Day-to-Day Data
Hywel Davies
Title: Basic Set
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 recording sites.
location of the Portsmouth sound recording
location of the Portsmouth water sound recording
Basic Set has grown out of a commission from SCAN.[1] 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.[2] 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 instrument.

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 recording location.

Hywel Davies
April 2005

1. SCAN (Southern Collaborative Arts Network). A consortium of arts venues / organisations in southern England

2. Total serialism was developed by Messaien, Boulez and Stockhausen, and popular in the 1950s and 1960s.

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