MAS(S) is a new work by artists Tristan Shorr and Rae Champion (CONCRETE) in collaboration with artist Lomond Campbell.
MAS(S) is a sound art project exploring migration, refugees, war and loss through the human voice.
A series of specifically designed generative sound sculptures guided by software and machines will turn the audio testimonies of 8 Ukrainian artists/ refugees into a multi-channel immersive sound experience, culminating into a voice siren that will call out along the British coastline, allowing audiences to actively walk the siren call together, mapping our borders.
We see MAS(S) as communal sound art. A place where the artists words and the generative sound sculptures coexist to become a powerful interpretation of the original text, where the call and vibration of vocal frequencies and words form a sonic narrative, a call to listen and to act.
MAS(S) is both an indoor and outdoor work that allows audiences to sit with and/ or walk with the voices of war.
The work looks to highlight and honour the real stories of the Ukrainian refugees that have shared raw, lived experiences with us and to open a dialogue about our own countries rhetoric and treatment of all refugees.
The following page is an introduction to the ACE funded R&D thus far, and the development and collaborative process of bringing these humbling accounts to a wider audience for an ambitious touring work in 2024.
"the effects that noise possesses and passes to its subjects alter their perceptions, leave them differently and move them to action.."
The sounds and resulting score created by the generative sound sculptures transfers to a series of loudspeakers which run along a one hour coastal route. These speakers call out across the sea and participants/ audiences are invited to walk the siren border together.
There are two parts to the work, the inside sound sculpture(s) which generates a 45 minute soundscsape culminating in a siren sound, and the external loudspeakers marking a coastal border which takes this unique sound and pulses it along a section of UK coastline.
Audiences can attend both parts of the work or just one. The inside sound sculpture allows audiences to sit or stand watching the sculptures movements and generative sonic creation, listening to the soundscape as it develops.
The siren walk will start at a specific time once a day where audiences/ participants will actively engage in a guided communal walk between the siren calls, mapping and collectively allowing the powerful sonic capabilities of these voices to empower those experiencing the work.
In 2022 we worked alongside wonderful Ukrainian artists in the far north of Sweden who had recently fled the war in Ukraine.
These artists shared with us both their art and their recent personal experiences of the war in their homeland. It was incredibly humbling to spend time with each artist and their familes, to listen to their stories of the homes, lives and families they had to leave behind. We are very conscious in this work to make sure we give justice and find a way to echo their voiced experiences into a sound installation that respects their stories and resonates with audiences.
Pulling on the religious iconography we have seen repeated through the work and testimonies of our Ukrainian friends, our work has led us to examine not only MAS as 'Make A Stand', our original title, but to look at the MAS(S) as a word that encompasses a reflection on how we interact with the works themes as they develop.
For us MASS denotes the joining of the people into a group, the crowd, and the build up of voices together. It also suggests a religious MASS, the musical setting for solemnity and song.
The Ukrainian artists involved in this project are:
"The very form of sound itself can be disruptive since it can transgress borders, barricades and blockades"
Generative sound sculpture: Development and prototypes
This prototype currently called the Word Machine utilises its record style stylus arms to scan and trigger the magnetic pins along the rotating disc, opening banks of words/ sentences/ phrases taken from recordings with Ukrainian artists/ refugees over the past year.
The sound example here is a processed part of the sound score as the triggered words slowly transform...
This is an ominous, silently rotating perpetual motion machine, signally when the siren ends in the installation space and is sent to loudspeakers to be pulsed along a stretch of UK coastline.
A skeletal scaffold like structure supports a 2 metre long brass rod, which appears to move effortlessly with no apparent power source. A ticking sound might be all we hear from this machine as it signals the beginning of the siren and the end of a 45 minute soundscape cycle.
For the purposes of the video the sound example is from a series of Siren experiments we have been creating from voices and recordings taken from Ukrainian artists/ refugees.
A modified / custom rotary speaker. Any kind of sound can be played through this speaker (mono only) and easily integrated into the composition. This final prototype has arms on the side that will lower and raise specialised microphones which will pick up the sound of the speaker's AC motor.
This self-noise, and rich harmonically distorted drone, will feedback, disintegrate and agitate the sounds being played through the speaker, gradually overtaking it.
We are also interested in the possibility of using these custom built rotary devices as the main multi-channel speakers in the installation space. Spinning imperceptibly at certain moments, and then in others rotating faster in response to the score. We are interested in how the sound might change in response to proximity to each speaker, and how details will change as audiences navigate the space.
Rotary speaker protoytype 1
This is one part of an idea for a tape loop bank. A large bank of audio cassette players, each with a tape loop triggering certain words/ phrases, slowly disintergrating sound as the single words transition into ambient
We had the idea of displaying this in a dark space with a movable spotlight that would scan over the tape decks. Whichever deck the light is on will be the loop you hear. It will fade between them as a automated light over them in response to audiences movement in the space.
“..to be subjected to noise, made to listen, is to be controlled by a force that diminishes and impedes us from inside..
The act of producing noise, which you (and others) are then subjected to, is empowering”
In Ukraine the drone of sirens has become a continuous soundtrack. Each siren on average rings out for one hour per day.
“After a year of war, air raid sirens have sounded more than 15,000 times in Ukraine”.
The air raid siren is a sound usually denoting fear, panic and action in the listener, a sound that often becomes an eternal alarm in war torn countries.
The final siren has been through various stages of thought, design and transformation during this R&D. We originally began designing large towers to house the siren speakers, with the idea of having the sirens sound through cityscapes, to our final and we believe more apt version of the work, where the sirens will map the border of the British Isles bringing attention to the larger issue of refugees in this country.
The siren in its usual form is a mechanical alarm and triggers fear in those who hear it. In countries at war this siren becomes the soundtrack to daily survival. Our voice siren takes power back into the hands of those who have lost power and autonomy, having been silenced and forced to flee. In creating a siren sound from the artists voices the power and fear are taken back by the people and the noise becomes a communal outcry and human call. The words from the testimonies are finally freed into the air in the form of a voice siren that rings out along a coastal route, pulsing the call from speaker to speaker.
This is a design for the outdoor loudspeakers that will be placed along the coastline. This design has the possibility of the 2 loudspeakers slowly rotating during the 15 minutes each siren plays.
We are interested in the work touring coastal sites and venues around the British Isles.
Each performance will leave a trace, an active mapping through participation. As audiences move along the coast through time and space they come together, reflect, talk, and instigate change.
Sharing events in 2023
We openly invite people to come to sharing’s in England and Scotland in October/ November 2023 where you can talk to the artists, find out more about the project and actively help shape the creative aspect of the final work.
The Anatomy Rooms, Aberdeen – 6th October
The Lengths, Fort William – 7th October
Brighton Dome – 18th October
We would like to give a huge thanks to all those have been involved so far and given their time and considerable energies to this project.
Special thanks to Arts Council England, Counterpoints Arts, Brighton Festival, Arkade Gallery, The Lengths, All in Ideas for supporting and partnering with us on this period of research and development.