Degrees of Separation
Audio Installation for 6 radios and ambient soundscape
In early 2017, I participated in the Sura Medura International Artist Residency programme in Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka. Over the course of 6 weeks, I explored the island’s soundscapes and created a bank of recordings which later became a sound installation for 6 radios and accompanying ambient soundscape.
Degrees of Separation is a response to the diverse soundscapes of Sri Lanka, the musicality of language and the idea of serendipity (the island was once named Sarandīb – the origin of the word serendipity).
Degrees of Separation takes its title from a play by John Guare. The work features the following quote from the play:
I read somewhere that everybody on this planet is separated by only six other people. Six degrees of separation. Between us and everybody else on this planet. The president of the United States. A gondolier in Venice. Fill in the names. I find that A) tremendously comforting that we're so close and B) like Chinese water torture that we're so close. Because you have to find the right six people to make the connection. […] I am bound to everyone on this planet by a trail of six people.
The entire ambient component is built around a recording that I took of the Hikkaduwa fishermen’s work song (early each morning the fishermen chant what is believed by some to be ancient Singhalese as they haul their boats onto the shore). The men allowed me to record their song which I later time-stretched in order to draw out the overall tonality of the piece.
In May 2017, I gave a headline performance of the ambient soundscape at The Barn, Banchory where it was recorded and later broadcast for BBC Radio 3’s ‘Exposure’ show.
I have continued to work on the project since returning to the UK – a subsequent installation took place at Summerhall, Edinburgh and I developed elements of the work at Eastgate Theatre, Peebles as part of the Magnetic North 'Rough Mix' residency.
Premiered Sura Medura, Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka – 24 March 2017
• Sooriya Village, Colombo, Sri Lanka – 25 March
• The Poetry Club, Glasgow – 2 May 2017
• The Barn, Banchory (recorded for BBC Radio 3’s
‘Exposure’ show) – 18 May 2017 (broadcast 30
• Summerhall, Edinburgh – 2 August-24