‘the felling’ by dawn felicia knox (2022)
Created using ambisonic field recording, TwoTone.io, and digital synthesizers
In 2022 Dawn Felicia Knox commissioned me to create a sound score for her 3-dimensional video sculpture/installation, The Felling, to be shown at the Baltic Contemporary in Gateshead, UK as a part of the Hinterlands group show. The audio score was also featured in the Transmission Sunday section of Audioblast 11, Nantes, FR, 2023.
Video courtesy of dawn felicia knox, used with permission
The soundscape I created for this work drew from a subtly-treated ambisonic field recording taken at the Felling site, and a musical composition digitally synthesized using data from controlled laboratory experiments tracking the absorption of cadmium, lead, and copper from the soil by mugwort and bracken over set periods of time. The field recording is treated with sweeping notched filters and EQ to create a sense of “digital wind.” Harmonic material from the data sonification is voiced using ethereal digital synthesizers. TwoTone.io was used to process the data, and to control various digital MIDI synthesizers in Ableton Live.
Artist Statement on The Felling from Dawn Felicia Knox:
“The Felling explores deep time, pollution and the way plants work together to undo the toxic residue of industrialisation. This is investigated through one plot of land in Felling Gateshead which was a swamp during the carboniferous period, a working mine during the industrial revolution and is now a contaminated brownfield site.
In 2012 Dawn Felicia Knox began studying paleobotany fossils excavated from Felling mine and now held in the Great North Museum. Some were type specimens, the first of their kind to be seen by humans, which helped early geologists to discover the actual age of the Earth. Dawn then documented the site the fossils came from photographing a stand of trees that had grown twisted and gnarled as they struggled for purchase on the coal spoil heaps.
Felling has had years of natural plant succession atop the piles of slag and concrete. In 2021/2022 Dawn filmed the plants now growing on the site. Bracken fern, white poplar, willow, annual honesty, fireweed and mugwort are just a few of the plants that have self-seeded in the once wasteland. Many of the plants are phytoremediating, working to pull pollution from the soil while others are nitrogen fixing, pulling greenhouse gasses from the air.
From this work created over the last decade, Dawn has made two films that are simultaneously projected onto a series of makeshift screens. The layers of material attempt to contain the shifting images as they bleed through and spill-over leaving the viewer to sift through the fragments of time.”
For the sound score, sound artist Anastasia Clarke created the soundscape from field recording of the site broken down and reconfigured using the sonification of phytoremediation data.”