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King's Cross

Fretwell, Paul (2015) King's Cross. Taukay Edizioni Musicali Item format: CD. (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:83821)

The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided.
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King’s Cross is stereo audio work for performance over loudspeakers. The main materials for the work are taken from the King’s Cross Voices Oral History Project. I also made extensive audio recordings around the King’s Cross area which form an important part of the piece. The sounds I collected were transformed using spectral sound processing techniques, providing me with a broad palette of resources.

My research explores the use of sound-gestures and textures that are directly proprioceptive (ie, concerned with tension and relaxation as experienced by the human frame) in order to create an effective sound discourse. In King’s Cross, I wanted to investigate how a sonic discourse that is primarily gestural could incorporate two other elements that both function differently: 1) soundscape tends to be ‘scene’ based, establishing a human ‘viewer’ and the ‘viewed’ environment; 2) oral history uses spoken language to communicate memories, thoughts and reflections.

During this research period, a particular approach to working with real-world recorded materials was prominent in the UK. In this aesthetic, the materials are (mostly) allowed to speak for themselves, editing is used to frame and structure the narrative, with musical elements supporting and commenting on the intended meaning. This ‘documentary’ form is an important strand of both oral history work and soundscape composition. However, I did not want to replicate the processes and methods of this type of research, where the meaning of the finished work remains closely aligned with the original context of the materials.

I decided to use only female voices from the King’s Cross archives for a number of reasons: 1) to establish useful limits in the sound palette, 2) as an homage to female composers such as Katherine Norman and Cathy Lane who have previously incorporated oral history their work, and 3) because I value the insights we gain from alternative perspectives.

The exploratory stage of research involved finding novel connections and common patterns between the components. There were many direct connections between some spoken words and the environmental sounds (‘trains’, for example). These connections are too simplistic to be of much use in this work, although there are one or two occasions in the final piece where that technique is used. I aimed to bring these disparate elements together in more unusual ways. To do this, I drew out some key themes that would help define the work: 1) Memory and remembering the past (a common topic throughout the oral history interviews), 2) Errors and glitches in the oral history recordings (as a metaphor for the loss of memory), 3) the use of street and location names by interviewees to situate memories in a specific place

In the final work, fragments of stories from different eras are brought together, regardless of their chronology - the time of horses and carts, playing marbles in the road, to the tragic fire in the underground station and the warehouse dance clubs of recent times. Road names are picked out from the interviews and reassembled to suggest fragmented aural maps, offering a collapse of geographical space as a counterpart to the collapse of temporal space that occurs in the piece. The piece begins with distortion and glitches, suggesting that just as our memories are imperfect and can decay over time, the technology we use to store such things is also liable to decay, fragmentation and error.

The narratives and conventions attached to the original materials are not allowed to develop during the work. Instead, a new metaphorical discourse, abstracted from the interplay of the different sonic elements is constructed. Although King’s Cross uses materials that are specific to one place, it is not about that place. King’s Cross is about memory, loss of memory, and the sadness of remembering what is lost.

King’s Cross gained international recognition in two composition competitions:

1) Finalist in the KLANG! Electroacoustic composition competition 2014, France (anonymous submission). Jury consists of the most highly respected figures of the acousmatic tradition: François Bayle , Francis Dhomont, Julien Guillamat , Jonty Harrison, Denis Smalley, Etienne Schwarcz and Annette Vande Gorne

2) Finalist in the Città di Udine International Composition Competition, 2014, Italy (anonymous submission). Jury consists of prominent leaders in composition from a range of contemporary traditions: Michele Biasutti, Bernardino Beggio, Christopher Chafe, Marta Ghezzo and Alexander Shchetynsky.

The work has also been presented at key conferences and festivals for electroacoustic music, most notably the International Computer Music Conference 2015, USA (selection by peer review). It is published on the CD, Contemporanea 2014 (Taukay 156), and is also available on iTunes and Amazon.

Item Type: Composition
Uncontrolled keywords: Acousmatic, Electroacoustic, soundscape, oral history, fixed sound, tape music
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Arts
Depositing User: Paul Fretwell
Date Deposited: 30 Oct 2020 09:06 UTC
Last Modified: 17 Aug 2022 11:02 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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