I am super excited to announce that on the 13th December I will be performing as part of Unity Theatre's immersive events series, Dark Dark Wood.
The performance will be a surround sound experience with a whole manner of vocal weirdness inspired by forests, magic, Christmas, night time and all kinds of strange mythical creatures!
I will be joined by a specially hand-picked group of weirdos to help create this strange forestry journey. The night will feature;
Arun Ghosh - Clarinet and Harmonium
Pete Turner - Double Bass and Synth
Fabric Lenny - Live Visual Animagicals
It's a like a Christmas nightmare come true! Here's a little video of Fabric Lenny's piece "Gargoyles" to whet your festive appetite!
Also, I have created some special vocal soundscape content for Kinicho's 3D ambisonic sound installation, COSMOS which will be installed and open to the public from the 02/12/16 at Unity Theatre.
Hope you can come and be part of the DARK DARK WOOD!
It's been a fully immersive 10 days in Easterhouse. Me and Deirdre have mapped walks, made food, met groups and individuals, done field recordings, taken photographs and recorded new songs. Below is a little glimpse into the day-to-day runnings of what we did and a round up of the "party piece" event.
We met people from the Connect Trust Allotment group. The allotments are overseen by Mij who took us around and showed us what different groups, families and individuals have been growing. There where a wide range of fruit and vegetables including pumpkins, onions, several varieties of potatoes, beetroot, leeks, apples, cherries and tomatoes. Mij also showed us around the greenhouse where people are growing red chilli, green chilli, sweet capsicum, tomatoes and Scotch Bonnet chillies. He said "any male visitor that comes to the allotments has to eat a raw chilli", so me having being raised on hot Indian food thought “yeah, no problem”. I was wrong. My mouth was well and truly on fire.
Some of the allotment owners also had yellow canaries in cages in their sheds which where donated to the allotment after their previous owner had passed away. I’ve never been a fan of caged or tanked animals and there was apart of me that wanted to set the little yellow chirpers free. What was interesting though was that when the birds had arrived at the allotment, they where in real bad shape, but were then nursed back to health and are now being taken care of by Mij, Terry and other volunteers.
Whilst I was recording various bits around the allotment, I was handed a wedge of homemade chocolate cake. Stacey had made it the night before and gave both Deirdre and I a slice each. It reminded me of the chocolate cake I used to get at primary school with pink custard. Proper delicious old-skool recipe!
Just before we left, Mij gave us a bag of onions and potatoes and we promised that we would return their generosity by making something from the produce and bring back to the allotments. I spoke to my mum back in Manchester and she gave me her secret recipe for Aloo Pakoreh which consists of thin slices of potatoes, onions and spices bound together with water and Gram flour and then fried.
Margaret McCormick (Visual Arts Programmer/Engagement officer at Platform) asked us to meet with sound engineer Carolann McMillian and a group of young people at the Glasgow Kelvin College, the building attached to Platform. It was such a brilliant meeting! The facilities at the college are amazing and there where several practice rooms with young musicians playing electric and acoustic guitar, singer-songwriters and music producers. We asked several young people if they would be interested in performing at an informal "party piece" sharing that we where putting together the following week. One young person, Jack Bestow, was really keen and we spent most of the evening chatting and listening to his music and hearing stories of his life experience. it was truly wonderful to hear a young person speak so honestly, confidently and openly. We arranged to meet the following week to record three of his songs.
In early Spring I had come up to Easterhouse to do some field recordings and take some macro images from around Easterhouse. I came away from the trip with lots of images, field recordings of the dawn chorus and also hydrophone recordings of unidentifiable electrical hums, pops and clicks in Auchinlea Pond, near Proven Hall. Since making those recordings, I was excited about getting back to Easterhouse and going to the lochs and ponds to capture more sounds. What I hadn't taken into consideration was that we are now in Autumn. Back in Spring it felt like animals and insects where out and about and very audible whereas now it feels more like animals and insects are retreating or flying off for the winter. It was really frustrating because I went on a two hour walk around Bishop Loch and didn't capture what I hoped I would. This was also the same case at Auchinlea Pond. It bought home a few things in my mind about my lack of knowledge of wildlife, the environment and seasonal changes. It is certainly a steep learning curve with the huge feeling that there is always so much to learn.
