The evaluation of the Thanet version of Singing Windows is published today and can be accessed here. Written by Michelle Boakes, it documents her findings of the seven month installation that involved the three towns of Broadstairs, Cliftonville and Margate as well as Margate Task Force.
My Vitrines Sonores for Lens city centre is now live. Altogether, there are nineteen separate Singing Windows hosts spread throughout the town and playing from a selection of sixty specially recorded sounds that in some way represent the area. Sounds of nature mingle with singing football supporters, beer-making, ‘Harmonie’ wind bands, and so on, throughout the town: fading in and out of the natural street ambience surprising those passing by. A short video teaser documenting the setting up my final installation (yesterday) can be see here.
Last night Singing Windows was awarded the Digital Culture Award for its series of installations across East Kent. The judges admired the installation’s ambition to make an impact on all kinds of social and environmental factors in a sometimes challenging high street space, and described the work as “a really innovative, but also lyrical and poetic digital piece that made connections with all kinds of audiences in easy to access ways”.
Singing Windows has just been shortlisted for one of the East Kent Culture Awards! According to their website the annual awards are to recognise the best creative work in Kent. Singing Windows has been nominated for their new Digital award, and we will find out who has won what at their celebratory evening on 12th June. There is also a double-page article on the Rochester installation in and the processes behind it in the latest edition of ‘Sounding Board’ – the journal for the Sound Sense music organisation.
Ahead of my next Singing Windows installation in Lens, France, there is a nice article in this month’s Métropole magazine. I will be travelling to the city in about a week’s time to begin work on the installation and all it entails. Just for fun, I have decided to create the installation whilst actually living in the town (as opposed to working in my home studio, in Kent). So, I have rented out a flat in the town for three months, with the aim of having the installation up and running from July onwards. In anticipation, I have also set up a blog to document my progress, the address of which will be www.ecoutezlens.wordpress.com.
Singing Windows is travelling to France! The Mission Départementale Louvre Lens Tourisme have commissioned a new version of the installation for the City of Lens. The sounds for the installation will be recorded from the area and will represent the ‘heartbeat’ of Lens. It’s hoped that the installation will provide visitors with a novel way of connecting with the region, as well as provide an interesting feature over the summer months for visitors to the city.
Believe it or not, we have had further requests from shops interested in being considered as future Singing Windows hosts. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end though, and that includes this project (or at least this phase of this project). To this end, our attention is now focused on our exit strategy: the taking down of the installations, the post-monitoring and preparation of our final report. As part of the Prosper initiative we have various “data-deadlines” to meet and so our aim is to wrap up the project by early-Feburary. This week therefore, I have been visiting all the shop hosts and removing the installations and I am glad to say that everyone that I have spoken with has been very positive about the project, as well as interested in where the installation might be going next. (Announcement soon!)
The Rochester article for the Medway Messenger newspaper has now been published twice(!): a fortnight ago, and now today in The KM Extra. A copy can be read here.
This month sees new Singing Windows installations in Cliftonville and Broadstairs as well as requests coming in from retailers from London and Dover. In Broadstairs our new installation is at ‘Helter Skelter’ – a children’s activity centre – and so this is an interesting side-step for us, and will hopefully provide some extra flavour to our final evaluation.
We have now over twenty Singing Windows installations running concurrently and are continuing to receive some quite touching feedback in terms of comments and passed-on observations through Michelle’s continued monitoring of the project, as well as through the website, and we look forward to presenting these findings in the New Year.
This week I have been in France meeting with the Tourist Information Office, Town Centre Managers and other representatives with regards to a Singing Windows commission for next year, in a town in the Nord-Pas region. We have been discussing the possibility of creating something that specifically that responds to their region (geography, history and culture) and that will serve as a draw to the town during their summer season.
Whilst I have been away there has also been interest from the Medway Messenger newspaper who have picked up on the interest sparked by the current installations in Rochester. Nothing’s in print yet, so we’ll wait and see on that front.
