Cathy is a composer who works with spoken word and field recordings to create installations and multichannel concert pieces. She is interested in memory and history related to places, communities and themes, and how she, as an artist, positions herself as a filter of those stories:
In the first part of her creative research process for making a new work she engages online and archival research, not necessarily sonic, through which she immerses herself in a particular context. This material is the basis for collecting recordings, which she will then work with creatively. When going through the collected material in a limited time, she finds it challenging to find all the material that she would like to use for her compositional purposes, both in her personal archive, and also when researching through sonic archives:
She would like to have dedicated software tools to compare acoustic and aesthetic qualities of environmental recordings and speech. To this end she has developed software called Deja vú ( working with programmer Oliver Bown) which finds matches between different sonic materials according to a variety of rhythmic qualities and frequency profile. She would like to develop more refined software which could also help find matches more accurately in large files of spoken word material ( maybe based on speech to text software). Cathy has created two major installations (both working with Nye Parry) that exemplify her approach to memory and composition: The Memory Machine, an interactive installation which used random juxtapositions of speech that audiences left as reminiscences triggered by objects on display at the British Museum; and Beam, an installation that used data from the coming and goings around the port of Kochi in South India as parameters to trigger sounds associated with maritime life and the spice trade in the area:
The recordings were collected in a project with art students from Bangalore and categorized according to overall themes. She reflects on the challenge of balancing documentary material and aesthetics, and she thinks that the process of recording and labelling needs more time to develop shared sonic sensibilities when working in a collaborative manner. Regarding the framework she thinks that the focus for her is on the relational playback, as it is where aesthetics can be developed and achieved by listening and developing sensibilities to the material, which is the only thing that a computer cannot learn.
Do you identify with Cathy’s needs? What are your own experiences, issues and needs when working with spoken word, field recordings and archives?
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