At the start of their Residency with Drake Music our three Artists in Residence for 2020 were tasked with creating a podcast together. And then the Coronavirus crisis happened and everything shifted.
Read the thoughtful and illuminating reflections from the AiRs below.
The podcast conjures up the memory of being with the Drake Music staff team on our first and only day we had together in our artist residency before the Lockdown. The DM team’s sharing and our togetherness is rendered in the aliveness of how music feels when we experience it and enjoy it.
During Lockdown and remote working, Sonia and my barriers clashed quite loudly and then they clattered to the floor. We both peered up at each other as if to pose “Oh dear, what now?” And then we giggled. And giggled some more.
Sonia responded to the podcast as a whole and encompassed the energy of the world during lockdown and the brief into one song. It felt poignant that it was placed at the end of the podcast, with a rush of sea that continuously, over and over again, lapped up on the sand. I learned how tremendously powerful placement of songs were in a podcast, even when attending to it in an abstract way.
Sonia found birdsong and we added it to the forest where I’d discovered Carien was. Beside me, and all around us, was birdsong in a forest that opened up into a wide field, lacking trees. Sonia is there with me also, observing.
Together we discovered Tom who existed in a song. In a room with posters and music, Sonia and I existed in the cracks of the wall, feeling our way through Tom’s sense of humour and impatience and we mirrored his humour, drifting in and out with the sound of the tide over Sonia’s voice towards the end.
You see, Sonia and I were very adamant we wanted to create an abstract podcast, one where listeners could go to the places they’d guided us to, even if they weren’t aware that they had. We wanted to exist, but only as musicians revealing each moment as sound.
People have a lot of power in what they bring to a room. Without them, Sonia and I would have nothing new to discover. I’d heard sea splashing against a stone wall and fisherman talking loudly as Myriam had described her hometown. The wind became Louis as he guided us around the landscape, with each decision he made in the choice of words as wind changes form around every element of the environment.
Each member of Drake Music brought us to spaces that were arresting like Joy, who I felt I could see behind the glass in a rain drenched street.
So much power in our collaboration despite our isolation and remoteness.
Gareth held and hosted a space so that Sonia and I could see how the podcast affected audiences. This offered up vital information we needed towards the text description of the podcast. I needed to see reactions in people’s faces about how the podcast made them feel. Still different to a script and to a simple description of songs, text can word paint, songs can be heard and felt in textured language on paper or on screen.
Making this podcast made me realise there is power in exploring the creative process of journeying in sound and it is through paying attention to the radical nuances of how we relate to each other that we become radical musicians and sound artists.
When first presented with this task I was slightly filled with horror, as is always the way with me and things that are a bit out of my comfort zone! However, I’ve been battling with this propensity to hide in the cupboard lately and had a go at this podcast lark.
Late March was a puzzling time for a lot of us for various Covid-related, and other, reasons and the DM AiRs were grappling with the idea of the artist residency moving online to remote working.
As it was, Elinor & I would create the podcast from interviews taken from DM staff from our only ever actual day in the London office in early March, and then Gareth would join us for the final stages of presenting the actual results.
Creating the podcast coincided with getting to know the other AiRs too and was almost part of the process. I got to know Elinor a bit more and learned about her practice and it was a road of constant surprises as we navigated some wee bumps and celebrated successes.
The resulting podcast is largely the coming together of different responses to the same material, then guided through Elinor’s journeying with words and narrative and me adding melody and harmony. It’s quite unlike any other podcast I’ve listened to, where it’s mostly conversation about something or other.
This podcast feels expansive, in the way watching a film at the cinema does. So, cinematic, I guess! Ultimately an online listening party of the podcast for in-house Drake Music folks was presented by Gareth and it went pretty well I think …
I’d been away from Drake Music on compassionate leave for a couple of weeks, which put our original planned collaboration ‘on hold’. During that time, Elinor and Sonia had been collaborating on the podcast project. I knew that they’d been working with the interviews we held on our first day with some of the core team at Drake Music, and I’d heard a couple of 30 second snippets of some of the music material they’d been creating, held in our shared Dropbox, but everything else was new to me.
Sonia and Elinor had come up with a plan to share the podcast with the wider DM team over Zoom as a ‘Listening Party’. This was an important part of the process, and wasn’t about presenting a ‘finished product’: it was instrumental in creating a text description of the podcast for Deaf and Neurodivergent audiences, based on people’s reactions and their written and verbal reflections. And it was also a way of testing the podcast out on a smaller audience before making it public, spotting areas that the Artists in Residence might want to tweak.
Planning the party, it was decided I could act as a host for the meeting, while Sonia and Elinor would use the space to take note of what happened in the Zoom. I was still pretty unfamiliar with video-conferencing, and really not so experienced in facilitating this kind of event pre-Lockdown, so I compensated by writing a kind of script to help keep me grounded. It was probably a bit of overkill, but given the care and time Elinor and Sonia had put into the work so far, I wanted to make sure everything was relaxed and went as smoothly as possible (myself included)!
Hearing the track for the first time was an extremely powerful experience and took me on a journey – I was struck by how cinematic it felt, by the clear images it conjured. Even as I write this in the 31 degree June sun, I can still see the rain-soaked street, the reflections in the glass.