The Singing Windows installations that were in ‘The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge’ for the Canterbury Festival have now been moved to Faversham for the ‘Garden of Delights’ exhibition with installations at Creek Creative, St Mary’s Church, and shops around the town. Singing Windows is also now beginning its presence on Cliftonville’s North Down Road. We have three shops currently participating in this with another two or three venues to join in in the weeks coming up to Christmas.
Whilst Michelle has been in Thanet this week, conducting evaluation progress reports in Margate and Broadstairs, as well as doing her pre-project chats before next week’s planned install in Cliftonville, I have been in Medway liaising with my retailers in Rochester and installing a Singing Windows installation along the pedestrianised section of the High Street. There are four participating hosts, each one with their own unique digital aviary, reflecting the character of the shop and the window display. The shop keepers here really get this project and understand its focus on looking at how sound can impact on place, people and behaviour, and consequently are very excited to be involved.
17 October 2013 – For the Canterbury Festival (19 Oct – 2 Nov), Singing Windows will be the guest of the Beaney House of Art & Knowledge. There will be two versions of the installation: one on the front window of The Garden Room (which looks over the High Street) and one in the inner sanctum of The Colour and Camouflage Gallery.
The Garden Room will broadcast the special version of Singing Windows composed for Herne Bay’s “I am Not Dead” Duchamp Festival earlier this year. (This version of the installation takes its inspiration from a musical composition conceived by Duchamp in 1913, where chance notes drawn from a hat determined a musical score. This installation also uses chance procedure, interspersing random piano notes with the lyrical composed phrases of a nightingale, and a dialogue between the two sonic worlds ensues – rather like a slow moving soundtrack for a chess game.
By contrast, the Colour & Camouflage gallery will host the reflective sound of a solo male robin singing out gently and permeating through to the other galleries upstairs.
Today I visited each of the independent retailers potentially interested in hosting Singing Windows in Rochester. There are four in all, with their shops stretching the length of the High Street – just out of earshot of each other, which should help to create a subtle spread of sound. The traders were very supportive of the project and shared their enthusiasm as they took an interest in their different requests regarding their soon-to-be hosted audio. For me, one of the most pleasing aspects of Singing Windows is the conversation sparked off by the installations, and so it was nice to see this happening so early in the proceedings: with shop keepers from different ends of the street visiting each other in order to excitedly talk about what each other was doing. Tomorrow Michelle will visit and conduct her pre-evaluation chats with each of the retailers and I will begin work on creating the bespoke audio tracks for each host. Hopefully after next week we should be ready to install.
It looks like that there will be three more Singing Windows installations appearing over the next month or so. The Canterbury Festival (funder of the ProsperTogether project) is very keen for a presence during its October event. Plus we have a community of shops along Rochester High Street who have volunteered themselves to be part of our CreativePeoplePlace experiment. Finally, the third of our original partners for this Prosper project: The Cliftonville Partnership, are now ready for Singing Windows to have a presence on the NorthDown Road – just up the road from Margate. So, a busy month ahead tailoring the work for each location and ensuring that we have the resources to stretch to what is now potentially twenty four separate hosts.
We have received funding from the CreativePeoplePlace programme to enable us to try some more Singing Windows installations, this time in Medway. This will run along the same lines as the installations in Thanet with the corresponding Singing Windows evaluation programme and connections with local town teams and the appropriate taskforce. Over the next few weeks therefore I will be making contact with the Town Centre Managers and Town Team Leaders across the region to ascertain who might be interested in being a part of this initiative. We have also had some interest in the project expressed from Folkestone and so I will be following that up too.
The Herne Bay version of Singing Windows has now come and gone. It was well received, with many nice comments coming my way, including a possible commission for an installation in Surrey.
We have also been making some headway with the planning of our Emissary visit – more details of which in due course. And whilst all this has been going on, Michelle has also been returning to the Broadstairs and Margate sites for some mid-project monitoring, and has made some very interesting observations related to how the installation appears to influences people’s body language when their curiosity is raised. Before the end of the month I also hope to return to all the sites to check with the hosts and see how they are getting on with their installations from a technical point of view. Both of us have received lots of nice comments from shop keepers and customers alike about the installation and its effects on their everyday experience of the High Street, but the trick will be to capture this in our evaluation proper.
