Wednesday 09.04.2008 14:58

Trowel and Seal Silver Sounds exhibition soundscape, Naughton Gallery, QUB, Belfast

This composition was commissioned by Queens University, Belfast, for the QUB Silver Collection soundscapes project, a permanent exhibition at QUB’s Naughton Gallery that presents the universities rich silver collection in a setting where each piece is accompanied by a soundscape, commissioned from one of ten internationally renowned sound artists. These soundscapes respond to the provenance of a particular piece of silverware and explore the reasons for its creation, donation and use and combine with the silver objects to create a new immersive artwork.

The exhibition won the 2008 Times Higher Education Award for Excellence and Innovation in the Arts.

The soundscape for the two exhibition objects Presentation Seal and Trowel (1896) is based on the re-contextualisation of sounds stemming from the life cycle and environment of the exposed objects: their creation, their materiality, their usage, and the concepts and entities they refer to.  These sounds are re-contextualised into a soundscape according to their sonic characteristics by corpus-based synthesis, creating a reminiscence of the objects’ presence in its multiple facets, a sort of sonic cubism.

The soundscape for the Presentation Seal and Trowel objects is made of three parts, using the rich sonic context of these objects which is recreated by a variety of recorded sound sources, such as the sounds of their making, the sounds of the material, and the sounds of their uses, proposing a path through the life cycle of the objects, and at the same time following a composed sonic evolution.
The first part is composed of sounds of the objects’ making in the foundry and the silver smith’s workshop, tracing a path through the sound corpus in the sense of rising brilliance and diminishing roughness, evoking the shaping action of the craftsmen, tearing the material out of its raw form and chaotic disposition to form objects of art.
The second part of the composition, erupting into the end of the first, expresses the materiality of the silver objects by opposing sonic miniatures of percussive sounds of the material, stemming from various interactions with silver objects, to densifying intertwined layers of silver drops, conveying the sparkle and brightness of silver.
The third and last part tries to relate the imagined and the actual use of the finished objects, and the strange inversion between the two, for the actual use turns out to be the most remote and symbolic—commemorating the laying of the foundation stone—and the imagined use is the most concrete—laying bricks and stamping.  Sounds evoking both uses are interwoven in an evolution from abstract rhythmic sound structures to ever more recognisable sound events.


The composer would like to thank the silversmith’s workshop Aubry Cadoret in Paris, and Jacqueline Doyère and François Morel from Coutances for their collaboration and kind permission to record the essential sound sources; Walter Odington for additional sounds from the freesound collaborative sound collection; Alexis Baskind and Vincent Rioux for the lending of recording material; and Marie-Eve Bouillon for inspiration and support.

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