British composer Marc Yeats at the SALT Residency at PVA MediaLab
Well-known British contemporary classical composer, Marc Yeats, writes about his recent experiences taking part in PVA MediaLab’s SALT residency ‘the language of place’ (27.02 – 7.03 2010) based in Bridport, Dorset, UK.
Marc Yeats with sound recording gear on, in St Catherine’s Chapel
Photo © Duncan Whitley
“I went on the SALT residency (27th February to 6th march 2010) to learn how to make field recordings so that I could compose music with these found and gestural sounds and use these new skills to make future recordings for sound-art pieces. This would be the first time I had ever undertaken live recording. I also wanted to learn how to present a piece of music through multi-channel format and presented ‘responsoria’ through a quadraphonic set up. This was an amazing experience and brought the piece to life spatially in a way I hadn’t imagined!
I worked in St. Catherine’s Chapel (see below) on a very windy day. The ambiance of the chapel, designed to amplify the voice, was extraordinary. All the recordings made in the chapel were filtered through this distinctive resonance and each recording, no matter how intimate, was accompanied by the noise of the wind blowing outside. I worked with Duncan Whitley who taught me the skills necessary to record. With my instruction, Duncan banged doors, scraped his feet in the gravel, strummed and vibrated a prepared guitar and recorded my voice as I sung. I later edited, multi-layered and constructed these recordings into ‘responsoria’ which was presented at the Sound Symposium at West Bay Dorset, also organised by PVA MediaLab.
The SALT residency enabled me to learn these new skills in an intense, supportive and friendly environment. I’d like to thank everyone at PVA MediaLab for their support during this time but especially Duncan Whitley for his expertise and David Rogers for a friendly ear and numerous rollies, oh, and Mandy Rathbone for many cups of tea!”
In music, church chant involving the response by a choir to a verse sung by soloists, also called respond. Originally this would have taken the form of a response by the congregation to the leader or cantor. In the 9th century, it became an elaborate musical form demanding trained soloists and choir. The Gradual, Alleluia, and (for a time) the Offertory of the Mass were responsorial chants.
The most important responsoria in the Offices were the responsoria prolixa, sung at Matins. Like those of the Mass, they became a vehicle for polyphonic settings, the polyphony being reserved for the soloists’ portions of the chant.
The body of the chapel, the body of a prepared guitar, resonate. Voice, floors and doors are also sounded in response to architecture, history and ambience.
St. Catherine’s Chapel, Abbotsbury, Dorset.
Extract of Responsoria on www.myspace.com/marcyeats
PVA MediaLab is a dedicated artist-led space which supports creativity and research, nurtures artists and engages with local and wider communities. The studio is a process-oriented environment which supports experimental and practice-based research. It offers support to multi-disciplinary projects and diverse artists/new media practitioners, particularly those investigating new areas in their practice.