The artists talk about their work

Duncan Whitley

My Only City – The Sounds of the West Terrace is a project documenting the songs, chants and vocalisations of the crowds at Coventry City Football Club (CCFC), during their last matches at Highfield Road. “Home” to Sky Blues fans for the past century, the Highfield Road stadium will be demolished in the summer of 2005 as City make their way to a new arena, currently under construction elsewhere in the city.

Between January to April 2005 Duncan is documenting the sounds of the CCFC supporters, as heard from the West Terrace of the ground. Duncan is analysing and cataloguing these recordings into an archive of some 1000 minutes of audio. Partly a document of the relationship of the CCFC fans to Highfield Road, the MOC project also promises to investigate and reveal crowd sound, often misleading termed noise, as complex language.

“Transforming Wilton’s auditorium through a superimposition of the acoustic space of the Highfield Road stadium, I aim both to transport the listener to the West Terrace of Coventry City FC’s historic stadium; and simultaneously to prompt in the listener an evocation of the music hall audiences of Wilton’s past. The work will drew parallels between the modes of spectatorship in today’s football stadia and in the music halls of the late C19th; looking at the symbiotic relationship between audience and performance, and at affirmations of cultural difference through sound.”

“The piece will worked with the specially installed sound system in Wilton’s. The crowd vocalisations emanated from the balcony of the auditorium enveloped the listener, creating an immersive and unnerving experience.”

Thor McIntyre-Burnie and Chris Watson

A Pier at Wilton’s
Sitting in Wilton’s, I was struck by the familiar feeling of another site, beautifully sculpted by time and filled with the distant echo of music and laughter from a bygone era, but now occupied by a colony of starlings and pigeons, the roof pierced with holes, the floor shaken by the rumbling surf beneath.

Brighton’s derelict West Pier was the focus of an artist residency in 2000/1, the results of which migrated with the starlings to a second residency at the Fylkingen Intermedia Arts Centre in Stockholm. Working in collaboration with wild life sound expert Chris Watson, we gathered sound recordings and images from a range of perspectives and periods of the day and night predominantly from the pier and the acoustically rich concert hall. The result, an 8 channel immersive sound and light installation, took visitors through 24 hours on the Pier in just under an hour.

An idea was to temporarily transposing the West Pier concert hall, a distant relation of the music hall, to Wilton’s.
The rumble of the neighbouring train tracks reverberating in the silent hall of Wilton’s reminded me of the distant sound of the rollercoaster’s on Brighton’s Palace Pier. The swooping, whirling rush of the roller coasters and the starlings combine beautifully. This combination, slowed down until it takes on an eerie voice-like quality, has been an area I have been experimenting with since 2001 and developed further at Wilton’s.

Wilton’s is a special space, sculpted not so much by intention or design, but by the passage of time itself. Such sites, like the West Pier, form the basis for much of my work with sound. The location has such rich romantic qualities that sound and simple lighting can come together to create an exploratory experience, an altered state.

Lorretta Bosence and Liz Haven

Sing us an old Song! is an ongoing project which seeks to reinvigorate the communal tradition of passing on shared memories and experience through song.

Bosence and Haven intend to collect songs specifically for the stage at Wilton’s Music Hall. They will be recording local people singing songs that they feel are likely to disappear and that they wish to pass on to others. The quality and origin of each song varies greatly with every singer. Amateur renditions of music hall classics or favourite family ditty’s can have an equally powerful resonance. The mono recordings will be played from speakers at the back of the stage, invoking the presence of an invisible solitary performer addressing the empty hall.

The social conventions of a past era are accessible to modern listeners through the popular songs of the time. Just as popular songs of the early 21st century refer to the habits and predilections of young people, songs like ‘Around The Corner’ relate the aspirations of young people in the early years of the 20th century. For women, this was to get married:

Around the corner, behind the tree,
A Sergeant Major, he says to me,
“When you going to marry me,
I would like to know,
As every time I look in your eyes,
I feel as I want to go,
Around the corner, behind the tree”
(Repeat)

The lyrics and music speak directly of past eras, relating social customs and conventions that sound peculiar and arcane to modern listeners. Nevertheless, even as their meaning becomes increasingly obscure, the songs still exist, passed orally from generation to generation as a musical legacy.

Annie Davey and Luis Carjoval

The Puss and Mew Gin project moved to a pub for the first time for Me and My Shadow, taking up residence in the Old Mahogany Bar. Annie and Luis commissioned a series of bottles to be made with the Puss and Mew logos stamped on them and the gin was served from them via fine silver spouts.

Cheap gin, first imported from the Netherlands in the 1690s, became an extremely popular drink in the early 18th century. Politicians and religious leaders began to argue that gin drinking encouraged laziness and criminal behaviour. In 1729 Parliament increased the tax on gin and this led to complaints culminating in the 1743 Gin Riots. The government responded by reducing duties and penalties, claiming that moderate measures would be easier to enforce.

Gin drinking continued to be a problem and by the 1740s the British were consuming 8,000,000 gallons a year. It was estimated that in some pasts of London over a quarter of the houses were gin shops. in 1751 the government took action and greatly increased duties on gin. The sale by distillers and shopkeepers was now strictly controlled and these measures successfully reduced the consumption of gin in Britain.

It was during this time that the secret Puss and Mew operators sprung up. On walls down side alleys, there were painted signs of cats, and if you looked closely, there was a little slot under its tail for a coin. On inserting a coin, crying “Mew, mew!” and holding a glass underneath the cat’s mouth, the glass would be magically filled with contraband gin via a spout protruding from beneath the cat’s teeth.

“One glass will restore an old man of threescore to the juvenility of thirty, make a girl of fourteen as ripe as an old maid of twentyfour, a Puritan to lust after the flesh and a married man to oblige his wife oftener in one night than without it he might do in seven”