Sicily - Artist In Residence

Sound of Ficarra, Sicily.

During April 2015 I spent a month in Ficarra, Sicily, as part of an Artist in Residence program. The program consisted of thirty artists from all over Europe and the Mediterranean, from a range of various art forms all spread out at different municipalities across Sicily. The residency was designed to take the artist out of the normal artistic surroundings and provide an experience outside of their usual working environment, providing the artist with a chance to establish a more authentic and direct relationship with a territory and its inhabitants; the audience for the finished piece.
In order to connect with the area I was able to meet local representatives such as experts in local traditions, institutional delegates and the locals of the town that allowed me to gain knowledge of the territory and its history.
I was provided reading material from authors of the town, shown important public figures that origininated from the town and given knowledge of history via tours of the landmarks that are still standing in the town today. These landmarks date back to the Middle Ages, as well as having history throughout the first and second world wars.

My intentions were to compose a piece of sonic art that represents the town of Ficarra by using not only the town as an influence but the sound of its environment to create a unique site-specific piece. I have built an experimental sound piece based around the sound of the town, including the interactivity of the people of Ficarra. In order to do this I have used a range of recording techniques, such as the use of contact mic's and field recordings to capture what I feel makes up the sound of the town Ficarra.

By meeting with local people I was able to research the town of Ficarra, learning of its most treasured people, acoustic spaces, as well as finding new knowledge of the Folk genre and learn about its compositional make up such as time signatures, chord progressions and tempo.
By using a series of contact microphones at points within the town that I felt were the most active, allowing the people of Ficarra to interact with the microphones, my vision was to capture the every day movements of people in an abstract way. From this, manipulating the recordings enabling me to use them in a musical medium. The combination of using the tonal properties from contact microphone recordings and my analysis of the Folk genre are what make up the fundamentals to the piece. 
Alongside this, I was able to create a multi sample library of the towns church organ that was installed in 1751. This consisted of taking a sample of each note of the pipe organ to then be able to use the organ in any original form later during the production of the piece.
From learning about the various characteristic acoustic spaces in the town, I was able to use convolution reverb processing to create a virtual space of the towns church. This could then be use during post production, combined with field recordings of the town which are played in their raw format as well as well being manipulated to give tonal value to these sounds.
While being in Ficarra, being surrounded by the life and having a constant stimulous I was able to find my perception of the make up of the sound of the town, its heritage, the people that lived there, the musical influences and the importance of the traditions of the town, along with its most treasured acoustic environments. Being constantly exposed to this allowed me to have inspired decision making. 
I was able to digitally simulate the reverberation of the physical space by using a convolution reverb process. I was able to create an impulse response to replicate a virtual model of the space. This could then be applied by using the impulse response recording and the signal of that space is then processed and used to treat and react to an entirely different signal.
For this I used the transient method as apposed using the sine sweep as the arrangements of time and more equipment were not possible. I experimented with a range noises to create a loud enough burst of noise in order to ‘excite’ the rooms acoustic properties.
The towns main church, which was very important to the towns current culture as well as its heritage, had an 18th century pipe organ. I was able to create a multi sample library of the church's organ. In order to do this, I set up a series of microphones at different points of the church, close and distant in order to capture the organ and the sound of the organ within the space. From this, I then recorded the organ note by note, in order for me to then use this digitally to apply to a keyboard and use just as if I was playing the organ - when creating my piece digitally.
After spending time within the town something that stood out to me as being Important to capture was the sound of the church bells that rang every 15 minutes of everyday. At various times on different days they would ring for long periods of time. During the recording process I found that the birds seemed to almost be in time to the pulse given off by the church bells. My field recordings of the town that included the bells and birds, not only did they seem synchronised but surrounding sounds such as people and cars driving through the town seemed to almost be in time to this given pulse. This tempo of the town influenced me when buliding the track.
This is what inspired my decision for what I felt was the tempo of the town. The town seemed to have a tempo, as the bells rang the birds sang and became somewhat synchronised throughout the evening piece. The interesting thing when analysing the piece was that the beats seemed to be at 120bpm meaning exactly 2 beats to every second.
I began manipulating sounds and re-synthesising recorded material to be enable to tonalise them to be used as music.
From using the town as my inspiration for the tempo, feel and pace of the piece, this enabled me to build rhythms from captured sounds from the town that I felt reflect the character of the surroundings. All audio parts within the piece were recordings taken from the environment to build an abstract but somewhat musical piece. 
The project concluded by presenting the work, accompanied with visuals, to the towns mayor and other influencial people from the town such as politicians, art curators, local artists and more importantly the people of the town.
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