Me and Deirdre went to a cake sale at the Wellhouse Housing Association. Deidre donated a sponge cake she had made using golden raspberries from the allotment. As well as Deirdre’s cake there where also fairy cakes, coconut cake, carrot cake, shortbread biscuits, cupcakes, scones and a Malteser cake which was raffled and won by a small child! All in all, they raised over £100 in less than an hour! Well done everyone!
Epic walk day! Deirdre and I walked from the East End of Glasgow to Easterhouse. In the 1960’s a lot of people had moved from Denistoun to Easterhouse for reasons that included better housing and living conditions. We wanted to experience the topography of Glasgow and so we mapped the walk using a Garmin Forerunner 920 XT GPS watch. The watch gave us data including a map of the distance we had travelled and information in graphical form such as cadence and elevation. We wanted to combine micro observations along with the data to create to create a kind of visual diary of the walk. In total we walked about 15 miles.
Recorded Jack Bestow at Platform. Jack wrote three tunes and he very clearly directed and produced the session.
Deirdre and I made Aloo Pakoreh and took them to the Wellhouse Housing Association. Deirdre also made spicy tomato and apple chutney. She used apples, onions and tomatoes from the allotment and had eight people joining in with the preparations. The atmosphere in the cafe was really lively, I was gutted that I didn't get to stay for the eating session, as I had to finish off the recordings, but I heard later that everyone enjoyed the Pakoreh and chutneys! A truly "Made in Easterhouse" experience.
Every group we had worked with over the 10 days, was asked if they would come and share something of their work and/experience of the Made In Easterhouse project. It was an informal night and anyone could get up and do a part piece “turn”. It was brilliant! Deirdre introduced the evening and told everyone about her wider Made In Easterhouse work. I shared the micro images and field recordings and Jack did three songs, which blew everyone away! Jim from the Writer's Group did three poems and Joey gave an amazing talk about the history of Easterhouse and local legend Freddy Anderson. Performers on the night also included young people from Glasgow Kelvin College; Mollie and Eliie, Toni, Louis and Cooper . There was also photography by Colin Tennant and poetry by Susan Milligan.
It was great to have different generations all performing and sharing side-by-side with a genuine appreciation of each others craft and life experience. There is a lot of brilliant work being made in Easterhouse. In this short time I have spent here, I have witnessed a strong energy amongst the people who live in Easterhouse and the organisations and businesses that surround it. It’s been wonderful listening to the conversations of people who left Easterhouse and came back and feel that it is a transformed place with great potential for the next generation. I have heard the most wonderful dawn chorus and walked through beautiful woods and seen a whole manner of wildlife. It’s been brilliant collaborating with Deirdre and exploring craft, sound, music photography and of course, food!
Here is a "slow" film of macro images I have been taking around Easterhouse. Also back in March I recorded the dawn chorus at Cardowan Moss and i've used it to form a sonic backdrop to the film as so many of these sounds where present when I took the pictures.
I have bought together pictures from walks that I have been doing solo and collaboratively with Deirdre. There have been short walks of about 2 miles and epic walks of about 15 miles! All of them have presented beautiful moments of images, light, wildlife, conversation, realisations, sounds and smells.
From the 10th - 20th October, I will be working on a new series of audio recordings and macro photographs as part of the #MadeInEasterhouse festival taking place at Platform Arts Centre.
I have been invited by creative polymath and artist in residence at Platform, Deirdre Nelson, to collaborate with her as part of the Made In Easterhouse residency. Deirdre and I have been involved in numerous projects over the years, but never had the opportunity to create something together. From day one we've had great conversations about exploring sound, textiles and photography and now we actually have the opportunity to create something together!
The aim of our work for this phase of the project is to bring the small, overlooked and possibly routine things of Easterhouse into focus through sound and visuals. I am creating binaural recordings of everyday sounds and also hydrophone recordings of local lochs and lakes to bring the sounds that we can't hear into the everyday experience. Also, both Deirdre and I have developed a love for macro photography and using these techniques to enlarge the small things we may take for granted to show the beauty and complexity of the "small" world around us.
