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  • Writer's pictureRitchard Allaway

02/09/22 - Discussing 'Locating Remote Intimacy'

2nd September 2022

Locating Remote Intimacy

Explaining the concept behind the work

Sound is still a new material that I have included within my practice, and although I have been experimenting with it for almost a year, I believe ‘Locating Remote Intimacy’ to be my first completed audio work.

The work is a composition of collected audio clips that I gathered whilst on a residency at Petticoe Wick Bay in Scotland. The audio clips were captured from the moment the journey began and I decided that the journey began when I was still inn my house. It could be said that with my residencies, that the residency only takes place when I enter the destined landscape but for me, I find that a residency begins the moment I aim to walk out of my front door. The reason for this is that I am on a journey of discovery and the discovery has to have a start point, it has to have self- motivation to will the body in to going to find that sense of discovery. To discover something within a landscape is an act of physical engagement, the body and mind must work together to produce an act that will move a person towards their desired intention and that can only come from a starting point.

The opening audio clip describes my movement down my staircase, as I head for the front door. There is a slight sense of rush as each step down has a quick pace. It suggests a level of excitement, and this is emphasized with the initial sound transmitted as feet hit each step loudly. From the steps I open my door, allowing a sense of movement from the interior to the exterior. After I lock my door and check the handle to make sure it is locked, I head to my front gate and open and close it. A short walk to my car is heard with footsteps on a concrete path. The car is unlocked and immediately you can hear the movement of the body as it hits the seat and adjusts itself into position. Once set, I press the engine start button and after a slight silent pause, the technology within the car ignites the engine and the car is live. The audio from the radio automatically switches itself on, and the first human voices are heard at a volume that breaks the soundscape quite abruptly.

The soundscape fades out and in, which is an effect I placed at certain points throughout the piece to suggest transitions in time. The soundscape fades into the car in motion, moving at a speed that could suggest the car is on a main road. Elements of wind can be heard slights and the movement of the rubber tyres reacting to the concrete road as a tension between textures. The radio is the dominant voice within the section of the soundscape. A female presenter is discussing issues within a football team due to the previous nights result. The audience cannot adjust the volume of the radio and must endure a conversation of social content. It is a clip that is at the highest decibels and this intentional as it is intended to suggest that early stages of this journey are within the centralised factors of social culture. To refer back to locating an intimacy, the participant must first endure and/or navigate their way through an uncomfortable part of the journey and that is the socio-chaos.

As another fading transition occurs, a new radio voice is heard briefly before advertisements are aired. After several seconds breaks within the signal start to appear, suggesting that the cars’ location could be somewhere remote or within a landscape that interferes with man-made frequencies. It could be a suggestion towards nature breaking down human inventions or it could be a human invention minimising the functionality of the radio. What does occur for some time within this segment is that radio signal is lost and only static can be heard. The cars tyres and the wind take a more central role at this point allowing the listener to be reminded that a journey is still taking place. After some time, static begins to fade and once again the human voice appears. It gradually lifts in volume taking centre stage within the soundscape.

The next fading transition brings an eighty second clip that features no radio but only the sound of the car moving through a landscape. The wind is much more dominant, and a whistling sound can be heard. It brings a natural element into the travelling car and into the listeners experience. The reduction of the radio promotes the successful navigation from the socio chaos and towards a new landscape that has distanced itself from said culture. Small quiet sounds can be heard of the driver as they shift and move within the car and also use elements of the car to aid its functionality. This is a muted reminder that a human presence is still within the clip.

At transition four a clear change occurs within the landscape as the audio of concrete road is gradually replaced with a surface that has a definitive increase in texture. It gives suggestion that the car has moved to a landscape that is far away from the original social landscape and to a distant place. Wind noise has also been removed from the clip, allowing for a lower projection of volume to take place. The sound piece is now playing at a lower frequency, acting on the intended compositional concept making listeners focus more on what is happening within the soundscape. Nearing the end of this part of the piece, we can hear the movement of the car beginning to slow, and those rougher textures can be clearly heard. The car at the end stops and the engine switches off not before the windows are closed. The final audio heard is the unbuckling of the seat giving a clear notion to the end of the use of the car within this journey.

Transition five begins within footsteps traversing a rocky dirt path. This section of the soundscape provides listens with audio clarity that the traveller is now moving and traversing through a landscape that is of a wilder terrain. It can give some thought as to why the car was left behind, can this section of landscape only be navigated on foot? It could also question how far the traveller has intended to distance themself from social culture as they have abandoned their car and moved beyond an easily accessible realm. With a rocky dirt path, a listener can understand (if having knowledge or experience with such a path) the difficulties one could and may face when navigating such a path. Such paths are slower and uneven, making the navigation more strenuous but questioning as to why the traveller will go through such difficulties to discover a remote wilderness.

As the traveller finds themself within the second to last transition, the soundscape enters a period of pure natural sound with no human interference. The listener is presented with an array of bird call from varying species, slight wind notes and what appears to be the crashing of water. The audio has reached a new level in volume that is lower to the previous clip. At each stage of transition, the volume decreases, encouraging the listener to retune their hearing into a more acute sense. An absent sound and body from the audio clip is the traveller. Removing the human has allowed for the natural landscape to take control of the piece but the listener still remains active, and their presence could suggest that they have taken up the role as the traveller. The listener will find themselves as the sole human presence within the soundscape, although they may not be physically present within the landscape, they are there within an audio experience. Perhaps what has occurred throughout this soundscape has been that the traveller has taken the listener on a clear journey but through manipulating and intensifying the sound levels to induce acute concentration, a transcendence has occurred from the listeners position to an immersed intimate phenomenon. Throughout this current clip and the final transition, the concentrated and lower volume immersive experience is consistent until the end of the soundscape.

The final transition takes the listener to the end of the intimate journey. One last time, the soundscape reduces in volume to its lowest frequency. Bird call can still be heard but this has been reduced somewhat. The crashing of water is still present, but this has also been reduced. The architecture of the soundscape has become muted to a degree that could perhaps make the listener find themselves within the evening. In an evening the landscape becomes quieter and less occurrences happen or we as an audience are not as aware of those occurrences at that point in the day. The soundscape plays out for one hundred and twenty seconds, taking the listener to the end of the journey. Throughout this period the soundscape portrays elements of stillness, intimacy, and remoteness. Those earlier audio clips of the radio and socio culture have been forgotten and instead the listener is left to dwell in a place that is far from those human elements.

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