Alexandra Bell

Sound Artist

  ︎︎︎ ︎︎






Reflective Journal: Listening, Sound Alone


Photo: Lookinginlookingout 4, Alex Bell 2020


Week 1: Field Recording /Soundwalk.

I was surprised by my emotional reaction to returning to college. Memories and feelings surfaced from many years ago, of arriving alone and dislocated in a new city. I started working out melodic phrases & poetry as I walked about, like a creative neural safety net.  So, reading Waddock’s Soundmapping hit home -the notion of presenting the experience of “Others” via sound. During the soundwalk I learned about different mics and how they can represent sound differently. This led to me wondering about “Othering” used as a verb; and how much we “Other” ourselves in a state of heightened sensitivity. 

Read: Waldock, Jacqueline (2011) “SOUNDMAPPING: Critiques and Reflections on this New Publicly Engaging Medium”, Journal of Sonic Studies Vol.1 nr. 1
Listened: Oliveros, P., Gamper, D., Lyon Rose, J., 1998, Ghost Dance, [CD], US, Deep Listening Label
Quote of the week: “Hearing is a way of touching at a distance”Murray Shafer, R., (1977) The Soundscape: The Tuning of the World, Rochester VT: Destiny Books.
Discussed: The pros & cons of Non Fungible Tokens. The Norn Collective (Edinburgh artist group)


Week 2: Derive / Sound-only Media & Effects. 


Photo: Candy, Sauchiehall Street Glasgow, Alex Bell 2021

I found Guy de Bord’s work interesting, especially the links to Malcolm McLaren and British punk music. I was surprised how much I enjoyed the Derive in the city centre. In such a time-resource pressured lifestyle, permission to drift without purpose felt quite self indulgent and I started noticing & feeling things differently.  I was drawn to the curated, minimalist windows of high end brands and empty spaces; and repelled by the crammed windows of candy shops and a loud hockey team on Sauchiehall Street. I tried to be aware of where I felt included or othered, and researched how others have shown this in sound work.  I trialled the Derive app, but I found the card system too curated.  I used Debord’s Dérive strategy to feel and sound out some recording locations for my Sound Alone project.

Read: Duncan, D., Queens University Belfast, August 2020, Excavating hidden and forgotten pasts with sound, The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/excavating-hidden-and-forgotten-pasts-with-sound-140680
Visited:


Week 3: Concept Development


Photo: ‘Clorange’, Glasgow Subway, Alex Bell 2021

Returning to Glasgow feels like a time loop - life going backwards and forwards simultaneously. The Subway journey to college seems like a metaphor, with inner & outer circles going in opposing directions at the same time. I repeated a Derive in the subway, exploring this feeling of timelessness, recording the sounds along a full loop of the route and looking for the “why” of my soundscape. I dismissed ideas about “Othering” as too complex for the project timescale. In the news, responses to the Sarah Everard verdict reminded me of the prostitute killings in Glasgow when I arrived in the 90s and how little has changed (like the subway). I decided to use concrete sound montages (music concrete) to explore a  theme around ‘Reclaim the Streets’ for my soundscape.



Week 4: Field Recording in Emotional-Loaded Locations

This week I recorded streetscapes in Edinburgh on a Saturday night after midnight; and also used emotionally-loaded and unsual locations as sound objects / instruments fro created sound. (i) Rodney Street tunnel (Cannonmills, Edinburgh). I installed an artwork of red dresses hanging from the ceiling as part of a ‘Reclaim the Streets’ demonstration here in March. (The dresses were stolen, which I enjoyed). This is the kind of place where you’d be afraid to walk alone. It is also next to a busy Tesco carpark where you’d feel safe and yet three women have been attacked there recently. (ii) Beacon Tower at Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop. I recorded a rape alarm in this open topped tower, curious about the triangular sound reflections.
I also completed my desk research around street safety.


Watched:
  • How Eisenstein Used Montage to Film the Unfilmable & Influenced Hollywood’ by 100 years of Cinema
  • The Lighthouse, 2019 [Film], Eggers, R., (Dir.) US, A24 & Regency Enterprises.
  • Stump the Guesser, 2020, [Film], Maddin, G., (Dir.), Canada, Julijette Pictures  -lots of references to Soviet silent cinema whilst retaining a fantasy story -my favourite film of the year
Visited:
  • Darkfield Radio -terrifying immersive sound experience https://www.darkfield.org/radio
  • Bjork (Director, Composer, Performer), Bjork Orkestral,  livestream concert performance with the Icelandic String Orchestra, October 20201, Harpa Hall Reykjavik. Big thumping punches of emotion.



