Falmouth University recently ran an open call for three SWCTN Porthmeor Residencies in St Ives in October, November & December of this year for those based in the South West, working in the field of immersion, using tech in some way, at some point.
The first residency takes place throughout October. Christian Guerrini is developing a project that allows a large group of people to experience meaningful and immersive pieces of music, performed by themselves with no prior knowledge needed that could result in real feelings of community, bonded-ness and connection between the newly formed groups. Here he talks a little about what his month will look like:
“I will be spending the month developing my ideas for my work “Instancing”. This work involves an immersive musical event where large groups of people can be enabled to sing together, with no prior training or knowledge. The piece is recorded, then played back to the participants joining the circle between performer and audience.
I will also be developing work that will be shown by the end of the month in a site specific context and also works that will go on to take place at Glastonbury festival in a venue called “The Rabbithole” where I have a creative production role.
I am currently beginning my third year at Falmouth University on the Creative Music Technology degree course. Taking this time to reconnect with an academic side of music has given me fresh impetus to examine where my music practice integrates with others, reassessing what function my work performs.
At the beginning of 2019 my research started to take me in the direction of expectation and reward, theory of affect and immersive experience. I’m interested in why when one plays a favourite latest song to a friend it never ever sounds the same as when one hears it oneself previously. I’m interested in the transaction of performer and audience and whether roles can be reversed, if asking people who wouldn’t normally want to become participant can be persuaded given the right contextual cues that make it ok. If you can get middle aged men to sing at the top of their lungs at a football match, why not in other cultural settings? What is it that allows us to break cover.
This process led to studying about community, group singing and I developed a model that would allow total novices and large groups of people to sing together, a musical piece involving complex harmony. It is this continuing work that won the “Edge award” from Falmouth University at the end of my 2nd Year, encouraging me to take the idea further.
I have since brought the piece to eight primary schools in west Penwith, with the help of the Cornwall music service trust. Of the many outcomes that I noticed, it was that singing in groups has an undoubted uplifting effect and that every group seemed bonded together.
During the summer, I also performed the piece at Port Eliot festival and in the town of Les Eyzies in France outside one of the prehistoric caves and in the entrance foyer to the National Museum of Prehistory.
I hope the residency will allow me to explore feelings of being bonded with those in a room, in a group. To explore how groups become groups. Grouped. “
RESIDENCY BLOG – Christian Guerrini
Tuesday 1st October
I’ve moved in, signed the papers, dropped off the requisite accoutrements of sound art and brought some sash window weights that were hanging around for ages at home in the cellar waiting for just this day to arrive. They’ve been under my floor for 2 years since they came off a carpentry job, and having been charged so much for replacements in the past from reclamation yards I decided to keep them for a rainy day.
It’s raining today in St Ives, and all solid iron weights are on the floor at the end of the studio. I’m drawing plans to help with building a frame to hold them, maybe like a heavy duty tubular bell thingy. Must ask Steve to drop my mitre saw and saw horses that he borrowed.
Over the month, I will be experimenting with immersive sound and music ideas that will hopefully take fully shapes as the time progresses.
On Friday evening at the end of this week, I am setting myself the target of creating an event here in the studio that will invite guests to take part in the first immersive piece of the month.
RESIDENCY BLOG #2 – Christian Guerrini
Monday 6th October
The sash cord weights were given a home on a purpose built frame, and arranged in a non-scaled way, and when playing them with a fire poker that was lying around in the studio resemble very much the sound of an Indonesian Gamelan. So I’m starting to think this might take a role in any community placed event or get together: a gamelan for St Ives. Maybe it can go out in a public space? Must check with the town council this week…
I’ve also made 5 boxes to house either walkie talkies or bluetooth speakers. In order that those that I hope to ‘immerse’ aren’t faced with pure black coloured tech, I thought it would be good to offset this by putting them in natural recycled materials (from an old fence). These boxes will have two purposes. One is for my remote piano performance piece. I hope to find out this week how far throughout the town the walkie talkies will effectively transmit, and then once in place in varying locations, I will broadcast to them live piano music from my studio once a day for maybe half an hour. I’m going to walk to the harbour master’s office today to ask whether he will let me plug in my electric piano and play it on smeaton’s pier and then the walkie talkies can be placed around the harbour walls. I hope that then the listener can possibly join the dots between what they can hear and finally noticing that there is a person playing 200 yards away on the opposite side of the harbour to where they are standing. I’m not sure if this juxtaposition of senses of perspective is original but I’ve had a David Lynch type recurring dream my whole adult life and am keen to see if it does anything in a real life situation.
