“Step into this auditory experience and submerge yourself in the feeling of sound. In collaboration with Colchester Zoo, CLIP have stretched, twisted and pulled various the vocalisations of the smallest animals into a frequency range which elephants use to communicate – sub 20hz.”
Through my work with the Young Art Kommunity at Firstsite, a contemporary art gallery here in Colchester, I founded CLIP with sound artist Simon Keep. CLIP is an opportunity for sonic exploration through collaboration, discussion, skill sharing, jamming sessions and performance. We explore the boundaries between sound and music, where the process of creation becomes as intriguing as the final result. We use sonic experiments, improvisation and performance as a way to improve confidence and increase musical knowledge.
In 2016 we collaborated with Colchester zoo to record a selection of their most vocal residents and use these vocalisations for an installation within the gallery.
We were interested in the translation of sound, how could the smallest critter communicate with one of the largest mammals? Essentially, we wanted to build a musical google translate. So, we began by pitching down the chirps of the dart frog by a few octaves, we ‘translated’ it into the frequency range that elephants use for communication, sub bass. Ok, so admittedly its a very bad version of google translate – but you get the idea.
We then continued this process for a variety of recordings from the zoo; The squarks of the flamingos (whom seriously sound like the woodwind in music for 18 musicians), the rustlings of a cockroach across a tambourine and shrieks of the baboons. We put the recordings through a variety of Reaktor patches (a native instruments synthesiser) to create drones and loops.
The installation was a part of Flipside, a two week festival at Firstsite – an exhibition produced and curated by young people for everyone. The installation had its own room within the exhibition so we began to consider visual representations of sound accompany the bass from our subwoofer we rented for the duration of the exhibition. However we soon realised we didn’t want to divert attention away from the aural and physical sensation, so instead we just dropped a few beanbags and dimmed the lights – this was a room you needed to experience for a few minutes to feel the weight of the bass upon your body.
Working with the zoo was a fascinating experience, they were keen to get recordings for their own archival purposes and we wanted some unique sounds for our own. Leaving equipment in animal enclosures over night was slightly terrifying, but we made sure to take every safety precaution – both for the safety of the animals and our very expensive equipment!
This was an incredible project to facilitate, creating an opportunity for the young people to learn both more about the animals we recorded, the physics of sound and how you create an art installation.
Elephant in the Room
Colchester Zoo & Firstsite, Colchester