Sounding Spike Island: A Sonic Portrait

by Ellen Southern

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Final sound work created at Spike Island Open, 2nd - 4th May 2015.

See the work in progress at #SoundingSpikeIsland

Programme notes: "Using her voice and a hand held recording device, this roving site-specific intervention works directly with the acoustics and activity of Open Studios, resounding through the stairways and corridors to create a sonic portrait of the Spike Island building."

Headphones or stereo speakers recommended are for listening to this track, as parts of it are panned left and right.

This sound work takes the listener through the following places and activities:

1, Drinking a morning coffee from Spike café on the benches outside the building.
2, Entering the building, and hearing a name being called out in the busy foyer, which form a three note melodic motif.
3, Travelling up the main stairs with the vowels and pitches from the name called out in the foyer, and singing them to test out the acoustics of the first floor corridor, which runs along the front of the building. Singing into the circle-spaces in the ceiling is especially resonant. (Two tracks overlaid to create shifting vocal harmony).
4, In the same corridor, trying to make out and sing back some half-heard music from somewhere above.
5, In the Test Space gallery, singing back the sound of photo camera clicks.
6, Singing the intonation of visitors speech in the pop-up café outside the Associates Space.
7, Vocal texture sung between the coffee machine in the above café, and Stephen Cornford's 'Migration' in the stairwell nearby, merging the two.
8, Picking out some notes from a classical melody on the radio in the pop up cafe space, and carrying them into a resonant stairwell, where Stephen Cornford's 'Migration', a multitude of transformed factory second Dictaphones, is installed.
9, Singing at the top of the stairwell coming down, with overlaid interventions from later recordings made at the bottom, where I sang up to some children mounting the stairs, who sang back to me.
10, Ping-pong being played near the UWE exhibition, ground floor, back of the building.
11, Picking up a drone-like sound from a video of a slide machine, and carrying it through the Future Ritual UWE studios to encounter a synthetic voice.
12, The same drone carried across the building, and transformed by the journey into a glissando / portamento in a bare brick fire exit on the ground floor near 'Migration'. A visitor out of sight on the stairs above seems to respond with a sound.
13, Overlaid from later in the same fire exit - singing the intonation of visitors speech reverberating down the stairwell from the floor above.
14, Vocal warm-ups to test the acoustics in a loading bay, with smiles and voices from a passing toddler. Recording device placed in the middle of the floor as I walk round and round singing scales and octave leaps.
15, Singing the intonation of visitors speech, quite jazz-like, near the print rooms, first floor.
16, Vocal textures in response to the sea's surface and depths, in the stairwell where Matt Davies and Milo Newman's 'By The Mark, The Deep' is installed at different heights, including picking out the high pitched variable feedback-like microphone hum.
17, Visitors walking down the steps into the Bristol Diving School’s installation ‘100 Year Project’.
18, The folkloric-theme in the ‘100 Year Project’ installation inspires an improvised folk-like melody. I sing it, making it up as I go, from the first floor studios all the way through Test Space, past the Associates Space, along the corridor, down the main stairs, through the foyer, and out to the street.


released May 4, 2015



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Ellen Southern Bristol, UK

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