Be our guest, Oriel Davies, Powys.
June – September 2013
Who is this who is coming takes as a starting point the idea of the haunted B&B; many such establishments are rumoured to have a resident ghost and indeed, it is often a selling point to prospective visitors.
This new installation references the classic 1968 television play Whistle and I’ll Come to You directed by Jonathan Miller from the original ghost story written by MR James in 1904. It features the breakfast scene in a guest house whereby an empirically minded Cambridge Professor declares his scepticism regarding the supernatural but later comes to find himself prey to a terrifying otherworldly force. The play’s simple but haunting treatment conjures an atmospheric cautionary tale which warns against the rigidity of fixed academic opinions – as the professor illustrates with his self-satisfied corruption of Shakespeare’s quotation from Hamlet, “There are more things in philosophy than are dreamt of in heaven and earth…”*
The installation is further expanded with a series of documented ghost stories from the Newtown area and sound and video experiments which can be seen here.
The installation for Oriel Davies consists of 2 main elements; A video presented on the vintage television and a 4 channel sound work allied to the table setting. Derived from the incidental audio within the breakfast scene, the sound emanating from the table is presented as 2 separate stereo works. A number of techniques and ideas were used in its production.
First of all the scene was examined to identify all of the sounds that contain no dialogue – the silences between words; cutlery on crockery; sounds of the professor eating etc. were extracted and placed in a time-line. While the volume was increased, the durations and relative positions of these clips were maintained to keep the random rhythmic structure of silences within the scene.
The very short, sharp sounds of cutlery and crockery were extracted and condensed to remove the gaps in between and create a single sample. This was then treated using software dedicated to time-stretching, changing the 4 second sample into 4 minutes. This element in the overall sound is the more musical, orchestral, composed sounding piece. The musical tonal qualities coming from the ringing sound of the original samples.
The clip of condensed sounds of the cutlery and crockery was added a second time and time-stretched to 15 seconds, this time allowing the samples to pitch shift with the duration change. Finally the unprocessed, individual cutlery and crockery samples were reintroduced to the time-line and scattered randomly throughout the time-line, repeating to spread them across the entire duration.
These 3 elements were then combined into 2 stereo files, each containing the more musical element in both channels and the silences or cutlery placed in only the left or right channel. Playing together as separate sources allows small variations in the timing which when combined with the sound on the television create a complex, subtly changing work.
The use of recorded silences has been important within Absent but not Forgotten since it’s inception in 2010. It’s use is derived from ideas surrounding paranormal investigation and EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon), and in particular the studies undertaken by my grandfather who used to attend spiritualist meetings, record the medium and analyse the silences within the recordings to try and find evidence of the voices. We have adopted this technique and used it as a starting point within a number of our video and installation works.
The video in the gallery is a simple corruption of footage from ‘Whistle and I’ll come to you’ using filters which emulate analogue detuning and static interference. The breakfast scene emerges from the distorted, detuned footage roughly once every 10 minutes. The white noise soundtrack within the video is created by processing silences extracted from the breakfast scene, with the volume modulated randomly, the scene itself has it’s soundtrack left intact.
*”There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”