The aim of this project is for Printmaker Veronica Calarco to be mentored by sound artist Lee Berwick to develop a series of sound works using live and archival recordings to create sound works to sonically visualise the ideas that have been developing through printmaking. The project will start in May with a visit by Lee to North Wales to spend a week at Stiwdio Maelor (artist in residence program) recording sounds and developing initial sound works. In July, Veronica will visit Lee in London. Lee’s final visit will be to North Wales for another week at Stiwdio Maelor and there will be a performance of the resulting work in October.
With Lee’s imminent return it was time to refocus on the project. I had been getting on with the weaving of the baskets which will contain the sound and doing odd bits of recording. But one night dashing home just after I had been copying some new sound recordings I forgot to remove the card from the computer. The next day back to do some recordings, I turned on the recorder and nothing happened. I remembered that I had left the card in my computer so I pulled it out and put it back in the recorder. Rookie mistake – the recorder had gone back to it’s defaults and were no longer on Lee’s settings. My first thought was – ring Lee. Luckily I don’t always have phone reception in my studio so couldn’t. So the next thought was you have to solve this yourself. Another good learning activity??? When Lee was at Stiwdio Maelor for the first working together visit, I had written extensive notes of what the setting for each item in the menu should be set. So digging out the notebook, I was able to reset the recorder and then start recording. All without Lee’s help. Lee’s comment to this when I told him was that he probably would have struggled to helped me, as his recorder is different and so the settings are different for each one. Anyway menu reset and back to recording the words….
With Lee’s return to London, I began working on my own. The first week, I went away and so didn’t do any work on the project. Big mistake – when I sat down to work on the files I already had on the computer I had forgotten a lot of things that Lee had shown me, so it was necessary to play and try to figure out what I wanted to do and how to do it. After a lot of playing and re-remembering, I decided I wanted to do some recording. I roped in Lacey Hawthorne (who was doing a residency at Stiwdio Maelor) to do some recording. It was fun, but with a Canadian accent not getting the sound I wanted. I next conned Elizabeth Jane Corbett into recording. With an Australian accent and fairly fluent Welsh I thought we might get closer to what I wanted. But towards the end of the recording Liz suggested that really it should be my voice. After a week or two of thinking about this suggestion, I decided she was right. This is after all my project and the language I am working with is the language of my country. So I recorded a bunch of words and have spent the past week cleaning them up. It can be a challenge to rid the words of the occasional sound of traffic going by my studio. Yes I know I could re-record the words, but it is fun playing with the program and trying to see how much I can clean up the files….
Even though the day was a bit overcast, Lee decided we could work up to the bore holes. Lacey Hawthorne (also doing a residency at Stiwdio Maelor) decided to come also. Once up at the boreholes Lee went inside and played with making sound. The sound coming out of the boreholes was amazing, with his voice finding the perfect pitch and the tickle of water. I demonstrated what I had learnt to Lacey and using the mic recorded Lee in the boreholes. Back at the computer I removed the hiss and took out the bits where the mic moved. Although not a marvellous bit of sound (give me time!) and I’m sure Lee will give me a lot of feedback, here it is: https://soundcloud.com/stiwdio-maelor/lee-in-adict3
And a pic of Lee on the edge of the bore hole taken by Lacey.
Our plan for Saturday was to go up to the adits and do some recording. Meeting Lee in the Stiwdio Maelor kitchen, he pointed out it was raining and taking recording equipment out in the rain was not a good idea. Okay – plans have to change. The current artist in residence at Maelor is Lacey Hawthorn from Canada who was turning 31 today. So we made pancakes (crempogau in Welsh) with real Canadian maple syrup (in a tin from my last trip to Canada). Over breakfast we (well Lee) decided that today we would work on the computer – three hours of learning Audacity. Lee is a great teacher, very patient and explains everything really well. We put in some sound files from my phone, took out the hissing sounds (noise reduction), cut, pasted, joined files together, made recordings (lesson to learn how to use the mic to record the spoken word) of Lee saying Welsh words with a south London accent. With my head spinning with all the new terms, possibilities, I headed into Aberystwyth for the graduate show. More learning tomorrow and if the is weather nice, a visit to the adits.
Our first job today was to go into Aberystwyth and pick up the equipment we needed from the School of Art. They had nearly everything we needed, so we took it down to my studio and Lee explained each piece. He preset the marantz so when we go somewhere to record it is already to go. After a tour around the art school, a stroll on along the beach we went to the Old College. The conditions being perfect (no wind, sun shining, seagulls not yet nesting), we were able to go up to the top of the tower led by Steve one of the porters. Seven flights of stairs, round and round we come to a shabby wooden door and through that out into the bright sunshine, with an amazing blue sky and 360 degree views of Aberystwyth and the Wales coastline.
Our next stop was Borth, about 9 miles from Aberystwyth and on the coastline. Leaving the car I draped the equipment over me. There was loads of wires and I tried looping them around my waist. We did some recording on the beach. The sound of the waves was too much for me, but in the rocks I heard a trickle of water and tried to record that. There was a lot of noise from the waves and the wind (even with a cover on the mic), but Lee talked about ways to combat that and taught me how to do the levels etc. I tried to get the mic down between the rocks to get closer to the trickle but with the unfamiliar equipment and the wires I was worried about balance and dropping something in the ocean. The recording I made has moments of the trickle with lots of static and sounds of the waves in between. Even though I didn’t get anything useful it was a good learning experience and tomorrow is another day…..