Make Sound Here

One aim of the HEARth programme is to celebrate the works of artists connected with Audiograft, and to introduce audiences to some of their projects. Works which are by nature participatory and inclusive lend themselves beautifully to this aim, providing forms for connecting the vast creative energies of the Audiograft festival with everyday life. We are therefore delighted to be able to include James Saunders’s “Make Sound Here” project in the HEARth programme as part of Audiograft and we really hope you will join us to explore it in more depth on Friday 1st March at 1pm at Modern Art Oxford!

This year James Saunders has launched a project entitled Make Sound Here, which makes use of the GPS and audio recording facilities on mobile phones, and the audio recording platform Audioboo, to create a map detailing the sonic potentials of places. Very simply, you go to a place, you make a sound there by whatever means you like, you photograph the situation with the label “Make Sound Here” displayed prominently, and you record the sounds that you have created there. If you use a smartphone to take the photo, record the sound and upload to, the sound will automatically be geo-tagged. However it’s also possible to create recordings using another device and to manually add in photos, geo-location etc. via the upload channel created especially for this project. All the instructions are provided here on the Make Sound Here website, where you can also download the labels.

As part of the HEARth programme, Stav (of STELIX) will be leading a soundwalk from Modern Art Oxford on Friday 1st March at 1pm, taking a route which has previously scoped out by us for its sonic potentials, using “Make Sound Here” as a basis.

Doing the walk with a view to “Make Sound Here” was a really wonderful experience; the project inspires a different mentality regarding your navigation of urban space. Where the normal use of the city involves thinking about where to go to meet someone or to buy something, wandering around in search of sounds leads you by the ears to new avenues, alleyways, paths and corners… places you wouldn’t normally go unless your ear spotted a sonorous-looking railing… or perhaps a wooden bridge, suggestive in its construction of a kind of xylophone.

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The rediscovered childhood pleasure of trailing a stick across many surfaces created a lovely new way to hear and explore Oxford. An extremely lo-tech contact microphone, the stick allows surfaces and materials to be tested and heard… the qualities of the stuff that the city is made of (its bricks, its wood, its metal) thus become audible. We traced lines through the city with our walking, and our stick-dragging; we drew happy lines of experimentation and soundmaking lightly on one corner of the city.

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Chance played a large part in our sonic investigations of Oxford. At some point I stumbled across some delicate seedpods; tiny rattles that could be activated by the slightest of touches, and which shed their seeds on my recorder as I shook them gently, listening to their miniature percussion accompanying the song of a nearby bird.

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Less poetic perhaps in origin but just as interesting sonically was the chance discovery of some litter (which we of course tidied away after playing with it) being lifted and blown over a camber in a road by the old brewery. So began a process of deliberately placing the litter in the path of the wind, and documenting its journey across the tarmac, gathering momentum as it passed the highest point and tumbled towards the kerb.

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We found other sounds, too. The splish of coins dropping into a very still place in the river; an especially brilliant ornamental gate, full of deep and complex metallic tones; the chalky sound of old bricks being touched with a blunted twig.

We really hope that you might join STELIX for further forays into “Make Sound Here”; you might find places in Oxford that are completely new to your eyes and ears! Special thanks to James Saunders for making a project for sonic-geo-caching. We had no idea there were so many musical surfaces and objects surrounding us in Oxford; our ears are open.