Ways of Hearing Ian Chuprun, Dugal McKinnon, David Prior, Antti Sakari Saario

After a year of thinking about a piece which might explore the role of recording media in our preservation of memory, the opportunity to create such a work came quite unexpectedly. While I had anticipated writing a music theatre piece on my own over a typically protracted period of time, my catalyst to begin work came in the form of a commission from Resonance FM, a temporary London wide radio and internet station run by London Musicians Collective as part of John Peel’s ‘Meltdown’ festival at the South Bank Centre. I was now faced with the prospect of producing my promised thirty minute piece in not much more than two weeks and it did not take me long to realise that my original plans would have to be somewhat modified! I needed help and as part of a thriving community of composers and sound artists based around Birmingham Electro-acoustic Sound Theatre (BEAST), it seemed obvious to enlist the talents of my colleagues there in order to make the project possible.

The underside of my interest in recording as ‘preservation’ was my suspicion that recording simultaneously destroys the essence of the moment recorded through the very act of immortalising it. I was drawn to Roland Barthes writing on photography and in particular his fascination with the moment of the photographic act; the chemical inscription of a fleeting event onto a fixed and deathly-immortal print. This theme became my primary point of departure for a sound based piece which focused at a micro level on this act of capturing and preserving a moment of sonic activity.

I began by unearthing old cassette recordings of my father recording my sister and I as small children and then through a series of interviews, explored other peoples experience of recording as a means of preserving memory. It was about this stage that Dugal McKinnon joined me as co-producer and from there, we asked further contributors (all of whom composers who work primarily with fixed media) to compose discreet sections of the piece which might serve as personal reflections on their experience of recording and what it meant to them.

It came as no surprise that throughout the work, there seemed to be a heightened emphasis on those elements of a recording which give it place, often the very things which established sound recording practice seeks to eliminate: the humming fridge in the background behind an interview, the hiss and wow of the old cassette recordings and the peculiarly disarming acoustic spaces often chosen as the setting for the source recordings. These elements became intrinsic to a narrative which almost wove itself into the resultant scrap book of intensely personal sonic postcards. I believe these fragments go some way to capturing the inherently contradictory essence of what it is to preserve a moment of life in the eternity of a fixed media.

Concept and Direction — David Prior Production — David Prior and Dugal McKinnon Material Composed by — David Prior, Dugal McKinnon, Ian Chuprun and Antti Saario

  • Year of composition: 1998
  • Duration of the submitted work: 30:06

Linked project

  • Chuprun, Dhomont, Jean, McKinnon, Prior, Saario, Westerkamp, Wiernik
    10 tracks

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