Whatever Way That You Want

In this piece there are five framing fragments: the piece opens with “that you want/ in whatever way / use it” and closes with “use it / in whatever way / that you want” (the latter being the order that it was spoken in the interview). The other three are the individual component fragments, and they follow the order laid out in the opening fragment. These smaller fragments mark the end of the first three sections.

There are four large sections. The sequence of the final section follows the order of the source material. The other three sections are broken up into smaller sections and played out of sequence. The first section appears to be most chaotic and as the piece proceeds the fragments eventually fall into their original order.

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Faster Faster

The text on this track is as follows: “[it’s not like (named supermarket chain)… it’s not] push, push, push, get, get out, come on, faster, faster, faster, more, more, more.” I had slowed down the track to a very slow speed and repeated it a few times. I also removed the spaces between each word. Originally, I was going to use the track as a background for some text, but I decided against it. Out of curiosity I reversed the process because I wanted to hear what the track sounded like at normal speed. Having started I just continued, taking it faster and faster.

I then split the stereo track and started to realign it, used fades and added some wah wah. I produced three versions of the piece, the one I used being the shortest. It’s been described as sounding like a manic mosquito.

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Ebb and Flow

This picks up on the repetition of the statement that “[there are always] books to be doing or returns to be doing or orders to be doing”. Originally I was going to have it repeat in a simple loop’ just leaving the rhythm to build up. Instead, I ran it alongside another track with fragments from another statement, i.e. “So… yeah the books on the shelves are constantly changing ebbing and flowing”, thus playing off a physical repetition against a metaphorical repetition. I used some fade-ins and fade-outs to help it go with the flow. In later pieces I would use this effect as a simple means of controlling volume level and putting an emphasis on certain parts of the texts.

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Depressive Poetry Reading

Sound clips, “depressive poetry reading” and “exaggerated lecture”, broken down into small fragments. These – in original and shuffled order – were then arranged into a sequence where they alternated with the fragments of the other. This oscillation continues until they come together as the original clips.

The bookseller spoke about wanting to produce a mutilated/fragmented artwork that would resemble an exaggerated lecture or a depressive poetry reading, indeed it would move back and forth between the two. As the sound pieces were going to be built from text fragments, I really couldn’t resist playing about with this one. It shares something with “Whatever Way That You Want”; it has a different way of ordering things, but it has a similar feel. Both pieces come together out a chaotic jumble.

I intended to do another piece which would expand on this idea, splicing together larger fragments from the interview; this would have fell somewhere between this and the narrative pieces. However, I liked the economy of “Depressive Poetry Reading” and believe that I got the feel of it right in this piece, so there wasn’t any point trying to take it further.

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At First the Idea It Felt Wrong

 

This is a single narrative line doubled up. The original version of this had a significant amount of hiss, and the voice distorted when I tried to remove it. So I played up the defect, further  distorting a section of text (by using echo) before splicing it onto the beginning of the track.

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Introduction to Notes on the Sound-pieces in Blackwell’s Bookshop

Notes on the Sound-pieces in Blackwell’s Bookshop, South Bridge.

All the sound-pieces are constructed from fragments of interviews I conducted with the booksellers. Most of the tracks are straightforward narrative lines, either a single fragmented narrative [e.g. People Shop in Bookshops, Book Chase] or several lines intercut [e.g. The Bookshop, Booksellers]. Others play about with things a bit more, adopting a more “making strange” approach [e.g. Depressive Poetry Reading, Faster Faster].

The ten sound-pieces in this installation were: At First the Idea It Felt Wrong, Book Chase, Booksellers, Depressive Poetry Reading, Ebb and Flow, Faster Faster, People Shop in Bookshops, The Artist as Ethnographer, The Bookshop and Whatever Way That You Want .

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Some Notes on the Sound System and the Use of QR Codes

There are two main literary sources for Thaw: Georges Perec’s writings on endotics (his proposed study of the everyday), and chapters 55 and 56 from the Fourth Book of Rabelais’ Garagantua and Pantagruel. In the latter, having strayed into Arctic waters, Pantagruel and his crew start to hear “various Words that have been thawed” which are the remnants of the sounds of old battles that had been frozen in the Arctic winter. This scene provided the model for the Thaw installations, and my original intention was to have a number of hotspots in which the customers would hear fragments of sounds around them. I wanted to use directional speakers to create these hotspots, but the financial cost and a lack of sponsorship ruled this out.

Another means of delivering the sound projection was required, and so I opted for a conventional sound system with a trigger mechanism (webcam motion recognition: the sounds playing when someone walks into the frame, and cutting-out when the frame is once more unoccupied). With directional speakers, I could have put the sound-pieces on a continuous loop, as no-one would have heard the sound-pieces unless they were inside a hotspot. However, with a conventional sound system the problem of noise pollution arose, since the potential disruption to staff and customers had to be taken into account. A loop was no longer a feasible option, so I opted for a trigger mechanism to deliver the sound when it was required.

For me, an important element of Thaw is having the customers moving around the bookshops and coming across the sounds. However, the cost and availability of equipment restricted me to one sound projection in each bookshop. So, I opted to use QR codes* as a substitute for multiple sound projections, by placing codes for individual tracks around the store. This also allows me to extend the period that the sound pieces remain on site, as the codes will stay in place for some time after the main sound projection has been removed. However, there are drawbacks to their use, including a reduction in accessibility (not everyone has a smart-phone, myself included), and unfamiliarity with the technology (not everyone who has a smart-phone knows how to use QR codes). Furthermore, the QR codes loosen the connection between the artwork and its physical environment: a potential dislocation/relocation since, after the initial scanning, the user can access the sounds off-site. These are just some of the issues with using QR codes: there are others I have not had space to mention.

Aside from this, there are some technical adjustments concerning ease of use, which I should address. The combined joys of technology and field work!

* The use of QR codes is a compromise. Early in my research, on coming across Dr Chris Speed’s Oxfam Shelflife app (2012), I had considered using them, but I decided against it as I thought it was inappropriate for the project. I won’t outline here my reasons for believing so, but doubtless I will come back to this as my blog progresses.

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