This time last year, myself and two friends (Kristina Diprose and Joshua Sadler) were busy packing up an art project we’d just completed called Are You Listening Leeds? It condensed 24 hours of city life into 24 minutes, all contained within a spectacular audio-visual exhibit in a disused shop.
We did this as part of the Leeds City Council initiative called ‘Art in Unusual Spaces’, and we thought that a good way of exploring this would be to turn this around and take a mixture of familiar and unfamiliar spaces, but document them in an unusual way – through sound.
Borrowing a digital hand-held recorder, we trekked around Leeds over the course of six months capturing sounds from places like Kirkgate Market, offices, restaurants, demonstrations, pubs, lectures, children’s choirs, people having dinner…you get the picture! We also managed to record a scrap metal orchestra rehearsing in a different empty shop unit, which makes for fascinating listening, and spent an awfully long time in search of hooting tawny owls (we finally got one on the last night of recording).
We decided that we would make three separate recordings of each place, before mixing them all down into 24 minutes of multitrack audio. More or less all of this was done by Josh, which took him absolutely ages but sounded amazing in the end. I think he maxed out his state-of-the-art Apple Mac to the point where he only had 2MB of space left on his hard drive, but he kept going!
On top of this, we hired a camera from local AV company Lumen Arts, and created a 24-hour timelapse video that we synchronised with the sounds. The camera was good enough to take about 5,000+ images, about one every five seconds, and once again it fell to Josh to stitch these together and create a long, continuous video out of it.
Our space was in the Leeds Shopping Plaza, next to the old Virgin Megastore. We used four speakers and a projector to create an immersive soundscape that, I think, made us all pay attention to what our city sounds like a little bit more.
Watch the video:
We thanked them at the time, but thanks are still due to:
Katie Harris for lending us the Zoom recorder; Lumen Arts for letting us borrow the camera for three days but only pay for one; Nina Baptiste and the staff of Leeds Industrial Museum at Armley Mills for letting us put a camera up overnight (three nights running); everyone we recorded; Leeds City Council, in particular James Hill and Yvonne Carmichael.