Week 5: Dubbing Studios 

This week I concentrated on immersion in the technology of Protools (reading the full introductory manual and completing 22 tutorials!), getting used to the Dubbing Studios and completed the first edit of my soundscape. I also spent some time at Banana Row Studios in Edinburgh, observing the sound engineers mixing. They have digital and analogue mixing desks at Banana Row, so we experimented a little with bending analogue to show the limit of clipping compared with a digital cut off.

Watched:
  • (1) Protect and Survive, 1974, [TV public information broadcast], BBC & UK Home Office,  https://youtu.be/m6U9T3R3EQg
  • (2) When the Wind Blows, 1986 [Film], Murakami, J., (Dir.), Meltdown Productions & Film Four.
  • The Human Voice, 2020 [Film], Almodovar, P., (Dir.), Spain, El Deseo & FIlm Nation Entertainment. I watched this adaptation of the Jean Cocteau play adaption twice, to fully appreciate the lush mis en scene and double check that the acting is in fact a monologue -totally engaging.
  • The French Dispatch, 2021 [Film], Anderson, W., (Dir.) Germany, Indian Paintbrush & American Empirical Pictures. Full of micro twists.
Visited:
  • Harryhausen, R., c. 1960, Titan of Cinema, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art 2, Edinburgh (October 2021). Excellently curated insight into stop go animation of some classic 1950s/60s films. I particularly liked the split screen projections which showed scenes in layers -I’d like to do that in my own work.
Listened:
  • Ogboh, E., 2021, Song of the Union, Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh (October 2021). I originally visited this 8 speaker array sound installation in situ within The Burns Monument as part of the Edinburgh Art Festival.  Singers from the 27 EU states who now reside in Scotland, all sing Auld Lang Syne as a commentary on the Brexit farewell in EU chambers. I found the concept really interesting but was unmoved by the work itself.
  • Britten, B., 1946, The Rape of Lucretia, [sound recording], Performed by the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden conducted by Benjamin Britten, Amsterdam, IMC Music. Emotion-laden recording which is said to have affected the orchestra so deeply that they needed extra breaks.


Week 6: Creative Decisions for the Work



Technically, this week I made decisions about the best Pro Tools template design for my piece (bussing routes, auxiliary tracks etc.). In the Dubbing Studios I addressed the obvious audio errors and then experimented with sound placement and manipulation. E.G. panning a moth flying around the head, bouncing this and panning it again in real time on the mixing desk, searching for unusual effects. I was also able to turn the moth into a thunderstorm manipulating the EQ.

Creatively, d evelopment decisions included using Plan International’s Seven Steps as a rhythm, and redacting a Rape Crisis Scotland statement to mimic an article encouraging boys to enjoy night walks alone. Inspired by sound designer Kristian Eidness’ use of Handel in Lars von Trier’s film AntiChrist, I incorporated and manipulated a sample of Benjamin Britten’s opera ‘The Rape of Lucretia’ to end the work. I chose the 1946 recording with Kathleen Ferrier as her performance is said to have so affected the orchestra that they needed extra breaks. Inspired by Soviet Montage film evolution & processes, I trialled the Kuleshov effect in a sound-only context so the audience creates their own story, (A+B=C); as well as collision, fast cut & metric editing in development.

Watched:
  • The Human Voice, 2020 [Film], Almodovar, P., (Dir.), Spain, El Deseo & FIlm Nation Entertainment. I watched this adaptation of the Jean Cocteau play adaption twice, to fully appreciate the lush mis en scene and double check that the acting is in fact a monologue -totally engaging.
  • The French Dispatch, 2021 [Film], Anderson, W., (Dir.) Germany, Indian Paintbrush & American Empirical Pictures. Full of micro twists.
Visited:
  • Harryhausen, R., c. 1960, Titan of Cinema, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art 2, Edinburgh (October 2021). Excellently curated insight into stop go animation of some classic 1950s/60s films. I particularly liked the split screen projections which showed scenes in layers.
Listened:
  • Cardiff, J., & Bures Miller, G., 2001, The Paradise Institute, excerpt from Mixed Media Installation. Amazing sound design with 2 stories running in parallel -one on screen and one in the theatre audience.   https://vimeo.com/73446251
  • Ogboh, E., 2021, Song of the Union, Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh (October 2021). I originally visited this 8 speaker array sound installation in situ within The Burns Monument as part of the Edinburgh Art Festival.  Singers from the 27 EU states who now reside in Scotland, all sing Auld Lang Syne as a commentary on the Brexit farewell in EU chambers. I found the concept really interesting but was unmoved by the work itself.  




Week 7: Immersing in Sound to Finalise the Work. 

This week I spent time listening to other soundscapes from Radiophrenia, Soundthought and the HearSay Audio Festival, as well as more avant garde ambient sound musicians, as further insight into my own piece. I worked more critically on audio quality in my own piece and finalised the digital sound transformations. I then shared the work with as many people as possible for feedback, iterating again on that basis.


Listened:





Project Plan