I have been commissioned by BBC Radio 3 to make 5 episodes of The Essay with 5 writers, reflecting on 5 locations along Hadrian’s Wall which pass right through the city of Newcastle.
The writers have all done an amazing job, and I’ve enjoyed becoming acquainted with more parts of Newcastle. I’ve recorded soundscapes at each location and woven them around the words. You can listen to all episodes on BBC Sounds here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0015hwz
The commission was part of the After Dark Festival, a collaboration between BBC Radio 3 and Sage Gateshead which celebrated the spring equinox with a music, sound, and words festival from 6pm until 6am over the weekend of 19th/20th March.
The writers are Jake Polley, Sinéad Morrissey, Noreen Masud, Tara Bergin, and Jake Morris-Campbell. The producer was Mark Rickards, and it was a Bespoken Media production.
It’s been a real pleasure to work with field recordings from wetlands in Chile as part of the amazing Soundlapse project run by Felipe Otondo.
There’s a new digital release of works created using these recordings on the Gruenrekorder label. Featuring Aki Pasoulas, Brona Martin, Pete Stollery, Rob Mackay, Francisco López, Alejandro Albornez, Felipe Otondo, and Ambrose Seddon. There’s also a concert of the pieces in Valdivia this week to launch the album.
It’s been a real joy to work on the first phase of the ECOde project run by Invisible Dust in collaboration with Scarborough Library’s Code Club.
ECOde introduces children and young people to the natural world, inspiring them to investigate local biodiversity and understand that human activity can affect nature in negative ways. It helps them to join the dots, ask questions and find creative ways to inform the wider public about climate change and environmental issues closer to home.
We’ve gone out on a couple of field recording sessions to engage with our local environment through listening. The participants recorded contrasting sounds in different parts of Scarborough near to the library including waves on the shore, traffic, and underwater recordings in the duck pond on Valley Road. We’ve also recorded ‘hidden’ sounds around us such as sonifying electromagnetic interference.
We then reviewed and edited these sounds, and learned some creative coding in Sonic Pi in order to start sculpting the sounds we recorded into a sound collage. Then we uploaded the sounds to a soundmap we made in Google maps, starting to make up a sound picture of the different sonic elements of Scarborough, including the creative sonic collage of the workshop participants’ work.
We also installed a streambox on the roof of Scarborough Library, thanks to SoundCamp. You can listen to it streaming the soundscape in real-time on the Locus Sonus Soundmap. We intend to keep this streambox running so anyone can listen in at any time to hear how the soundscape changes throughout the seasons, including the sounds of migrating birds, as well as seagulls who are nesting on the roof.
ECOde is a project run by Invisible Dust with kids from Scarborough Library’s Code Club.
The aim of the project is to help the code club kids to become more aware of their environment and changes in it through coding and technology. I’m the artistic lead for the first part of the project, working with sound to get the participants to gain a wider awareness through listening, and starting to look at things we can tell about an environment simply by listening to the soundscape. We’ve gone out on two field recording trips where the participants have recorded contrasting sounds in different parts of Scarborough near to the library including waves on the shore, traffic, and underwater recordings in the duck pond on Valley Road. We’ve also recorded ‘hidden’ sounds around us such as sonifying electromagnetic interference. The next step is to make an soundmap of the area, uploading their recordings to Google Maps, and then finally creating their own creative response through a sonic postcard made by layering and manipulating the sounds in the coding language Sonic Pi.
I’ll also be running a workshop on the 1st March in live-streaming, where we’ll install a streambox on the roof of the library which will stream the soundscape in real-time on the locus sonus soundmap (http://locusonus.org/soundmap/051/). We intend to keep this streambox running so anyone can listen in at any time to hear how the soundscape changes throughout the seasons, including the sounds of migrating birds, as well as seagulls who are nesting on the roof.
Check out the soundmap with sounds recorded by the ECOde participants here:
I presented a mini exhibition at the British Science Festival in September which was hosted at the University of Hull this year. This was a collection of presentations, including our touring, immersive hide, as well as a fantastic documentary on Monarch butterfly migration from Anna Chahuneau, a sound and video collaboration between sound artist Vaughan Garland, video artist Jessica Rodríguez, and myself, a live audio stream from the Cerro Pelón UNESCO Monarch butterfly reserve in Mexico, and a touchscreen allowing people to learn more about our ‘Following the Flight of the Monarchs’ project.
My recent performance of ‘Flight of the Monarchs’ received a really nice review in the 5:4 blog. It was in the Ambient@40 conference at the University of Huddersfield, involving a live audio stream from the Cerro Pelón Monarch butterfly reserve:
‘Rob Mackay‘s Flight of the Monarchs went further, offering cinematic insights into the migration of monarch butterflies from Canada to Mexico. These insights were more than just artistic: in addition to film of the butterflies’ movements in conjunction with Mackay’s restrained and inviting music, the work incorporated a live audio stream from the forest in Mexico where the filming had taken place. What this added to the experience is hard to articulate, but the knowledge that we were, at that very moment, connected to a place over 6,000 miles away said something of the deeper connection Mackay was seeking to make between the natural world and the creatures that inhabit it. The combined effect was lovely: sometimes the only way to respond to beauty is with beauty.’