The Sea by Stephanie John & Inês Neto dos Santos

The Sea by Stephanie John & Inês Neto dos Santos

[Hear the audio here.]

As a reaction to the idea of sound as a weapon, we began to think about the rehabilitative effects sound could have. We became interested in the idea of sound therapy, and thought about what kind of sound would you use to rehabilitate someone who had been the victim of sonic torture? We looked at the sea as a metaphor, with relations to cycles of birth, nature and its relation to the and moon and the female form. We also became interested in the earliest sounds we hear – those within the womb – and how we could represent these feelings of protection, nature, balance and cycles sonically.

The Sea by Stephanie John & Inês Neto dos SantosWe began by researching lunar and tidal cycles, and multiple texts which discussed human’s relationship to the sea. We challenged ourselves about how we could sonically and physically represent the sea, and the human relationship to it. We researched recording techniques and sound and film artists such as John Smith and Chris Watson. We also took a quote from the film director David Fincher, who described the sound he wanted for a film: ‘think abut the really terrible music you hear in massage parlours, the way it artificially tries to tell you everything is okay, then imagine that sound beginning to curdle and unravel’.

The Sea by Stephanie John & Inês Neto dos SantosOnce we’d completed sketches and several days of research and discussion, we travelled to Margate to make recordings. Our main aim was to record underwater sounds with a hydrophone. We were aware that we needed to avoid creating a sound reminiscent of a spa or synthetic relaxation music, and hydrophone recordings and capturing abstract sound was our way of dealing with this. We recorded sounds throughout the day with multiple mics, then replayed and re-recorded these in an empty underground shell cave to pick up on another layer of echoing sound.

We took the sounds we recorded and experimented with different edits and ways of putting the sounds together. The sounds were not as we expected – far more uncomfortable and abrasive than we’d intended. The sounds we picked up on described texture and movement of the sea and the sand bed. We looked at the tidal and lunar cycle for Margate on the day of the recording, and compressed 24 hours into 48 seconds. We edited the sounds to reflect the incoming and outgoing tides, as well and the moon rise and set.

We wanted to represent the solar cycle too; however, rather than use sound we created a performance which involved the audience sitting with their eyes closed listening to a cycle of our recording, with a panel of led lights being turned up and down to represent the sun.

[Editor’s note: The image here shows how the piece was presented in our portable dome in the end-of-term exhibition. ]

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