Whenever I mentioned that I would be working in Easterhouse, people both in England and Scotland, would mention their recognition of the place through stories of gangs, drugs, crime etc but something no-one has ever said, which I am experiencing here everyday, are things like the gorgeous wild woods, buzzards, deer, herons, vowels, sticklebacks, community allotments, autumn leaves dancing down the street in the golden bright sunshine, generosity, young people with a real openness and enthusiasm to create and share...the list goes on. Also, I don't wish to share this experience through words alone. I will be uploading recordings and images so that everyone can have a chance to be part of this journey we are on.
I will be uploading new stuff everyday and also please feel free to leave a comments or thoughts.
Deirdre's blog about all things #MadeInEasterHouse can be found here
Yesterday I had the great pleasure of capturing a binaural recording of sound artist, musician, instrument maker David Birchall. David recently played at our DRK MATTA club night that we run in Manchester at Three Minute Theatre. After his amazing performance we made a commitment that we would record an improvised piece the following week. The session was at Hotspur House in Manchester and we recorded an hour-long set of improvisations. I can't wait to share them through a new digital label I am in the process of setting up and more news on this soon. It was truly a joy to record an artist so free, open and inventive both as a performer and sound creator. We recorded the work on the top floor of Hotspur House which was absolutely wonderful. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. Huge thanks to David Birchall. More soon.
So today was the last gig of our Following The Fleet: Drifters tour. This evening I played to a sell out (cues around the corner) audience at the Dreel Halls in Anstruther with the Newhaven Community Choir doing a support slot before the show. The last few days have freed up a little head space to reflect on the gigs we've done, the people we've met and all the stories we've heard. I've also been thinking about how I can technically and creatively build the show for future performances. The show has gone to various spaces, including cinemas, community halls and mutli-arts venues. Every space has bought with it a new challenge of acoustics and the affect this has on the show and my headspace.
Speaking of headspace, like the tour, its been varied. I've been constantly challenged by what I think I know of myself and how I interact with people. I absolutely love performing and socially interacting with the world but hadn't quite realised how much I need silence, solititude and space alone outside of performances.
Meeting people on every stop has been pretty mind blowing. We've delivered Beatboxing workshops to young people in schools, I've met the descendants of herring fisherman that went out on Drifters and also some of the relatives whose forefathers appear in the Drifters film! Sometimes I've just been stunned into silence knowing that I am speaking to a living, breathing person who is telling me "that was my great-grandfather in that film". It's like somehow there is an inner responsibility to maintain the integrity, honesty and need to keep performing this live score. I really hope that I can.
There have also been some suprising happenings along the way. I've seen a crew of grey seals chilling in the bay in Shetland; met a person who lived on the same street as me growing up in Tower Hamlets in the 70's and 80's in Helmsdale; chatted into the early hours about record labels, breakbeats and single malts in Stromness and also unexpectingly danced into the early hours at a funk, soul, hip hop jam in a pub here in Anstruther, reminiscing on all the tunes i've grown up with and heard through the various stages of life so far.
Overall, this has been an incredible tour. I've received new information about the herring fishing industry and the people whose lives and livelihoods depended on it. Its been fascinating finding out more about John Grierson and how he put the film together (even if there where some shady moves in his techniques!). Its also been wonderful seeing buildings, harbours and locations where Drifters was filmed and also seeing how those places and communities have changed over time.
Following The Fleet: Drifters has been produced by Shona Thomson of A Kind Of Seeing and funded by Film Hub Scotland and Creative Scotland. I would like to express a huge Thank You to Shona, our funders and the BFI for their belief in my work as there is no way I could have done this alone.
Having now explored a small part of the east coast of Scotland, in the future I aim to take Drifters further around Europe, Scandanavia, Greenland, Norway and the rest of the world. It's truly great to see who much discussion and debate has arrisen whilst on this tour around the topics of work, community, ecomonics, migration of people, technology, nature and climate change. Lets see where we drift...
When you're out in the open sea, your fate is out of your hands. Reducing any chance of bad luck was so important to offer comfort to your crew and to your family waiting for you back onshore. The fishing has a huge amount of superstitions surrounding it. Here are some of our favourites passed on to us by storyteller extraordinaire Tom Muir in Stromness, volunteer guide Jim Sutherland in Buckie and District Fishing Heritage Centre, and Willie Johnson on Burra Isle, Shetland (close to where this bear comes from)...
