Arts & Health initiative commissioning a cohort of artists to make bespoke music and sound installations for the multi-faith chapel at the Grange University Hospital in Llanfrechfa. Funded by Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, in collaboration with Studio Response.
Sound of the Breeze,
Song of the Waves
Leona Jones’s experimental practice is based in sound and she uses her own recordings to create abstract soundscapes as site-responsive events / performances / installations which highlight physicality and context. She considers sound in its widest definition (including language both spoken and written) and its symbiotic relationships with space, movement. Cross-disciplinary collaboration is central to her practice, and she’s worked with musicians, dancers and visual artists. https://www.leonajones.co.uk/
Listen to 'Sound of the Breeze, Song of the Waves'...
Sound of the Breeze, Song of the Waves – composer's note
People are at the centre of this project – in the multi-faith space, making the hospital and, of course, any community. People are diverse, have many skills and interests, and from the start I wanted to bring people together who might not ordinarily get to meet each other. Initially I hoped to run practical workshops for volunteer musicians to create a sound-based site sensitive response to the space. Of course, hands-on workshops were just one of the ideas that had to change due to the increasing pandemic.
As the actual multi-faith space for the project was still being built when the work began, I arranged a visit to the chapel at the Royal Gwent Hospital and met the chaplains of the health board, which helped with imagining a response, but I also realised they all had lovely speaking voices. I asked to make sound recordings of each of them reading a piece of writing that meant something to them. This resulted in a diverse selection of poetry and prose, secular and religious, in English, Arabic and Bengali, which would be used when working with the musicians. I needed to find musicians who were prepared to take risks, willing to try something new, to be part of a process in which no-one would be sure of the end. I was also looking for people who were very empathic and understood how their music could reach out. There’d be no written score, no right or wrong because I’d be asking them to improvise. I concentrated on instruments which used breath, because the etymological basis of ‘inspiration’ in English is the same as ‘breath’. To find the musicians I contacted Gwent-based community orchestras and arts centres and the resulting group of five, playing seven instruments between them, couldn’t have been better. Although it was impossible for us to meet physically, they all embraced the project’s ethos, working individually apart from the Zoom meetings. A beautiful range of improvisations resulted and were recorded, which I edited to create the soundscape.
The piece focuses on the use of breath in music – image by Leona
Individual wind-players' recordings are blended and interwoven – image by Leona
I am hugely respectful of the people who gave time and skills to this project. The chaplains willingly took part at a very early stage, when I was still unsure what role their recordings could play but felt intuitively that it would be an important one. The musicians rose to so many challenges – the majority hadn’t improvised before and admitted to being nervous about it. However, they all went on to work without notation, some even creating graphic scores for their own creations, finding the music within spoken word and environmental sounds, and demonstrating their empathy for the situations of the people who’ll be using the space. It’s been a journey, an achievement for all who undertook it, and we’re all certain we’ve gained something very special from it.
The volunteer musicians are: Rod Paton, Clare Parry-Jones, Mandy Leung, Peter Geraghty & Abby Charles.
Leona talked to us about her approach to guiding improvisers and the importance of engaging the listener.