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From the Sky to the Centre of the Earth


Rob St. John & Tommy Perman

Two sound pieces have been created to accompany the new Open Close benches in Carrubbers and Chalmers Closes. Both pieces have been created using sound recordings taken in Edinburgh over the last decade, and previously used in two collaborative projects, Water of Life and Concrete Antenna.

The recordings were made using a variety of microphones – binaural, contact, hydrophone – which allow for often-unheard sonic traces, resonances and vibrations of the city to be detected. Recordings in the collaborative sound archive were made all across the city boundaries: from the source of the Water of Leith to Seafield sewage works; in the subterranean city below the Royal Mile and along disused goods-line train-tracks; in church towers and at supermarket checkouts; amongst birdsong on Arthur’s Seat and tourists along Princes Street.

This archive was reshaped using a technique known as granular synthesis. Granular synthesis breaks down and reforms sound recordings into a series of ‘microsamples’, each often a fraction of a second in length. These grains of eroded sound are continually reshuffled and replayed in new forms; a kind of technological metamorphosis of sited sound abstracted from its source. The technique is a nod to the metamorphic upwelling, reformation and erosion of the ‘crag and tail’ bedrock over which the closes are draped, and the tangles of human and non-human lives along their courses.