Following the completion of my PhD in 2015 my research has expanded to become a holistic enquiry into the public perception of environmental sound and the soundscape. My work is often undertaken as part of major festivals, themed events and art commissions. The methods I now employ include: indoor and outdoor multichannel sound installation, curated programmes of live sound, public field recording workshops, public talks, soundmaps and other online resources, soundwalks and collaborative soundscape performance. The research remains grounded in perspectives established during the PhD:
- The term in situ listening is used to constellate a group of intellectual trajectories and artists’ practices that share a common theme: that the listening context, the relationship between mediatised sound and site, is an integral part of the engagement process.
- Transphonia, as defined by Heikki Uimonen (2005, p. 63)* as the, “mechanical, electroacoustical or digital recording, reproduction and relocating of sounds,” plays an important role by which recorded and mediated sound is used as the mechanism for generating a focus on environmental sound and a means to explore quotidian soundscapes.
* Uimonen, H., 2005. Towards The Sound. The Sound Listening Environment, and the Importance of the Change. PhD. Tampere University.
Title: In Situ Listening: Soundscape, Site and Transphonia.
This enquiry represents an exploration of environmental sound and artistic practice from the perspectives of in situ listening and transphonia. The initial term, in situ listening, has been coined by the author in order to constellate a group of intellectual trajectories and artists’ practices that engage with transphonic sound and share a common theme: that the listening context, the relationship between mediated sound and site, is an integral part of the engagement process. Heikki Uimonen (2005, p.63) defines transphonia as the, “mechanical, electroacoustical or digital recording, reproduction and relocating of sounds.” The term applies to sound that is relocated from one location to another, or sound that is recorded at a site and then mixed with the sound of the prevailing environment. The experience of the latter, which is a key concern for this thesis, may be encountered during the field recording process when one ‘listens back’ to recordings while on site or during the presentation of site-specific sound art work.
Twelve sound installations, each based on field recordings, were produced in order to progress the investigation. Installations were created using a personally devised approach that was rigorous, informed, and iterative. Each installation explored a different environment. These installations, and their related environmental studies, form the core content of this enquiry.
In the first part of this thesis the installations are used to explore observations of transphonic audio content in relation to a number of subjective, surprising and intangible phenomena: disorientation, uncanny sensations or even the awareness of coincidence. These observations are supported and contextualised in relation to a wide range of historic and contemporary sources. Works in the second part of the thesis are used to motivate a meditation on the relationship between soundscape, site and time, which was proposed by the initial phase of the research.
Sounds from the Gardens, Being Human Festival
2019. Horniman Museum, South London. Soundwalks, Field recording workshops, outdoor, curated programme of multichannel sound works, interactive 8-channel installation in Natural History Gallery, headphone sound art concert on the Bandstand. Live soundscape composition/performance in the Conservatory.
Museum of Ecoacoustic Phenomena, Bournemouth Emerging Arts Festival
2019. A two-day collaboration involving Goldsmiths, Bournemouth University and DIVA Contemporary, a regional arts organisation in the South West. Interactive 5.1 installation, field recording workshops and live headphone concert.
Sounding Shore. Whitstable Biennale
2018.Programmes of live, environmentally responsive sound art performance on the beach. Headphone concert designed to create both a hi-fidelity listening experience and minimal environmental impact. Participants used field recordings, found objects and environmental forces (wind, tides etc.) to create remarkable interactions with place.
Sound Lost and Found. Being Human Festival.
2017. A group of participants (local people and Goldsmiths’ students) were taken through a series of workshops leading to a field recording trip and live soundscape performance in a historic building in West Bay, Dorset.
Sounding Shore. Whitstable Biennale
2016. Programmes of live, environmentally responsive sound art performance on the beach. Headphone concert designed to create both a hi-fidelity listening experience and minimal environmental impact. Participants used field recordings, found objects and environmental forces (wind, tides etc.) to create remarkable interactions with place.
Woodside Link. Public art commission, Central Bedfordshire Council.
2014 – 2017 collaboration with Bettina Furnee. This commission involved public talks and workshops, an archive of local field recordings, the installation of two soundscape compositions on site and a project CD that was distributed to local residents. As well as raising public awareness of the sound environment the project has served to energize both the council’s communications and planning departments and highlight the importance of the acoustic environment. The project was entered for a local authorities’ planning award in 2017.
Symposium on Acoustic Ecology
8 – 9 November 2013. Sound installation and paper presentation (Where is the Soundscape: Landscape and Site – Reconsidering Location), University of Kent, Medway.
Audiolab 12.01 Language of Place Symposium
2 to 4 March, 2012. Sound installation and presentation of work at Kingcombe Environmental Projects Centre, Dorset.
World Forum For Acoustic Ecology Conference, Corfu
October 3 – 7, 2011
Headphone installation in the Garden of the People, Palaia Anaktora. All field recordings made on and around the site. Participant experience sampled using questionnaires.
SPR Phonography Colloquium, Goldsmiths College, University of London
July 5 – 7 2011
Headphone installation for College Green. All field recordings made on and around the site. Participant experience sampled using questionnaires.
AudioLab 11.1: The Language of Place 2011 symposium
March 3 – 6 2011
Headphone installation using site-specific field recordings recorded in West Bay, Dorset. I also gave a presentation on the artistic content and research direction of my work.
