#InterviewSeries: Mark Pilkington, Sound Artist & Composer

“Fleeting conversations can start a whole page of ideas. If you were to prepare to idealistically record an object, such as a stream, you would have an idea of what sounds it would produce, however, when you go there and you don’t hear the stream at all but you can hear an aircraft going overhead and someone talking in the background, these interferences are the true essence of the sound.” Mark Pilkington, 2019

Mark Pilkington is a Sound Artist and Composer and is currently an Associate Lecturer in the Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts. His artistic practice specifically works with the sounds of the landscape, often referring to sound having the ability to capture an essence of a place, enabling you to relive it and re-evoke the imagination and memories that are associated with that place.

Mark’s research studies the possibilities of working with sound as an ecological way to express different aspects of sound, that science is unable to. He uses electroacoustic music as a way to exemplify concerns within the environment. This is highlighted in his specific work Lamaload (2016) which came about by walking in the Peak District and is based on the Lamaload Dam. Using mobile technologies, Mark recorded the sounds of the dam and the surrounding area. It was the imposition of the dam that caught his attention; as it fractured and displaced the sounds surrounding that environment and acted as an acoustic mirror. As Mark walked closer to the dam, he realised that all sounds were being reflected of the dam wall. As he clapped his hands the sound echoed up the sides of the dam. Mark studies acoustic ecology and through this he investigates different soundscapes from different environments and brings awareness to the changes that occur in acoustic environments over time. His work Lamaload developed into an audio-visual piece in 2016 and it aims to immerse the listener back into the apex of the Lamaload Dam so that they are able to access the sounds that Mark himself heard at the time of recording. Mark is also interested in the possibilities of using an artistic expression as a vessel through which to bring awareness to the issues of sustainable damming with assistance of ecologists.

Mark first began working with a mobile practice through performance and specifically understands mobility as the movement of sound and that mobility is about experiencing spaces. Mark’s Lamaload piece began in the simple act of walking in the Peak District where he suddenly felt a heightened sense of the acoustics the dam was producing, and actively placing himself in the space is what facilitates the creation of the work.

“When your body is experiencing something and you are totally immersed in the space, be it the countryside or the built environment, from this your imagination comes into play as you begin to listen closer to the sounds around you. From this you begin to develop audible narratives and stories.” Mark Pilkington, 2019

Mark likes the physicality of being able to walk around and record his soundscapes and be in touch with the environment. With this, he likes to capture the moment and retain the memory of this space which is important to him. The physicality of movement contributes to the importance of movement and exploration within his works. Mark notes that with sound, when you turn your head from side to side the sound begins to change, and this idea of attempting to move sounds across space is interesting to him, because they can then take on an entirely different meaning to the materialistic aspect. Mark is trying to explore space through movement, as when he performs, Mark recognises that he feels as though he is inside the sound playing it as opposed to being external to the sound.

For Mark, sound is like a photograph; in that it brings those forgotten memories back, acting as a recall system. Being mobile is collecting memories and hearing things. With his sound piece, Peterloo (2010), sounds were recorded at a student protest and mapped to the historical event that became known as the Peterloo massacre in Manchester in August 1819. During the performance the participants are encouraged to move around the installation, in order to experience the sound as if they were at the original event. The participants will congregate, and the sound will move between and around them, enveloping them in the experiences of the protest. As Mark works with multi-channel sound, when the sounds move around the space, they take on a life of their own and become something else entirely.

The original post can be found @ https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/cemore/interview-series-mark-pilkington-sound-artist-composer/.

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