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  • Matthew Shenton

SPILL Residency 2023

Updated: Jul 15, 2023

I recently spent a wonderful week at the SPILL Think Tank in Ipswich as part of their artist residency scheme. Throughout the week I worked on a project exploring the morphology of a Suffolk village soundscape with the hope that I can lead a community project with residents to explore how the (predominantly) working class soundscape of the village in the early 20th century has been replaced by modern sounds.

The first day of my residency was spent mapping and researching the sounds of the village as described by local writer Warrenton Page in his biography 'Holbrook: The Story of a Village 1900-1983.' Page devotes a full chapter to the noises and sounds of the village including that of the gas engine driving the mill, the blacksmith, hob nail boots, heavy horses and the 'modern' threshing equipment brought in from Ipswich. I mapped these sounds using old OS maps, tried to find similar sounds for reference on YouTube and used the work of Murray Shafer and the World Soundscape Project to categorise the sounds.

What soon stuck me was that industrialisation and globalism removed almost all of the 'signals' and 'soundmarks' that gave the village a unique soundscape; cottage industries and sole traders were replaced as transport, technology and mass production took over. The specific sounds Warrenton Page mentions have slowly been replaced and have reduced the range of sounds heard by residents to a mere background noise.

I am now working on a composition inspired by those lost sounds and have made the first steps to share my findings with the community. My hope is that I can engage with residents to explore what other sounds people can remember that are now lost, to widen my research to ensure that non-male sounds are included and to invite the community to explore which sounds of today they might look to preserve.

Later in the week I used the space at SPILL for some sound experiments including using the PhonoPaper app to generate sounds from contour lines on a map, creating a one minute reel-to-reel loop incorporating a church bell and village field recordings and took tentative steps toward using data sonicification in my work.


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