- If on the way to your boat, you pass a tractor with a full load of hay, you must immediately turn the vehicle you're in round in a circle before going any further.
- Don't say the name of fish you're out to catch - it'll never happen if you do.
- Mackerel is the devil's fish because of the high danger involved in catching it.
- Don't mention the minister or rats. Think Macbeth for the fishing industry.
- No women can be on board - though they can (and sometimes did) carry men on their back to the boat to save getting wet before an arduous voyage #justsaying
- And don't event think about bringing a box of Swan Vesta matches on board, some skippers will give you the sack for that kind of bad luck.
I made this voice recording in the Helmsdale Ice House. It's improvised and an immediate response to how I felt in the space. I remember the temperature being cool above my head and sharply cold from the waist down. There was a smell of "time stood still" and the light played weird tricks in and around the space. There was also what looked a wooden shield attached to two huge wooden ores at the entrance of the main chamber. The shield had images of strange creatures and odd events taking place at sea, which all added to the somewhat eerie vibe of the once used ice house.
Me and my tour producer Shona Thomson arrived in Aberdeen yesterday. I am performing tonight at the Lemon Tree. It feels like only yesterday I was here with Aidan O Rourke finishing off our year-long associate artist residency with Aberdeen Performing Arts. Funny how life moves in cycles. So, whilst I have a few moments, I thought I would share some of the happenings of the last few weeks.
I met descendants of the some of the fisherman in the "Drifters" film, in Unst, Lerwick and Orkney. It was a pretty surreal experience and at the same time really lovely to be connecting with people in such unusual ways. I had a wonderful conversations with retired fisherman, Willie Johnson, who worked in the fishing industry and hearing his stories brought so many things in the "Drifters" film to life.
The performances have also been brilliant. We have had sell out audiences in Lerwick and Orkney. We also had 10% of the population of Unst, turn up to the show! Someone said that "if this was London, it would be like having a million people turn up!". Also, film critic, Mark Kermode (who co-produces the Screen Play Festival on Shetland) gave us a full, open and honest review of the show. That totally blew me away.
The show we did at West Side Cinema in Stromness, Orkney went amazingly well too. Mark Jenkins put it together and I have to say, this mans taste in music is jaw droppingly brilliant! We were reminiscing about the days of MO WAX, 90's Hip Hop, Soul, Funk and Jazz records that have inspired us through life. It was so lovely to link up with someone so far away and yet have conversations like we've always known each other. Check MJEdits on Mixcloud if you fancy a top selection of tunes!
Last week we visited Karl Magee at the John Grierson Archive at Stirling University, who very kindly gave us open access to some incredible material relating to John Grierson.
On the 10th we were at Time Span in Helmsdale. It such beautiful place with such a strong herring fishing history. After the show, we had a Q&A session and we had great conversations about the creation process and what inspires someone to create music for films using the voice and technology. Also met a lovely man who was born in Manchester and lived and worked in Tower Hamlets in the 70/80's. We literally lived two streets apart! Again, life has a strange way of bringing the past to the present.
We leave for Anstruther on Friday, for the last date of this Following The Fleet: Drifters tour at the wonderful Dreel Halls. So far its been a brilliant, surprising, emotional, stressful, enlightening and exciting experience. Nice one for being with me along the way.
The lovely, lovely man that is Mark Kermode gave me his thoughts on the Following The Fleet: Drifters performance I did at the Screen Play Festival, which takes place every year at Mareel Cinema on the Shetland Isles. It was such great gig. There was an electric energy and enthusiasm from the audience and it was the biggest screen I've performed on so far, which made it feels like a totally immersive experience. Nice one, Mark!
Shona here. Sitting in a soundcheck, I'm finding that I never tire of watching John Grierson's film. Each place we go to, we find out something new about the film and its subject from our audiences and the research we're doing throughout the journey. Every time I saw this intertitle in the film, I never understood why a catch would be ruined if the sea got in the hold. Surely, there would be a bit of sea sloshing about in there anyway? It was a former boatbuilder from Buckie who answered my question after the screening in Baltasound, Unst. If sea got into a full hold, the fish would start rubbing up against each other. This would de-scale the fish and in turn de-value the catch when it came to auctioning it off on the quay.
