Sound -piecs: A Collector Not, Bert in the Background, Not Commonplaces, The Harvesting, The Transactional, Thrill , Vinyl, A Good Way With Words, A Siren Librarian, Pod, Pod Specialised Bindings and The Artist as Ethnographer 2
Most of the works in Edinburgh Books are narratives tracks, either single voiced (e.g. Not Commonplaces) or multi-voiced (Bert in the Background). Here, there was considerable space for manoeuvre, as a single voiced track could combine two narrative lines (e.g. vinyl), or a narrative line could be built up from different sources and then played off another line (e.g. The Harvesting).
Other sound-pieces focus on small fragments of sound, be it non-worded verbalisations (A Siren Librarian) or ambient sounds (Pod). These pieces appear more treated than the narrative texts (i.e. the form of the treatment is more apparent). However, a sound piece like A Good Way With Words demonstrates that a straightforward narrative line can be subjected to as much manipulation as non-narrative lines.
The sound–pieces from Edinburgh Books differ from the others in that one of the main participants is not a bookseller as such, but someone who has had a close association with the shop and its predecessor (West Port Books) from its beginnings.
Single and Multi-vocal Narrative Lines:
Not Commonplaces and The Transactional are single voice narrations, and the first contributions from the shop’s “unofficial helper”: the former is concerned with the “intimidating environment” of second hand bookshops, the latter focuses on the transactional experience of the customer. In Vinyl, the owner of the shop discusses collecting in general, and the large collection of LP records (“not for sale”) on the premises. In Pod Specialised Bindings we get a glimpse of a sort of “Frankensteinism” in the re-use of body parts (see also Thrill)
A Collector Not is a multi-voiced piece; one bookseller talks about collecting books, the other about not collecting books. This piece intercuts the two lines and, at moments, bleeds one into the other. This technique is also used in Thrill, a soundwork which offers some insights into book collecting. The Harvesting is a poly vocal rumination on the value of books.
Bert Barrett, a “larger than life character”, is one of the previous owners of West Port Books. In Bert in the Background the current owner of Edinburgh Books gives his own account of starting up, whilst the unofficial helper offers his reminiscences.
On listening to The Artist as Ethnographer 2, I find that it sounds less hesitant, less awkward than the first version (maybe I was feeling easier about doing the interviews). As well as the stumbles and stutters, I included “space filler” words and phrases (e.g. “sort of”) for these are the “worded” relations of the non worded vocalisation.
With A Siren librarian I looped a small nwv fragment. I then did another loop with a fragment of the fragment and then brought this in alongside the first (after a delay of 8 seconds or so). This really should have been the easiest track to make, but getting the timing right took a very long time indeed.
Pod is my abbreviation for Print On Demand. Whilst I was going over the recordings I was cutting and pasting as I went along, often dropping fragments of fragments on top of one-another. I was going to use this one anyway (see Pod Specialised Bindings), but here I picked up on the doubled-up fragment: the repetition, of the sound of the bus outside, brought to mind the sound of a photocopying machine. Thereafter, it was just a case of getting the rhythm right.
A Good Way With Words consists of a simple narrative line, but I’ve decided to keep it for last. Given the subject matter of “Sex magic in the Renaissance period”, it seemed obvious to reference the use of backward tapes on albums and the demonic associations this subsequently accrued. The main body of the piece is the same text – from “also there are some really nice passages” to “what that means, really” – presented as normal and backwords texts. The main section is a pure palindrome – it sounds the same when reversed. The other fragments provide a contextual frame [as it were, a prelude and coda].
A Good Way With Words was one of the first soundpieces to be completed (the other being Whatever Way That You Want [ from Blackwell’s]). These were made very early on, a couple of months before I started to put the other tracks together. Both demonstrate that the two broad approaches, of “narrative lines” and “distortions/treated texts”, have been there from the start. If anything, they show that these “approaches” separated out as the project developed.