Well Well, Well-being… Adventures in Sound Art Creation

In June you could hear me in a secret room, underneath a tapas restaurant in Kent…

Yes, strange but true….
in 2015 I was asked to create a Voice Art Sound Installation for the newly refurbished Folkestone Harbour Arm. It’s a wonderful location for arts, entertainment and food and drink – and a jolly good dose of the freshest of air.

The Shepping Forecast

I created The Shepping Forecast – Fokestone’s very own “shipping forecast”, replacing the well known shipping areas with locations and landmarks in Folkestone – and adding social comment and cheeky remarks. It played for a month on the Harbour Arm last year. Anyway, that’s a bit of background for you.

Old High Street – courtesy Creative Quarter

Folkestone Creative Quarter

Early in 2016 I was asked by Adrian Lockwood, the Manager of the Creative Quarter in Folkestone, to create a sound installation piece for Open Quarter Weekend that was happening in June 2016. The Creative Quarter in Folkestone is essentially a triangular area  – The Old High Street, Tontine Street and Payers Park – that has been gradually regenerated by the Creative Foundation with backing by ex Saga man Roger de Haan. The area is increasingly a hub for artists and creatives of all varieties  – with flats, studios and shops bustling with artistic endeavours and creating a vibe most towns would envy.

The buildings in the Old High Street are pretty ancient – the town has Roman roots and hundreds of years of fishing heritage and apparently a network of underground tunnels… (yes, I’d love to record something for those one day..), so I was delighted to be given a hidden and mysterious space to base my piece in. A room under El Cortador Tapas, in the Old High Street. When you peep in the restaurant window, you can see a glass “porthole” on the floor. This is the top of the old well! The well runs through the unused room below and is a source of mystery rather than water these days.

Visiting the space for the first time I absorbed the atmosphere of this strange space and listened to the current owners views on the well and their thoughts about it and how they felt about it being there, with them every day.
There was the mystery of why it was there (halfway up a very steep hill!), when it dates from and how deep it is.. you can see the water but no one knows how deep the water is below the glimpse of the surface.
The feelings of history, danger, foreboding and the notion of wells being life giving and lucky all came together for me.

How to turn thoughts and feelings into a sound art installation?

After researching the history of the well for inspiration and finding out pretty much NOTHING, I decided to use full artistic license and make something up.

Here’s how I devised the piece…

  1. Listed what I knew about the well – facts and feelings and comments that people had made.
  2. Noted how the space made me feel.
  3. Spent a LONG time pondering a “story”.. what was it “telling” me?
  4. Decided how I wanted people to feel when they heard the piece in the room.
  5. Wrote pages of notes of single lines in a variety of styles and a story began to emerge!
  6. Recorded myself performing some of the lines I had written.
  7. Picked up my bass guitar and recorded some improvised music based on my feelings of the well and the story that was emerging.
  8. Created a multitrack session in my Adobe Audition and loaded in a few of the rough recordings to see what happened if I layered them up.
  9. Re-wrote and re-recorded lots of lines based on new focus from hearing everything together.
  10. Put everything in the Session roughly in order and pondered some more.
  11. With the room in mind, I drew up plans of the “stereo image” that I wanted to create.
  12. Mixed the Session so that the sounds were balanced, in the right place in the stereo image and everything sounded the right level (it’s often not about how the levels “look”, as some things seem louder depending on their pitch!)
  13. Listened to the work in progress with the Manager of the Creative Quarter and made a couple more changes to levels.
  14. Heard the piece in situ and had to get the lighting right and the position of the speakers. Made sure it was going to loop happily to itself.

Dominic King from BBC Radio Kent came along to visit the piece as it was being set up – you can see him interviewing me here.

The feedback was good and Well Being added an extra layer to the Open Quarter weekend. I’m looking forward to my next Sound Art Installation work which looks like it’s commencing in September 2016! Pop over to my Sound Art page and have a listen to Well Being online..

Please get in touch if you are interested in having a chat about creating a bespoke sound art piece for your venue. Happy to chat through a vague concept or notion and to embark on a journey of ideas and sounds with you ????

Clare is a Voiceover Artist who uses her BBC sound engineering background and love of storytelling to create site specific sound installation art pieces that surprise and delight.

​​Learn more about Clare’s Voice Artwork and hear Well Being online. Hear Clare’s Commercial and Narration Voiceover work.