Sounding Out 5
September 8 – 10 2010
Installation and conference paper
Space: the Real and the Abstract
July 5, 6 2010
Presentation of installation audio (De Montfort and Whitstable) in non-site specific context during a conference at the University of Wolverhampton. Audience experience of mediated soundscapes was sampled using questionnaires.
Installation, Whitstable Biennale
I ran another iteration of the headphone installation, this time focused on the sounds of the coast, on the beach at Whitstable during the biennale’s opening weekend. This time the target audience was the general public and questionnaires were again used for data collection.
AudioLab10.01: The Language of Place
I coordinated and chaired a second Language of Place symposium as part of the Whitstable Biennale programme. This was a condensed one-day event with sound walks and discussion in the morning and artist/academic talks in the afternoon. Peter Cusack, Jennie Savage, Duncan Whitely and I presented.
Installation, De Montfort University, Leicester
I coordinated a version of my headphone installation – focussing on the sound of the urban environment – for the Sound, Site, Space and Play conference. Using the conference environment ensured a target audience of approximately 40 PhD students and academics. The experience of a range of mediated soundscapes – interventions into the sound of the site as well as sounds transplanted from other location – were sampled using questionnaires.
AudioLab10: The Language of Place 2010 symposium
A two day event coordinated as a joint venture with Labculture Limited/PVA MediaLab, an Arts Council RFO based in Bridport in Dorset.
Workshop and installation trial, Walsall Campus, University of Wolverhampton
A group of students took part in a sound observation, collection and processing exercise, which led to an informal trial of installation protocols in the sport hall on Walsall campus. This enabled me to demonstrate a primary aspect of research methodology and ‘road test’ the Max/MSP patches and wireless headphone system I have been developing. The results were encouraging, with much positive student feedback and technical comments that have fed back into the development of my process.
- Paper presentation: Creating Communities in Sound: Engagement, Composition and Interaction in Public Space. In: Proceeding of Sound + Environment. University of Hull. 2017.
- Paper presentation: Where is the Soundscape? Landscape and Site: Reconsidering Location. In: Proceeding of the Symposium on Acoustic Ecology. Kent University. 2013
- Paper presentation: A Sonic Space With Some Permanence: Public Art, Place Making and Transformational Listening. In: Proceedings of the UKISC Symposium, Goldsmiths College, University of London. 2012
- Paper presentation: Soundscape and Abstraction: Exploring the Relationship Between Environmental Sound and Language. Sounding Out 5, Bournemouth University, September 2010.
- Paper presentation: Soundscape and Abstraction: Exploring the Relationship Between Environmental Sound and Language, University of Wolverhampton, July 2010
- Paper presentation: Developing a Practice-Led Research Strategy for Investigating the Relationship Between Environmental Sound and Language, Sound, Sight, Space and Play, De Montfort University, June 2010
- Paper presentation: The Language of Aural Space: Environmental Sound Being and Experience. Euronoise, Edinburgh, October 2009.
- Delegate: Sound Escapes (Positive Soundscapes Project), Salford University, September 2009.
- Delegate: Sense Walking (Royal Geographical Society), Manchester University, August 2009.
- Paper presentation: Wolverhampton PhD student conference, The Language of Aural Space: Environmental sound, Human Being and Experience, July 2009.
- Paper presentation: The Language of Aural Space: Environmental Sound, Human Being and Experience, Sound, Sight, Space and Play, De Montfort University, May 2009.
- Poster presentation: Wolverhampton University research poster competition: Exploring the relationship between environmental sound, perception and language. Winning entry. April 2009.
- Delegate: School Of Sound Symposium, Percell rooms, April 2009.
- Poster presentation: From the ground up: the establishment and use of the online archive as independent research tool, Unlocking Audio, British Library. March 2009.
- Chris Watson master class. Organised to coincide with the opening of Whispering in the Leaves, Kew Gardens. August 2010.
- Bill Fontana master class. Recording workshop organised to coincide with the opening of River Soundings at Somerset House. April 2010.
- Kings Cross soundwalk participant: re-enactment of the World Soundscape Project’s Kings Cross soundwalk from the 1975 European Sound Diary with Hildegard Westerkamp, John Dreaver and Peter Cusack and Max Dixon. April 2009.
- In situ Listening: Soundscape, Site and Transphonia. PhD, Goldsmiths, University of London. 2015. https://research.gold.ac.uk/15066/1/MUS_thesis_LeadleyM_2015.pdf
- Soundscape and Perception: Reconfiguring the Acoustic Environment for Experimental Purpose. Sound Effects, Issue 1. 2011.
(2011) Soundscape and Abstraction: Exploring the Relationship between Environmental Sound and Language. Desearch, Postgraduate Journal of Art and Contemporary Culture. Issue 1, Spring/ Summer.2011
- (2010). Soundscape and Abstraction: Exploring the Relationship Between Environmental Sound and Language. In Proceeding of Sounding Out 5 Conference. Bournemouth.(2009) Book Review: Autumn Leaves, Sound and Environment in Artistic Practice, A. Carlyle, (ed.) in, Landscape Research Journal 34/4 pp. 479 – 505.
- (2009) The Language of Aural Space: Environmental Sound, Human Being and Experience, in, Hill, A, & Wolfe, W. (eds), Proceedings of Sight, Sound, Space and Play, De Montfort University.
- (2009) The Language of Aural Space: Environmental Sound Being and Experience. in, Proceedings of Euronoise, CD ROM. St Albans: Institute Of Acoustics.