Between the 1st and 17th August, a special version of ‘Singing Windows’ will be guesting at Herne Bay’s “I Am Not Dead – I am in Herne Bay” arts festival, a celebration of Marcel Duchamp’s visit to the town in August 1913. This version of the installation takes its inspiration from a musical composition conceived by Duchamp, also in 1913, where chance notes drawn from a hat determined the musical score. Originally the piece was a short vocal piece but then, later on in the year, it was adapted for piano, retaining the same title of “Erratum Musical”.
My ‘Singing Windows’ installation also uses piano notes derived from chance procedure; however, on this occasion they are answered by the lyrical composed phrases of a nightingale – in a similar manner perhaps to the 1920s recordings of Beatrice Harrison who used to play her cello in her cottage garden whilst being accompanied by nightingale song. The installation juxtaposes these two audio ready-mades and a dialogue between these two sonic worlds ensues.
I have created three different versions of Erratumgale using different pianos and different piano/nightingale relationships, and they play in synchronised fashion from five different window fronts located on different sides of the crossroads of William Street and Mortimer Street, in the centre of town.
The Margate version of the installation is now live. As a development of the first phase (that utilised nightingale song) this version celebrates the ‘British’ songbird with a collection of songsters and warblers. Along the full length of the High Street there are currently seven participating hosts, each one with their own bespoke sonic garden reflecting the rhythms and atmospheres of the shop and its trade. Even whilst I was setting up the different shop windows I had a number of people coming up and wanting to talk about what they could hear, and so hopefully that is a good omen for the success of this version of the installation.
In order to give the town teams maximum value for their funding input, Michelle and I have been working pretty much intensively so that they can benefit from the installation for as long as possible over the summer season. I was therefore hoping that things would calm down a little as the Thanet installations were put in place. For the moment though this aspiration for calmness will have to wait as Singing Windows has been invited to form part of Herne Bay’s Duchamp Festival next month. More details soon.
This week has been taken up with fine tuning the evaluation component for the main singing windows website and working out how to code it so that it works for every conceivable computer OS.
As well as this, this week I have visited all the potential hosts for the up and coming Margate version of the installation. In the end, I have chosen eight sites stretching the length of the High Street, and Michelle has now conducted her pre-evaluation with all of them. All that needs to be done now is for me to create the audio part of the installation for each individual shopfront, each one taking into consideration the temperament of the hosting retailer and the atmosphere of the shop, in order to achieve the best possible result.
If all goes well, I will install next Thursday.
With a trip to the CCTV headquarters this week to ascertain how we might draw from their data collection for our own monitoring of SInging Windows, the final elements of our proposed monitoring framework have been put into place. And so, we are ready to roll….
Of our initial three proposed urban locations for the installation, Broadstairs has been the first to come back with the requisite combination of funding support and a menu of possible host venues. Consequently, both Michelle and I have visited the town, independently and together, to first of all conduct the pre-evaluation, and then yesterday, to install.
As of the moment, then, Broadstairs has four SInging Windows hosts, stretching from The Broadway, down the High Street and along Albion Street. Each location features a recording of a male nightingale singing out to attract a potential mate. This is the recording that worked so well in Margate earlier in the year, and so it will be interesting to see if it has the same effect here as well.
This week has mostly been a week of design. In order to help monitor the Singing Windows curiosity factor, we have had a number of informative postcards printed that give a few details about the installation. In the first ‘experiment’ stage of this project the retailers said that it was very common for people to come into their shop to ask them specifically about the bird in their window: sometimes out of concern for any trapped fledgling, or even to purchase the gadget that was making the sound, but also of course to ask about the installation – what, why, etc. For this ‘adventure’ stage, our idea is that every shopkeeper will be given a number of postcards at hand for the express purpose of giving out to those people who specifically ask about the installation. Then all we will have to do is count the number of postcards left, and we will have a representative number that corresponds to those who felt curious enough to ask. (That’s the theory, anyway!) The postcard too points the reader towards our other design task for the week – the new http://www.singingwindows.com website: giving further information about the project, the partners involved, and also an opportunity to feedback one’s experience of the installation.
