The Crypt exhibition was site responsive. The crypt gallery is a rather dank and damp space; previous gallery visits through the summer months had revealed the pitfalls of work not responding to the space. The crypt is a place with such character that work which ignores or tries to compete with it is doomed to fail. The August exhibition 'cryptology' in which light, sound, scent and temperature were used to create a sensory experience I found more successful than a variety of 2D work I previously encountered. The space is rather dimly lit and paper, I noticed, had a reaction to the humidity, causing it to ripple. These factors influenced my decision to create a sound piece for the exhibition.
At a meeting in the early planning stages, Julia and I decided to collaborate. We both wanted to respond to the space as a bomb shelter during the second world war and thought this would be a good opportunity to create something together. We were also both keen to create a sound piece – I wanted to use music and Julia was interested in recording interviews. Through the summer we met up to share ideas and things we had been working on as well as visit the crypt.
Working with Julia was enjoyable and informative. She was confident technically, rigging up the sound system (we used an FM transmitter to broadcast our piece from an mp3 player) which encouraged me to embrace Audacity, the sound editing programme. Her breezy embrace of new technology I found inspiring.
I suggested the mise-en-scene we ultimately decided on. From the beginning we agreed upon on a pared down approach, with few objects. We wanted to evoke a sense of the era but didn't want to be museum-like. The objects we decided on were a 1940's radio, a table and a lightbulb. At the very beginning Julia had a replica 1940s radio which was considered briefly. She even got replacement material for the speaker from shop a shop called Radio Days, but as the project progressed we realised we would have to get an authentic radio to convincingly evoke the era. After some online research and thwarted ebay bids, gumtree proved fruitful. An original radio in beautiful condition was available in Standstead for £60. Julia picked it up.
When I started working with Audacity, I based my song choice on sing-a-long songs from the time, including George Formby and similar. I started stretching notes and chords to create ghostly sounds. Some worked better than others. When I had a tutorial on returning after summer, I received feedback about the work at the beginning of term: the music I had chosen was more vaudeville and didn't suggest the era as well as music such as Glen Miller - the radio and the music would be enough to work with in the space - no need to over-egg things by manipulating the music too heavily. I reflected and realised the music had to work well with the radio, and I wasn't sure the music I had chosen at that time did.
I decided to reconsider my music choice. I wanted something radio friendly, immediately evoking the era. I wanted to use a British band if at all possible, as although the American's were undoubtedly a huge influence culturally, I was interested in looking at the home-grown music scene of the time. It wasn't long before I came across Al Bowlly in my research. Hugely popular in the early war years, he died in a London bombing raid, sleeping in bed, after refusing to use the nearest bomb shelter. The combination of Bowlly, the radio and the space created a unique atmosphere in the crypt. The work speaks of time passing and dualities such as presence and absence. This collaboration worked well from the beginning. Julia and I established a close working relationship over the summer months; with regular meet ups to discuss the project. Changing my music choice quite near the deadline wasn't an issue. We both were in agreement the reworked version improved the project overall.