railings, etc.). My goal was that our experience of the church site would be continuous, with no distinction drawn between the musical and contextual elements with which we worked. The social history, architectural traits, and acoustic properties, would be treated as a single common material with which my collaborators could work. Our performances were informed by discussion and research upon the historical and cultural heritage of the site, with our compositions punctuated by discussion upon the religious and social connotations of its location and utility. The prior experiences and extramusical specialities of my performers – an expert in site-specific sound-recording, a Theologian, and a statistician for the local council - were fed into these discussions, allowing us to further blur the distinction between art-making and a more general social practice.
And going even further… The full report starts on page 113 of this document:
-Daniel Alexander Hignell