Maximum Exposure Application for SAW

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Supporting materials for this proposal can be found below

Project Outline

This proposal comes to you from artists Eileen Simpson and Ben White working under the collaborative platform Open Music Archive.

In response to the invitation to propose a public artwork for Somerset Art Works we were compelled to focus on the idea of the public voice.

Drawing on rare manuscripts released from the constraints of copyright we intend to circulate words and melodies collected just over a century ago from places in Somerset and re-distribute them freely through sonic public intervention and free public events.

Between 1904 and 1909 over 60 singers sang for Cecil Sharp, a musicologist who went on to track the flow of folk music over the world – from rural England to the Appalachians. Sharp traveled by bicycle around Somerset at the beginning of the last century transcribing lyrics and music, recording and preserving folk music in the only way accessible to him at the time and later published the collection as a folio of work.

There has been much debate around the profiles of the 60 ‘folk’ that Sharp asked to sing for him, but the locations of the singer’s vocalizations are well documented and can be traced practically down to the number on the front door.

We would like to engage with the networks that currently exist in Somerset of singers and orators to invite them to re-visit, re-perform and re-interpret the original manuscripts in contemporary public spaces in Somerset.

Playback, both live and pre-record, will occur in public spaces, which we are keen to identify during our research period. We are particularly interested in public spaces that suffer from a degree of precarity in the current climate, mirroring the more abstract precarity of resources in the public domain. Public spaces that we would like to explore for playback include: public libraries, public council buildings, local recreation centres, waiting rooms, school playgrounds and bus shelters. The new recordings and performances would be released using creative commons attribution share-alike licenses so like their public domain sources generate a resource for future use.

In practical terms we envisage a series of directional speakers to be physically installed at site specific locations plus an event or series of events programmed to take place in these locations that will explore the voice in a live context – both acapella source code and electronically processed mutations. We are also keen to investigate the possibility of inserting recordings into the programming of local radio channels to broadcast the project across the county.

Open Music Archive is committed to the free and open distribution of material that has fallen into the public domain. We have recently initiated a project exploring a history of folk music through Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music for the 17th Biennale of Sydney – Songs of Survival in a Precarious Age; worked with a 22 piece women’s choir to create a new work responding to archive material and manuscripts at The Women’s Library, London; and are currently developing a series of events exploring sonic processing of the voice for Camden Arts Centre, London.

Supporting Materials

The Brilliant and the Dark - The Women's Library, London 2010

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Parallel Anthology - 17th Biennale of Sydney / Whitechapel Gallery, London 2010




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Struggle In Jerash - Makan House, Amman / Gasworks, London 2010






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