Last Sunday, in collaboration with Lewisham Council, the London Bubble Theatre Company put on a work of experiential theatre based around the Ladywell Fields park and the River Ravensbourne. The event took place outside around the river and involved artists of various decsiplines to create a magical journey centred around the naiad, or river spirit. Storytellers, poets, choirs, musicians, photographers, actors and various visual artists worked among eerie lights, prompting the audience to move from scene to scene. Various happenings took place along the route; some obvious, others not so obvious and at three points along this route the audience experienced different soundscape installations which I had been commissioned to provide:
The first soundscape was located in an area where artist Ian Simons installed flowers and insects made from bottles and other discarded packaging, made with the help of local children. They formed chandeliers that were hung from trees which created a natural tunnel along a part of the path. To go with this, I wanted to create a work of recycled ‘found sound’. I explored Ladywell Fields with my handheld recorder and captured lots of audio of the river, natural ambiences and of people using the park. With the thought of creating a magical forest ambience, I found different sounds that could be manipulated to sound like various occupants of this forest: bouncing tennis balls became woodpeckers, the noise of a cruising bicycle became the noise of crickets, pitched dog barks became far off birdcalls (as well as the sound of an ice-cream van’s music); the filtered sound of children playing became the noise of a morning chorus; the bubbling river flow and aeroplanes flying overhead were filtered to became noises of life emanating from within the depths of the forest . The main soundscape was placed over two main speakers. Other speakers were hidden in trees and contained variations of the main recording to produce the effect of forest life coming from all around. This soundscape can be played below.
The second soundscape was a whispering forest located in a small spinney along the path. This section lead to folk storyteller Richard Neville and was populated with eerie lights and decoration as well as a librarian reading a local story aloud. Again, I hid speakers in trees but this time they contained recordings of local librarians whispering stories based around rivers. The third soundscape installation contained recorded accounts of local people talking about their experiences of parks and Ladywell Fields in particular. These emanated from speakers hidden along a footbridge that crosses the river.
The event was a great success and provided a wonderful platform for me to further explore space as I have done in previous works such as Secret Soundtrack and Some London Life. In particular, with the ‘magical forest’, the darkness, lights, otherworldly plants and insects and my magical forest soundscape provided a wonderfully atmospheric space rooted in and working with real nature to create a unique, alien space. I feel the natural setting and natural noises of the area combined with our creations to produce something anchored in reality which made it all the more vivid and enveloping. People commented on not being able to tell if sounds in the area were natural or synthetic and it is this blurring of reality which I seek to achieve through my work to enhance the physical and mental envelopment of atmosphere
The whispering forest soundscape was located in a more enclosed space and allowed me to explore the use disembodied human voice and how it effects perception. It pretty much goes without saying that the effect was quite eerie!
This event excited me very much and was a fantastic way to explore my ideas on scale larger than I have previously worked with. Jonathan Petherbridge, creative director at London Bubble was the guiding force behind the event and moulded everything into such a fantastic performance. Go check out the London Bubble website here to see what else they are up to.