The second purpose for the boxes is something to do with sending a phone owner off with a music/sound file shared to their phone and linked to the bluetooth speaker in the (bird) box. Maybe if the five sound files are linked in some way then if they come into close proximity with each other they might start to form a coherent strategy of sound? Don’t know yet.
I said two, I meant three: the third option is to continue my work with placed sound units playing back specifically designed soundscapes. These would be site specific and may include a linear progression when the listener moves through the field of speaker placement. We’ll see.
On the weekend, I brought my headphone piece of music which is the centre piece of my months work to a wonderful community project at St Ives orchard. On Sunday they held their autumn apple day, where many members of the local community had the chance to visit, pick apples, make pizza, drink cider and apple juice, make pizzas, hang out and meet and chat.
The leach pottery came up with materials for anyone to make tiles with designs based on the local flora and fauna and once that was all done I gathered about forty people (split into four groups) around the big bonfire and we sung a seven minute piece of music in four part harmony, with no one needing any sheet music or prior knowledge. The recording will be on the facebook page later today at
Their website to get involved is : https://www.stivesorchard.co.uk
My thanks to Elise and Dwaine and all the people who have made the Orchard happen over the last five years. The music and the way it is performed by large groups really does seem to be at home in community groups, where so many faces were smiling by the time it was finished and one participant said his current five year midlife crisis was now cured. Can’t ask for more than that!
RESIDENCY BLOG #3 – Christian Guerrini
Monday 14th October
I’ve had a few go’s at placing the walkie talkies in nearby public spaces to see how it feels and behaves.
My studio window acted as a viewing station for me to view passers by as they realised that some piano music was coming out of the bird boxes. A few people stopped and smiled and investigated the boxes and generally seemed to enjoy the incongruity of the thing. On another occasion, an art teacher who was working above in the school of painting came down obviously perturbed by the noise and did a little bit of improv miming back up at the class window as if to say “what the hell is this all about and how do you make it stop?!”
I decided to leave events play out in their own way whilst trying a bit to play quieter. I noticed a little bit of my mischievous side coming out and tried to stop playing as she walked around perplexed. In the end, I thought bugger it, I’ll keep playing and she in turn twisted the bird box round to face the wall.
I found out later that it was a particularly tense oil painting workshop and that my walkie talkies were louder than I thought and quite tinny sounding. So I’ve made my apologies and now am reminded that not everyone will necessarily like what I’m doing at all, and again when playing with public spaces I might have to keep one eye on the ethical and social dimensions.
It’s nice seeing the box chained to a wheelie bin.
Ideas are getting clearer on the other bird box idea and plans are getting a bit more resolved on how to present the three or four pieces as a complete performance.
Working in this studio and having the space to concentrate has really helped form my work around this locality. I now have until the 26th to get all the loose threads into place. Or at least, some of the loose threads, others might be better left dangling.
RESIDENCY BLOG #4- Christian Guerrini
Monday 21st October
Made some real progress last week. The bird box idea has come into shape and have almost completed the preparations for it to work as an immersive music/sound walk for four groups. I’ve drawn a map of the local streets, with four routes from my studio ending in the harbour. The four routes wiggle and overlap. I’ve written a suite of music that then had many variations written around it. Those parts recorded are then arranged into four parts. Each part is on a single track that is then sent to a mobile Phone of one of the participants next Saturday. That phone is then paired with the bluetooth speaker. The four speakers in bird boxes are started at the same time. Then the map routes are followed. There are gaps in the music. This is the time that walking happens. When the music is heard, the groups stop walking and look around. The rest is a surprise.
But for me the real breakthrough was the stopping and looking around. Even looking at a dripping gutter took on a cinematic hue. It’s happened before to many I’m sure, since the dawn of the walkman and mobile music, that we graft music on top of our experience and it adds motion and poetry to the visual stimuli. Synchresis as it’s known in film theory describes the fusion of audio-vision, I’m hoping that this sound walk will tap into this strange alchemy and allow the participants on the walk to experience their local, well known back streets in a new cinematic perspective.
I’ve been thinking about how much authorship the show at the end of my residency has. I mean that, how much talking and explaining the ideas is necessary, and how much do I want the experience to just take shape within the participant’s imagination instead of prescribing how they should uncover it?
Looking forward to the showing on Saturday 26th October. If you’ve been reading this blog and want to find out how it all goes then please come! 2.15pm – 4pm.
There will be oodles and oodles of tea and cake.