Sounding Leeds

Symposium Event exploring the past, present and future of sound, sound media and music in public art and social practice in Leeds.

Friday 14th of October 2016 at the Tetley, Leeds.

Event organised by Matt Green and Phil Legard. 

Sounding Leeds was the inaugural event for Leeds Beckett’s Music, Sound and Site research group. This group, set up by Matt Green and Phil Legard, is concerned with practice-based research in the broad area of sound practice in site-specific endeavour. The Sounding Leeds symposium brought together a diverse range of speakers to explore the past, present and future of sound, sound media and music in public art and social practice in Leeds.

The day commenced with an opening address by Matt Green and an introduction to the first speaker, Sue Ball of MAAP. Sue presented the highlights of an extensive portfolio of sound art work that she has curated/managed in Leeds. This has included bringing acclaimed sound installation artist Bill Fontana (2005) and Sound and Music’ Expo festival (2009) to Leeds.

Sue Ball also introduced ‘Light’ Neville Street, an interdisciplinary urban redevelopment project with a high regard for sound and acoustics that bore Hans Peter Kuhn’s Sound and Light Transit installation (2009), one of only a handful of permanent sculptural works in the world that comprise sound, and one of even fewer that engage computing technologies. Following Sue’s talk, an aural document of Hans Peter’s installation was played followed by a recorded interview with Hans Peter about Sound and Light Transit, which was conducted by Matt Green.

The morning’s focus upon ‘Light’ Neville Street concluded with an ‘in conversation’ panel. The panel comprised Sue Ball, Matt Murphy of Baumann Lyons Architects (managers of the Neville street project) and Andrew Edwards (artist responsible for the passageway’s east wall). Matt Green led the conversation and also brought to the discussion comments from Hans Peter Kuhn and representatives of Arup Acoustics, who were unable to attend in person.

The morning session concluded with a presentation by David Prior who was visiting from Falmouth University. David spoke of this work as part of Liminal with architect Frances Crow. Primarily, David described two works by the group: Organ of Corti (2010) for which the group won the 2010 PRS for Music Foundation’s New Music award; and Of This Parish, which explored the significance of bells to community identity. The work was produced and first shown in Sul, a parish town in Northern Portugal, in 2013 and the documentation has since been collated in to a film of the same name (2014).

The afternoon session was hosted by Phil Legard and commenced with Andy Abbott, an artist, musician and writer, and ‘Producer Music and Visual Arts’ at University of Bradford. Andy’s presentation primarily comprised of a paper entitled Sounding Out The Commons in Leeds and Bradford that asserted the importance of communities, grassroots initiatives and social and political action to both cities’ past and present sound and music scenes, particularly the overlooked punk, DIY and experimental scenes.

Alan Dunn spoke of the visits of Chris Watson (Bafta winning wildlife sound recordist, field recordist and sound artist) to the fine art department of Leeds Beckett, where Alan is lecturer. Alan accounted Chris’ work with the students and in doing signified how collaboration between students and professionals can benefit the practice and creativity of both parties.

Ed Waring spoke about his work with Hope and Social, a band whose practice includes community engagement. In particular, he spoke of a piece entitled Bring the Happy (2010) which was a collaboration between the band and Invisible Flock, an interactive arts organisation based in Leeds. Since this work, Ed has operated as sound specialist for Invisible Flock. He concluded his presentation describing Invisible Flock’s most recent work 105dB (2016).

Marion Harrison, an artist, curator and lecturer based in Leeds, discussed Project Radio (2015), which Marion produced in collaboration with artist Sophie Mallett. Project Radio was an exhibition space and online radio broadcast that emphasised the collaborative potential of sound art and radio within the gallery space.

James Mabbett, an artist, musician and composer, spoke of his work as part of Napoleon IVth, in particular the installation and performance piece entitled Union Chapel (2014) and Sound Document(2015), which brought ambient sound and improvised live music to the many space of Leeds Central Library.

The afternoon presentations concluded with an invitation for the audience to share their own work pertaining to the day’s subject. Introductions were provided by: Annie Jamieson (National Media Museum, Bradford and University of Leeds); Dom Clare (Leeds-based musician and mastering engineer); Helen Clarke (Leeds Beckett University); Ben Dalton (Leeds Beckett University); Dave Proctor (Leeds Beckett University); Andrew Wilson (member of art and science group Superposition); Alex DeLittle (University of Leeds) and Sam Nicholls (Leeds Beckett University).

These introductions stimulated a great deal of conversation about the wider network of practitioners, academics and public bodies invested in sound and arts in the region, and led to a lively discussion about the role of sound-based arts in developing narratives around Leeds’ 2023 capital of culture bid, particularly the contested place of the Leeds’ vibrant underground and experimental musical subcultures in such a context.

Sounding Leeds concluded with a commitment from Music, Sound and Site to arrange periodic get-togethers to share work and ideas. MSS are also planning a second symposium for 2017: Punk, Underground and Experimental Music in West Yorkshire; an academic response to the symposium and review of ‘Light’ Neville Street.