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.

Introducing the HEARth stories


HEARth story #1

This is a page in a little guidebook to Tallinn hand-made by my friend and colleague Stavroula Kounadea just before I headed to the Tuned City festival in Estonia to work on this. Stav’s guidebook was full of photos, drawings, hand-made maps and notes to help me find my way around Tallinn; she’d written about where I’d find a good coffee; where there were craft markets she thought I’d like; and what she felt I should specifically look out for on my adventures. Its warm pages offered me a very friendly introduction to Tallinn.

While working at Tuned City, I met Valeria Merlini. We ran a documentation workshop throughout the Tuned City festival – a collaboration that found us working together again at Audiograft in 2012, and which will see us working together this year at Tuned City, Brussels.

The first field-recording Valeria and I made together was created at “The Best Coffee Shop in Tallinn” as detailed in Stav’s guide to Tallinn, where we went to record, to chat, and to plan our work for that day.

Stav and I have found new ways of working together too; this year’s Audiograft festival at Oxford Brookes sees us rolling up our STELIX work-sleeves to present a series of events entitled HEARth.

HEARth is about how the little things – like making your friend a guidebook and like going for a coffee together – can sometimes lead to the big things – like forming International working partnerships and like making Art together. As the exaggerated HEAR in HEARth suggests, it’s also about listening together, and listening to one another, and therefore about exploring the social side of sound.


Like Paul Whitty’s Berlin Sound Diary which created an art object out of the whole journey to Berlin, rather than focusing only on the concert performance that was ostensibly the purpose of that journey, HEARth celebrates the contexts around Audiograft, (the friendships, the hanging-out-afterwards, the eating, reading, and partying together) as well as the work that features in the main festival programme.

Presenting pre-event activities and after-event socials, and drawing on the inspiration of that friendly little book that Stav made me when I went to Tallinn, we shall provide artists and audiences with our personal home-made guide to Oxford, supplying details on such essential knowledge as where to get a decent cup of coffee (“The Best Coffee Shop in Oxford”?) and where to try your hand at playing the theremin, or the steel drum…


…HEARth will happily also feature a Sound Diaries component called HEARth stories. Starting with The Best Coffee Shop in Tallinn which connects having coffee with making field recordings, working together, and looking after artists in strange cities, HEARth stories will document the everyday sounds that visiting artists attending Audiograft 2013 might experience in between performances, concerts and sound installations. Stay tuned for documentation of the soundworlds of Oxford’s finest pubs, interior spaces and walking routes, and for field-recordings celebrating the work of our field-recording comrades such as James Saunders and Kathy Hinde.

The HEARth stories and recordings from the Sound Diaries archives will also be a focus in the forthcoming Audiograft/Sound Diaries podcast series, to be introduced here throughout Audiograft in between listening to the work, hanging out with other artists, eating sandwiches, making badges, and partying together at the end of the festival.

Finally, Valeria Merlini has agreed to don her JD Zazie DJ hat and to custom-make us an Audiograft after-party mix to kick things off in our final HEARth event at The Jam Factory. It will feature many recordings from the Audiograft 2012 field-recording workshop we ran together in Oxford last year, (and maybe also the hissing of some wonderful espresso happening, all those months ago in Tallinn, at the genesis of HEARth…) so that the possibilities for sharing sounds, remembering experiences, and celebrating the dreamlike textures of soundartfestivalspace might continue finding new forms for expression.