Bog : Transformation and Memory – original artist statement
15’34” Acousmatic Soundscape
Working on this sound installation provided me an opportunity to explore some concepts and compositional techniques that I have been thinking, researching and writing about for several years. Like most of my soundscapes, it does not made up of solely source material (in this case, on site recording at the bog), but is influenced by that source material in ways that evoke elements of the subject of the work. Below are some notes about some of the concepts that I was considering during the creative process. Please do not consider this as the way the piece ‘should’ be experienced, for in a collaborative show the real interest is in the manner the work of three artists interact, shedding new light on each other’s work.
Movement I: Memory
My first serious consideration of bogs was in my visit to the National Museum of Ireland where there was an exhibit of ‘bog bodies’, remarkably preserved remains of people over 2000 years old. I was astounded at the ability of the bog to preserve these remains and the ancient nature of the bog itself. For this movement I chose to use a Gaelic melody, first playing it directly and then improvising on it, both preserving and transforming the melody as the bog is able to do with bodies and other things. Accompanying is a drone, which is not uncommon to Gaelic music and is a sound prevalent in the Langley Bog in airplane traffic, wind, and insects. My thought was to link the Langley Bog with other bogs and try to show their age. Water provides the transition between movements, as water is a constant in the life of a bog.
Movement II: Transformation
The period of peat mining was transformative to the Langley Bog. In this movement drones remain, but are different, having sources in metal and airplane traffic rather than the wood of the bass in movement one. I was interested in the mining of the layers of the bog without using machine sounds. Borrowing techniques from Steve Reich and others, each voice adds to itself before other layers are added. The additive and layering processes retain the same material but transform the overall sound, in a similar manner to the ways mining transformed the bog.
Movement III: Preservation
Preservation is also a transformation through an application of values. The Langley Bog, for example, used to be valued for peat, and is now valued as a site to be preserved. Yet while the bog is not being developed or mined, it is not being protected completely. Sounds of trains and airplanes fill the bog and alter it. Sounds from source recordings are highlighted in this movement. Groups such as the ‘Acoustic Ecology Institute’ reveal the impact human created sounds have on species and spaces. Research by scientists and musicologists has revealed the impact introducing new sounds to an area has on humans and animals. In the same way, consider how the sounds of your own footsteps and the traffic outside the gallery become part of the art experience.
My contributions to this exhibit also included a ten minute excerpt from my field recordings in the bog, and a series of photographs, some of which are included above.