Sleeve notes in progress:
In 2015 I made an installation called Testament of Camera 26. It was made up of a concept album presented on a 4 channel sound system with a sub bass. It played alongside a video work. There are pictures here. nicolawoodham.com/The-Testament-of-Camera-26
The work stemmed from video footage I had been working from youtube. The footage was security camera footage that had been taken during the impact of tornadoes. Some of the most arresting footage came from the cameras at Joplin High School when a tornado hit their empty school. Over 50 cameras caught the impact and destruction.
I was struck by the way the cameras became witnesses to scenes of destruction that a human could not withstand. This machine vision gave me an impression of what a crisis event that added to the already begun extinction of living beings and matter on earth might look like. It put me in mind of the resilience. It also put me in mind of the way these cameras had caught their own end point. The signal flickers and at some point finishes, when the tornado blast had ripped out the connecting wires in the camera. It also had a deep resonance for me as I was experiencing the slow erosion of a person dear to me who was being dismantled by serious illness.
The concept of the album for me is vision of the future. An event happens that results in sensory breakdown. In 'I Can't Hear You' the voice tells the listener they 'can't see you', 'can't hear you', the voice gradually de-articulates, fragments with bit-crusher and glitch. In 'Mourning' a chorus of voices sing a lament, there is a sense of passing. My voice is layered and pitch shifted to create the chorus. A cheat with my own voice to create selves beyond one body. In Electro Voice Birth I trace the process of my voice taking on an electronic form. I wanted to capture the moment of this happening, or to stage this moment, to get close to it. I had been working with a contact mic on my vocal cords and using this specifically with pedal effects. Effects I used created more articulation of these vocal cord sounds that by-passed the mouth apparatus, so the result was more voicy and less hummy. In this piece I made recordings of contact mic on cord vocalisations through a tremolo effect. This made the vocalisation sound like a violin. I picked up where the voice was teetering on the point of making a sound, resonating the vocal cords and then the voice breaking through. I was interested in these tipping points. I'd been thinking of this as a machine learning to speak, a hybrid of human ways to vocalise and machinic sound. Impressions, collapsed images from sci-fi literature and films, Ex-Machina, Octavia Butler, readings into the Posthuman particularly Rosi Braidotti and my research on the voice, Stephen Connor, Mladen Dolar, Jean Luc Nancy. I wanted an escape from the depression I had felt through my work on surveillance and body politics, the metricisation of experience and big data high frequency pattern analysis.
Electro Birds is all Robin Bale's work, I'd asked him to make a bird song machinic robotic and he came up with the idea to use the bird song as a signal for vocoder. The result is this melancholic, sublime vocoder birdsong that resonated with this image i had of an animal, robot hybrid. A reality of the future perhaps and a nightmare vision from the demise of the anthropocene. When I was installing the work in the Ben Pimlott building at Goldsmiths this track was playing near a window. At one point I was unsettled as the track sounded odd, on listening closer I heard blackbirds outside trying to start a call and response with the vocoder birds. This came across as charming at the time but I now think of it as underlying the images of future hybridity and technological changes. This staging of territory wars resonates out. Technological advances and ecological wins and losses are in the hands of those who own property and wield power over territory.
I want to note here I have been fascinated and frustrated by the voice since my attendance on Mark Fisher's Vocalities module at Goldsmiths in 2012. In the module our group had traced the slipperiness of the voice from its material resonances in the vocal apparatus, lungs, glottis, cords, tongue to its significance as an index of subjectivity. We'd considered the grain of the voice and it's relationship to time and space. I left the course feeling that everything I wanted to do as an artist and performer could be materialised with a voice.
released September 22, 2018
Vocalist and Composer: Nicola Woodham
Producer: Robin Bale
Robin Bale features as DISFIGMENT/BANKRUPSEA on Garg playing guitar, micro korg and percussion.
Cassette covers hand printed at muttonfistpress.com
under the guidance of Lisa Cradduck.