Olympic Sounds – London 2012

Unsurprisingly, I am more interested in the Cultural Olympiad surrounding the London 2012 Olympic Games, although I have found myself being caught up in a bit of Olympic Games fever as London are hosting them! I’m pleased that sound art has played its part and here are a few examples that I’ve enjoyed.

All The Bells – Martin Creed

Artist Martin Creed (who won the Turner Prize in 2001 for Work No. 227: the lights going on and off) created a nationwide sound piece for the morning of the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Work No. 1197 involved ‘all the bells in a country rung as quickly and as loudly as possible for three minutes’ according to the website for All The Bells. I took part myself at the designated moment of 8.12am, ringing not a real bell as I couldn’t find one, but instead shaking my mobile phone as I had downloaded a mobile phone bell application which turned my phone into a ringing bell. I really liked the inclusive, celebratory nature of this mass performance piece so that All The Bells really did mean any bell, anyone, anywhere.

Hopefully not too many people were as extra enthusiastic as UK Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt whose bell fell apart as he was ringing it!


Tales From The Bridge – Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir

Eric Whitacre has become an extremely popular composer of contemporary classical music, particularly choral. Whitacre uses social media to build his huge and growing fanbase (which I include myself as part of) and his work became even more well known after a TED talk allowed him to discuss his Virtual Choir project. Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir brings together singers from across the world, virtually. Singers sign up on line and can rehearse the chosen score and join forums online to get tips for working on the piece for the virtual choir. Then when they are ready, singers sing along to Whitacre’s conductor video, recording their voice. The piece is then edited and visuals are also inserted to create a sound art piece. Virtual Choir 3 (below) which I sung in too, included 3746 videos from 73 countries. Again,what draws me to Whitacre’s Virtual Choir project is the way in which music and singing (thanks to the power of technology) is used to unite people as a common language across the world.

Whitacre’s Virtual Choir 3 sound piece, Water Night, was seen and heard in Titanic Belfast: Following the celebrations around the opening of the new building and marking 100 years since the loss of Titanic, the projection of Virtual Choir 3 in the atrium of Titanic Belfast provided a moment of contemplation for the lost souls.

Currently, Water Night by Whitacre’s Virtual Choir 3 can be experienced as part of the world’s largest 3D soundscape in an Olympics installation on Millennium Bridge, called Tales From The Bridge.

Here is an amateur video of the Water Night experience on Millennium Bridge, London from a Virtual Choir 3 participant.

Anthem – Scanner

I have been interested in the work that electronic musician Scanner (real name Robin Rimbaud) creates, for some time. He is called Scanner because of his use of cell phone and police scanners in live performance. I really enjoy the variety of types of music that Scanner makes and the range of opportunities he takes up.

The UK’s top designers and artists were invited to contribute to delivering a world class creative showcase that will play host to some of the most globally influential business leaders during the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics Games at the British Business Embassy. Scanner was commissioned for the only sound work in Lancaster House, on the Mall in central London which is used extensively for government hospitality.

Lancaster House, London where Scanner’s Anthem will be played

He presented Anthem, a sonic work that expands upon the British National Anthem, now a choral work of ten minutes duration and situated in the lavatories of the building, the only guaranteed room that every delegate and visitor will visit!

Anthem takes the UK National Anthem, God Save The Queen, into a slow moving choral work, filled with empty spaces.

You can hear Anthem by Scanner here

There was also plenty of sound and music featured in the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games including favourite patriotic numbers by Elgar and a musical race through the decades of the best of British music. I thought the Isles of Wonder theme used by Danny Boyle made a fantastic opening ceremony spectacle. Here is a reminder of those beautifully musical lines from Shakespeare’s The Tempest

Be not afeard. The isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again; and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open, and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked,
I cried to dream again.

Finally, here’s a picture of my Olympic rings fairy cakes that I made!

Photography, Film, Design & Soundart. PhD show Research in progress: Pushing Boundaries and Practices, London College of Communication

Working at Chelsea College of Art & Design allows me to access activities which take place across the six colleges that make up University of the Arts, London. I made my first visit to London College of Communication (LCC) to see an exhibition of LCC PhD research student work in photography, film design and soundart. The show is called Research in progress: Pushing Boundaries and Practices and the catalogue for the exhibition can be viewed online, here. One of the participants in the show is sound artist Tansy Spinks, who I worked with on a sound piece that I wrote about in this post.

Since the exhibition was spread around the college, seeing it was a great way for me to get to know the LCC site which is huge and made up of some interesting spaces like the Tower Block, the Well and the Atrium as shown below, which reminds me of the Guggenheim Museum building in New York.

the Atrium at London College of Communication

I was fascinated by the range of subjects that are being studied and researched into, in such depth and I was most interested in work that linked various media. Here are some of the pieces that I was most drawn to from the exhibition.

Magz Hall is a sound and radio artist conducting a practice based PhD in Radio Art. Her piece in the exhibition was shown in a small cupboard sized room, with a black curtain instead of a door to keep the light out. On a blank wall, images were projected with sound clips from radio transmissions. A leitmotif that returned throughout was the theme of The Radio of The Future. Magz considers radio art and explores the relationship between the artist and technology and the role of the artist as mediator between the broadcast institutions and the listening public. The artist also explores the idea of how radio has changed from a shared ‘live’ event to one consumed ‘on demand’ by a fragmented audience. An interactive touch to her piece, was the book left on the side, where visitors could leave feedback and write a radio message using the code she had left on the wall.

still shot from Magz Hall's film concerning radio art

still shot from Magz Hall's film concerning radio art

Magz Hall's book inviting viewers to write a radio message

Magz Hall's book inviting viewers to write a radio message

Magz Hall's table for radio message coding

Magz Hall's table for radio message coding

I was intrigued by Rob Mullender’s work and for the exhibition he had displayed what I would like to describe as ‘sound pictures’ which are both fascinating and beautiful to look at which definitely adds to their appeal. Rob is exploring the best way to record an object and has used a rubbing or frottage technique, allowing an object to write itself using itself, creating an exploratory imprint. The end result takes inspiration from drawing, mark making, photography and other media.

an example of Rob Mullender's exploratory imprints

an example of Rob Mullender's exploratory imprints

Finally, looking at work from Tansy Spinks that she included in the exhibition. Tansy is a skilled violin player and in the exhibition, she showed a film of her playing a violin that was given to her with the bridge piece missing. In this still shot from the film, she has replaced the bridge piece, with a mobile telephone and in the film it was replaces with a variety of other unexpected objects.


Tansy Spinks playing violin using a mobile phone as the missing bridge part

Tansy Spinks playing violin using a mobile phone as the missing bridge part

I also discovered the wonderful Special Collections connected to the library at London College of Communication, but that’s a story for another post soon…