To me, this is another example of how efficient herring fishing was in the early 20th century. As we look back at it now it's a labour intensive process, from the hours of hauling in nets to gutting each and every fish before packing. But not a moment's labour was lost. Sleep was often a scarcity on the boat as everyone had a role to play in the relatively few hours they were out at sea. Boats could be casting approximately two miles of nets, some of which were owned by a number of men not onboard but who paid to have their nets cast, so clubbing together to make the best use of the crew's time. The gutting quines were well known for their coefficient teams of three: two gutting and one (usually the tallest) packing the gutted fish into barrels with layers of salt and ice on top.
Grierson's level of research is clear throughout the film. He really got to know his subject indeed he'd spent time on commercial fishing boats as a young man. And audiences today certainly seem to recognise this if the reactions to screenings in former fishing communities on this tour are anything to go by.
Jason will also be coming to a radio and newspaper near you (if you happen to be in Orkney - but we'll post it here too).
Drop us a line if you - or someone you know - would be interested in writing/broad-/podcasting about the Following the Fleet journey or working with us to produce content (e.g. articles, recordings) about the Tour. It's going to be quite a ride: as we travel nearly the length of Scotland, we'll be meeting fishermen, fishwives, fiddlers, storytellers, archivists, young beatboxers, MCs, cinemagoers, musiclovers, and a choir. Just ask us if you'd like to be part of it.
Shona (Tour Producer)
Hello. Introducing myself as the tour producer of Following the Fleet: DRIFTERS. I'll be posting here along with Jason as we prepare for the tour and journey from port to port during September.
By way of background about the tour, Jason and I had worked together on Silent Film + Beatboxing workshops for young people when I was producing the Hippodrome Festival of Silent Cinema in Bo'ness, Scotland. We discovered a shared passion for the power of place in our respective fields of vocal/sound art and archive film to connect with audiences and communities.
I work under the banner of A Kind of Seeing initiating and delivering community creative engagement projects across cinema, live music and sound art. Driven by a passion for connecting archives and shared heritage with place, A Kind of Seeing projects are collaborations with artists, venues, festivals and communities across Scotland and internationally. Follow me at @UrbanTwitcher on Twitter and Instagram.
Launching my forthcoming project - Following the Fleet: DRIFTERS. A cinematic journey to six unique venues from the Shetland Isles to Anstruther in the Kingdom of Fife. A Scottish tour of my live vocal score for the 1929 groundbreaking herring trawler film Drifters complemented by local performers sharing songs and stories from the community fishing traditions.
I Bring My Body to This Place to Observe the Coming and Going of Life.
This is the title of my new sound installation, commissioned by Fermynwood Contemporary Art, which is located at the North (Palmer) bird hide on Aldwincle Lake, Northamptonshire. The piece explores the questions of home, migration and separation. I have entwined the voices of people and birds from various parts of the world and also the transitory sounds of the surrounding nature reserve.
Here is some more information...
"Jason has explored the social history around Thrapston and unearthed connections between Northamptonshire and Washington DC. The resulting soundscape employs stories, conversations, birdsong, music, poetry, myths and legends, as well as field recordings from urban and rural locations in both places, to interweave the historical with the present day and evoke a fresh sense of place through a new sonic landscape.
Thrapston has a special link to the USA. Sir John Washington, the brother of George Washington's great-grandfather, was Mayor of Thrapston in the seventeenth century. His wife is buried in the Church of St James, where the Washington family’s Coat of Arms is displayed, which is thought to be the origination of the Stars and Stripes design of the American flag.
Jason relates the movement of people and the migration of birds to his own history. Reminding us of what we share, as humans with freedom to move from one place to the next, and with birds with their patterns of migration. With everyone seeking a home, a place where we feel safe, where we belong."
For more information and how to get to Aldwincle Lake, visit the ArtRabbit
On the 1st June 2016 I appeared on the BBC nature series, Springwatch Unsprung. The package was about my work as a Beatboxer exploring mimicking birdsong and also the workshops I facilitate working with young people. It was such a brilliant experience! You can catch it again on BBC iPlayer here