Wednesday’s meeting with Ellie, Michelle, Sam Thomas (Thanet District Council) and Margate Task Force went well. It was good to tie down some of the finer points of our monitoring process, including how we might get access to CCTV footage. (With Michelle’s background in dance, she is particularly interested in body language and how the installation may affect how people move on the street). It was also a good opportunity for Ellie to actually see our proposed locations first hand as well as speak with some of the project’s partners, such as the new Margate Town Team co-ordinator. All in all then, a useful day.
One of the other aspects of our evaluation monitoring is linked to trying to measure the curiosity raised by The Singing Windows installation. This is something that was raised as especially interesting by the town teams, and is a particularly interesting aspect to consider, as by considering curiosity as important, by implication the factors that might encourage it also become important. For example, of course, the town teams want to tell everyone about the project (since they have helped fund it and everything); however, might this act of broadcasting this news result in the public simply knowing what was going on without having to discover it for themselves, and how might this in turn affect any acccompanied behavioural change?
This week I have been spending time in Broadstairs and Cliftonville with their respective town team representatives, choosing possible locations that will host my various sound installations. Both trips were useful in allowing me to understand the towns from the perspective of the town teams, as well as get a feel for what locations might be especially evaluation rich. Next week I have a meeting with Michelle, Ellie and Margate Task Force to agree the hosting sites and then from there we can think about beginning our pre-project evaluation.
Today we had our second evaluation meeting at the Thanet District Council offices – this time with representatives from the three participating town teams: Margate Town Team, Broadstairs Town Team and the Cliftonville Partnership. As with the previous gathering with our strategic partners, our proposals were well received, with those present expressing enthusiasm for our potential adventure. The fact that both these meetings brought a collection of people around one table who hadn’t met as a group before also provided impetus for a continual flow of ideas and new possibilities for the future. By having our evaluation meetings separately, with time to reflect in-between, we have been able to better understand how the project feels to the different partners as well as fine-tune the project to match local expectations whilst keeping the integrity of the whole.
We were also glad to update everyone with our latest development – the involvement of Ellie Ratcliffe: a PhD researcher in environmental psychology at University of Surrey. Ellie is interested in the relationship between birdsong and people’s moods and attention, and comes to this project experienced in considering many of the issues that we think our evaluation may pick up on. The link with the University of Surrey and Ellie’s research also presents us with some additional avenues for dissemination. A short video of Ellie talking about her research can be found by clicking here
Singing Windows has a number of strategic partners that includes Feonic , Margate Task Force and Thanet District Council. Today Michelle and I had our first evaluation meeting with Thanet District Council Arts & Regeneration, Margate Task Force and Kent County Council to discuss the project from the varied experience and points of view of everyone present. Michelle’s background of working with dance and her suggestions around the possible capture of data around how people moved, and their corresponding body language as they came into contact with an installation was taken as an exciting prospect, and so we all look forward to receiving her proposed monitoring framework recommendations next week.
Afterwards, Michelle and I visited Margate High Street to meet with the shopkeepers who took part in the first ‘Experiment’ stage of the project. The ones we spoke to were happy to learn of the project’s imminent return and were quick to express their willingness to take part again. On our travels we also met with Town Team Chair Richard Ash and committee member Sharon Rowe and so we took the opportunity to discuss our news with them and outline our proposed action plan over the next couple of weeks.
The first few weeks of this Adventure have mostly been related to details pertaining to the infrastructure upon which this project will stand.
We now have an evaluator for the project (Michelle Boakes) and over the next few weeks an evaluation framework will be developed and agreed with all the partners. To this end a series of meetings between Michelle and various participants have been arranged in order that the artistic, strategic and local aspects of the project are weaved together into a coherent whole. When all this is completed, we will, I hope, then be ready to actually begin thinking about the creation and installation of some sound installations.
In the meantime, as ‘Singing Windows’ makes novel use of technology, there will be a fair amount of testing and experimenting that needs to be done, simply in order to know what are the best equipment combinations to use in terms of price, quality and synchronisation. To this end it is good to have the support of the Feonic company that actually produce the sound transducers that I use to enable the shop window fronts to be used as loud speakers.