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Cities and Memory Sacred Sounds project launch

Today sees the launch of Cities and Memory latest – and largest – project, Sacred Sounds. It’s been a huge effort over the past three months with submissions from 123 artists featuring sounds from 34 countries.

You can explore field recordings from churches, temples, prayers, songs, bells and more on an interactive map on the Cities and Memory website which also features a playlist of submissions.

The sounds in the project include some of the world’s most iconic sacred spaces, including Notre-Dame de Paris, Seville Cathedral, the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Milan’s Duomo and Wat Pho in Bangkok.

Recordings of English churches in remote locations was provided through a partnership with the Churches Conservation Trust, who provided Cities and Memory with exclusive access to their properties, including church organs and bells.The project features:

  • Churches from all over the UK;
  • Temples: sounds from China, Japan, Myanmar, Thailand and more;
  • Prayers: from mass and remembrance services to prayer wheels and Quranic recitations;
  • Bells: how bells ring out, from Mandalay to Mexico City;
  • Organs: church organs, from the humble to the mighty in sound and scale;
  • Calls to prayer from Jerusalem, New Delhi, Tirana, Dhaka and more;
  • Songs: icaro songs, Hare Krishna processions, vespers and choirs;
  • Cathedrals: the sounds of cavernous spiritual constructions;
  • Sacred ambiences: Mausoleums, funeral homes and other sacred spaces.

There’s also an interview on the BBC’s today programme which you can listen to here.

I’m delighted to take part in this latest project and have submitted two reimagined sounds to the project.

I chose the Lincoln Cathedral recording because it is a landmark which dominates the local skyline. Building started in 1072 and was somewhat eventful – by 1232 it had been ravaged by fire, destroyed by an earthquake and the central tower collapsed.

When the central tower was replaced with a tower and a spire it was the tallest building in the world for 238 years until a raging storm blew the spire down in 1548.It has seen the plague, the renaissance, countless wars, the turmoil of the 20th Century and now faces the absurdity of our current position and the same bleak outlook we all do.

I’ve reimagined the recording, a snapshot of 3 minutes, as a representation of the history and turbulent times using some of my favourite sound design tools :

Dust by Soundmorph – a new discovery which is a sample based granulising synthesiser which uses real time particle simulation. It’s an excellent tool for creating anything from cinematic soundscapes to glitchy textures.

Noisetar by NuSofting – An entry in the KVR Developer’s Challenge 2016 it’s a synthesiser that produces noise based sounds.

Spaceship Delay by Musical Entropy – An entry in the KVR Developer’s Challenge 2016 it’s an excellent and fully featured delay effect

Incipit by Inear Display – This is a creative delay effect which produces glitchy or dub type delays

Hornet Deelay – Another recent discovery, its a dub delay with vintage character

Cataract by Glitchmachines – a sample scanner with modulation and morphing which can produce intricate percussive rhythms to glitcjy chaos

Fracture XT by Glitchmachines – a glitch effect with very cool patchable effects section

Cryogen by Glitchmachines – a modular buffer effects processor designed to generate robotic artifacts and abstract musical mutations

Subvert by Glitchmachines – a 3 channel distortion effect

Metric Halo Dirty Delay – Another excellent delay effect with a very clean and spacious sound

Nave by Waldorf – A wavetable synth that produces some excellent sounds

Lagrange – Another entry in the KVR Developer’s Challenge 2016, a delay effect using granular techniques which has a unique sound.

There were a few spare sounds available for submission so I created a second piece:

I really liked the variety of sounds from voices to impacts and the ambience of the space. There’s a kind of anticipation waiting for the trumpets. I’ve tried to capture this using a cut up method with subsequent processing. I’ve used two instances of Polygon by Glitchmachines with Tal Dub 3 delay; Dust by Soundmorph; Glitch microloop tool in Hollyhock II processed with Valhalla FreqEcho, Svep by Klevgrand and Sanford Reverb. I’ve also manually triggered some of the cut up sounds during the recording which were processed with Spaceship delay and edited other settings during the recording. I’ve ended the piece using the final practice at the end of the recording processed with Frostbite and Incipit.

As well as the two submissions to the project, I’ve also created a long form piece which is about an hour long. I set up a workspace in Hollyhock II but unfortunately one of the VSTs caused a crash half way through so I recorded the whole piece as three separate live pieces and mixed them together. I’ve mainly used the Lincoln Cathedral sound, the Dom Zu Luebeck sound was used in the middle.