You can also purchase this EP as a real life tangible thing. Presented on a heart-shaped USB stick, with a 16 page booklet in a presentation box, this limited edition is both a precious object and an EP of music.
The original intention of this EP was to create a series of compositions that only used sounds recorded in the hospital environment. This idea was forged with the intention that by limiting myself to the sounds available in that space, I would be achieving several things.
Firstly, it would act as a declaration of the musicality evident in the sounds around us, the
sounds of industry, of human activity, and in this case the sounds of illness, treatment and
care. An exercise such as composing music only from these sounds would go some way
towards sharing the world in the manner I hear it, with musicality embedded into the
soundscapes of the everyday places that humans inhabit.
A car crash isn't just a collision of metal and a moment of anxiety; when experienced through the ears, it is aurally complex. A long rising tone created by tyre rubber on tar, a tone that rises from one pitch to the next. A swerve of the wheel by the panicked driver modulates the tone momentarily as it reaches a crescendo of crushed metal and the car chassis collides into a roadside barrier or another car, before it is subdued by a decaying outro of scattering debris which completes the composition; both percussive and melodic.
Secondly, by working only with sounds that exist within the space, the hospital becomes
an instrument with which I can compose, drawing from the lived experience of patients,
families and staff, whilst honouring the sonic materiality of the experiences had in that place.
Over three years I recorded various spaces within the hospital: MRI Scanners, medical
equipment, trolleys, conversations, ambient noise. After compiling this palette of sounds, I
embarked on a period of studio work to explore these sounds in terms of composition.
I originally placed restrictions on what I could use to compose music, in deference to the fact that these sounds were the sonic materiality of the emotional and physical experience within the hospital. Therefore, to add other sounds not borne of the hospital space, felt like it would diminish the potential for these compositions to deliver me towards genuine unknown discovery. However, reflecting on my experience within Alder Hey Children's Hospital, made me completely reconsider my approach as I realised that to honour this experience truthfully, I had to acknowledge my place within in.
Track 1 - EMF
This track is composed of a recording that I made using specialised equipment in an isolation pod in Intensive Care. Using this equipment I was able to record and make audible the electromagnetic frequencies that are emitted from electrical equipment. In an ICU isolation pod there is a flotilla of machinery that arcs around the patient, each making its own audible noise, whilst also producing a range of sound that is outside of the human hearing range but still having an effect on us physically and psychologically. I made a recording of these, transposed to the human hearing range. I then took this recording and travelled to deep in the highlands of Scotland to a place where sound lasts longer than anywhere else on the planet. In this unique space the reverb time is 2 minutes long.
I replayed these recordings of electromagnetic frequencies from ICU into this place and rerecorded them. I then improvised piano to them.
Track 2 - MRI
This track uses the brutal sounds that are emitted from an MRI scan. I recorded these while patients were getting both heart and brain scans. This composition uses MRI field recordings combined with other sounds, samples, and clarinets. I was trying to de-power the brutal sound of the MRI, whilst acknowledging that MRI scanners were invented by EMI, partially funded by the profits from Beatles recordings.
Track 3 - Neonatal
This track adheres to my original idea of creating compositions using only the hospital recordings. It takes the day-to-day sounds of a ward and slowly manipulates them into something more surreal before delivering you back to the soundscape of the hospital space.
Track 4 - Heartbeat
The heartbeat of a patient, a collaborator, a fellow artist. Recorded using a stethoscope and played into the location utilised in Track 1, where the reverb time is 2 minutes long. The heartbeat of a girl entering palliative care, replayed into a place that made the sound of each heartbeat last for two minutes. Recorded in this special place and then combined with tones, piano and strings.