I travel to the South of France regularly. In particular I like to visit a town called Fontaine de Vaucluse. It is located 8km from Isle sur la Sorgue and 34km from Avignon. The small village of Fontaine de Vaucluse is home to one of the largest natural springs in the world. This town is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. I could get lost in its ‘sound’ forever.
There is a huge working ‘Paper Mill’ in the village that is powered by water from the mountain and it was this spectacle that I wanted to paint with sound.
It would have been easier to just get my tape recorder and dangle it over the side of the rapids but that was not what I had in mind when approaching this recording.
I needed to make up my own impressionistic design and paint this musical canvas from my own love of this peaceful temple of water.
I took snapshots and sounds of the water mill and came back to my studio to create those sounds from scratch.
I wanted to add colour and dimension to my memories of sitting for hours on end listening to the slow turning wheel whilst all around me nature was dancing all over me.
St. Raphael is a seaside town on the Cote D’Azur (south of France).
It is protected by a giant Angel (St. Raphael) which is positioned near the harbour. By day the town is busy (always buzzing) and by night diners go to dinner whilst teenagers hold hands on beaches or gangs of friends chill (either by relaxing with a ‘cold one’ or playing beach volleyball, basketball or late night swimming).
Occasionally I would disappear into the very early part of the morning and record the sounds from the decaying night before. I wanted to somehow capture those vibrations and bottle them up and allow them to spill out into my studio.
I needed to record the sound of the vast skies that surround the harbour town and collect the atmosphere that the detritus from ‘past energies’ can only bring. Esoteric and exotic work in tandem with one another mixed with the smells of spice, pine trees and churros. Early morning risers take their first coffee whilst joggers run up and down the revetment metres away from the beach where some lovers are still chilling out to the sounds of the Mediterranean Sea and muffled slow pop music.
I’m spoilt for choice with my sound recorder and feel extremely grateful that with this ‘mind environment’ I’m going to limit my palette and just steal tiny moments of time.
I’m very attracted to the very simple sound of white noise. In my case it soothes my tinnitus. The trouble with having a continuous white noise sound sometimes is that it never gives the brain a chance to fill in the gaps with its own reason. Therefore, I wanted to break up the white noise. I used the sound of an old disused factory and asked a friend of mine (a welder) to try out his machine in this amazing environment. I positioned three microphones in this factory so that I could record all kinds of reflected sounds. There were pipes of all sizes scattered around the colossal building and so I hung them up and played them as if they were percussion instruments. The echo was natural in this huge warehouse. This structure inspired me to create a mood that lead me to believe I was in the hull of the great ship ‘SS GREAT BRITAIN’ (made by Isambard Kingdom Brunel).
I wanted to imagine they were lying peacefully in a hammock as the ship gently cuts through the ocean waves and into the distant sunset.
Gentle metallic knocking noises (to the beat of a wonky clock and gorgeous creaking iron) rock the listener to sleep or allow the mind to wander for a while whilst the great ship is sailing.
Gary Plumley is one of the greatest musicians that has graced my life and made it all the richer. Gary possesses many exotic woodwind instruments and one in particular puts me so far into another state of mind that I felt utterly compelled to feature it in this tune. The instrument is called a Bansuri, which it is a bamboo flute.
I love steam trains and so therefore I needed to go back and revisit this incredible sound. I recorded the steam engines from Havenstreet Steam Railway which is nearby to where I live. The recordings were made in August during the middle of a heatwave. Therefore it was inevitable that I found a hot and tropical country to position the music into.
Usually for me I would have gone to Sri Lanka to capture my sounds but I wanted to go back in time to the early days of steam and I wasn’t sure if it was possible to find a working steam train and active line that would accommodate my needs. So I created my ‘rainforest’ Steam Railway out of the tones and noises that exist on the Isle of Wight.
I used the great train as my rhythm section, the birdsong and train whistle were my harmonic counterpoints whilst the flute majestically glides over the mountain tops and into the mind.
I wanted to place the listener into a time when the world was being born. Lava is gently running down the mountainous volcanoes. Stars are twinkling brightly and singing to the tune of the night time.
I would go to the beach in the summer to collect my many found sounds. Footsteps on the shingle and scuffing sounds were meticulously recorded and then brought back to my studio. Here I would listen to them talking to me in a way that helped me work out the greater puzzle that I was about to form.
Backward sounds, slowed down sounds and panned sounds were created to give an ambience to the main focal point: terraforming.
The birth of planet ‘Mother Earth’.
This piece of music was constructed for the BBC documentary and it was to be used specifically for Anthony (one of the members of our tinnitus community).
‘Tony’ mainly experiences two different types of tinnitus hz frequencies. They range from between 4000 hz to 10,000 hz.
So I embarked on this mammoth voyage to give Tony a music therapy that would sooth and calm his Tinnitus sounds.
I decided to paint this musical landscape:
I wanted to place the listener is in New Orleans (in the French quarter) it is hot, steamy and is set in the night time. There is a woman talking in English and French, offering incredibly positive affirmations. Each sentence is hurled into the air and swirls around the town like tumbleweed.
A saxophone player is busking at the end of Bourbon Street whilst tap dancing hoofers are tapping out a gentle ‘time step’ on an old wooden board to the beat of the night.
Cicadas and wildlife sing to the saxophone whilst ‘classical harp’ sings over the vocal to create an organic symphonic back drop.
Occasionally we take an excursion into the back alleys and underbelly of this vibrant city, all the time the steam boat travels along the Mississippi, footsteps lead the way and keep taking us on a perpetual adventure to explore the twilight delights.