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Bradford Blowhole

September 14, 2009

Over two years ago I wrote about the state that Bradford’s city centre was in. In fact, the city has been in much the same state since, and I’d given up on much being done with the site.

Fancy my surprise, then, on hearing that sound-architect / turntable collagist / Philip Jeck collaborator Janek Schaefer has worked on a permanent sound installation to surround the new park that will occupy the current wreck-space. The Bradford Soundpool will be up and running by 2012.

The work makes use of bioacoustical materials (“no Disney or Jean Michel Jarre”, Schaefer reassuringly specifies), playing with birdsong as “a sound icon of migration”, which is an interesting way of addressing the city’s multiculturalism. Chris Watson – that’s Cabaret Voltaire’s Chris Watson, and David Attenborough’s Chris Watson – will be chipping in with field recordings.

I also look forward to something called the “Bradford Blowhole”, which is “a piece written for uplifting brass band drones to coincide with the daily Bradford Blast fountain feature”. I have to say that this project is a million times more promising than another row of chain pubs or mobile phone shops. Note that the sounds that Schaefer is proposing to use are supposed to reassure by their echoing of nature and of a familiar local past; this isn’t going to be astonishingly transgressive sound art. I do hope, though, that there might be something gently disorienting about the ambient sound cycles that he intends to surround Bradfordians with. Ideally these layered historical echoes should intersect unpredictably with the still-present, undesigned sounds of the current moment. Which might include, of course, the nightly row from said rows chain pubs nearby. The interesting parts of urban atmospheres occur when the ideal meets the not-ideal, and clearly Schaefer’s intention is to introduce sounds that integrate rather than impose themselves, which in itself might suggest a model for cosmopolitan tolerance.

17.2 blowhole

A provincial tradition tends to be that local people get prickly when an artist is commissioned to tell them something about their own city, but at this early stage I’m full of optimism.

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