Location: Sound installation at Aspex Gallery
Hywel’s sound installation comprises of a set of nine speakers installed
into a specially constructed listening booth in the corner of the Aspex Gallery
space. Each speaker plays a looped sample of a moving water sound recorded in
the locality of each of the nine SCAN locations: Banbury, Sway, Portsmouth,
Brighton, Poole, Southampton, Newbury, Isle of Wight and Salisbury. Be it a
stream sound, a tap sound or a sewer sound, these pieces of audio data have
their similarities but are separated by the geographical distance between their
location of the Portsmouth water sound recording
Basic Set has grown out of a commission from SCAN.
For this project I set myself the task of collecting the same repertoire of
sounds in each SCAN location: this included ticking clocks, people humming
and counting, and the sound of moving water. This found audio data has already
become the basis of short sonic installations in which the data was edited
and manipulated before being used as the compositional building blocks within
an aleatoric piece.
The principal piece to come out of this project, to be staged by SCAN at a
later date, involves the extended abstraction of data beyond the found sound.
Each location where water sounds were collected was carefully noted on Ordnance
Survey maps, and so acquired a six-figure grid reference. From this data,
new musical data (a pitch row) was derived by the six numbers determining
the number of semitones between each note. This same numerical data was then
used again to determine the note-length and dynamic of each pitch in the sequence
(by assigning 10 different note-lengths and 10 different dynamics each a numerical
value between 0 and 9). This method is known as total serialism.
The music derived from each grid reference is further manipulated by presenting
different superimposed combinations of the pitch, note-length and dynamic
data derived in retrograde, inverse and retrograde inverse forms. In the large-scale
piece the music that is derived from each location is played on a different
All this having been said, this is not the way I normally compose (and therefore
does not sound like my work!) – I prefer to explore aleatoric processes
and musical instinct. In order to imprint my creative personality on what
is simply data, a further manipulation took place.
Basic Set is, if you like, an overture to this larger piece. It presents
water sounds collected at each location superimposed with the pitch material
in its most basic form derived from the grid reference of that particular
1. SCAN (Southern Collaborative Arts Network). A consortium
of arts venues / organisations in southern England www.scansite.org
2. Total serialism was developed by Messaien, Boulez and Stockhausen, and
popular in the 1950s and 1960s.