So as it turns out, I got so wrapped up in finishing the dissertation that I didn’t share with you all the final result of the Maria’s Song Soundscape. Check it out here:
Maria’s Song, for those who haven’t read my previous posts, follows the story of a pupil of the Wilberforce Memorial School for the Blind called Maria Wilson. She was a pupil in the rough period of the previous soundscape ‘A Walk to King’s Manor in c.1850s.
Using the spirit of Maria Wilson as a narrator, I aimed to tell the story of one of the many public exams held by the school. The purpose of these exams was both to educate the general public as to the skills that many of the blind pupils possessed and to raise funds for the school to try and make the school more accessible.
I loved making this soundscape and I really felt at one with Maria. The more research I did about her life, the more passionate I became about trying to make the soundscape respectful and representative of her.
She was a fabulous lady who was famous for performing in the local music halls in the North Yorkshire area. She was a noted soprano and often performed with some of her friends and fellow alumni of the Wilberforce Memorial School for the Blind. She apparently was very fashion focused and had a love of bright bows on her outfits despite not being able to see them herself. She sounds like she was a lady full of life and talent.
As always, let me know what you think about this soundscape. I am so excited to put this out into the world!
So, funny story time. For one of my masters modules I had to propose an interactive museum application for a museum of my choice. I chose Bordesley Abbey, arguably the most historically significant place in my hometown of Redditch.
I designed it so people could download an application and go round the abbey scanning the builders marks to learn more. It would have interactive games and it would be a lot of fun. Little did I know when I was theoretically pitching my application in my masters module, AP Interactive had already made the app and launched it just after I handed in my pitch. It was kind of spooky to be honest!
Need help visualising the journey you are taking on ‘A Walk to King’s Manor’ soundscape? Then wonder no more. The map below gives rough time stamps to give you an idea where you are in the soundscape in relation to the map. Why not take another listen?
Music is a very important tool for setting the tone of a piece. It changes how the audience views a piece, how it makes them feel and how they feel the characters are meant to feel in a scene.
You only have to look at this famous clip of Star Wars without music to see how important music is to a scene:
Do you feel how awkward that is? Well, it’s no different when you’re putting together a soundscape. Particularly ones that centre a lot around music.
Possibly the biggest challenge with this Soundscape is how to write the script so it both reflects the language that the Victorians spoke but is also understandable for you and I today. Saying something was “well cool!” is a phrase that would be as foreign to the Victorians as the invention of the internet. So, how am I going to do it? More research!
Today we take social media for granted. Generally, somewhere a person has left a digital trail so you can see how your classmate from first school is doing now and vise versa. But, in the 1850s social media didn’t exist. Heck, the internet wasn’t even a pipe dream. You only have to watch a few episodes of ‘Who Do You Think You Are‘ to see how easy it is for people to disappear, re-marry, emigrate, change their name etc. So, how am I going to trace one person through the historic records to find her?
The Tributaries application is an Augmented Reality mobile/tablet application created in collaboration between Tyne and Wear Museums and Archives and sound artist and musician, Halsey Burgund. It aimed, through using historic documents from personal diaries to shipping reports to tell the stories of the people of Newcastle in the First World War both from a home front and front-line perspectives.
Earlier in the year I was lucky enough on my masters course to travel to Newcastle and test this application for myself. It promised to be personal, thought provoking and really grounded in the community. This is what I found when using the application.
So, I realise somewhat belatedly that I haven’t fully introduced you all to the subject of my soundscape (though it was mentioned briefly in the first post of the series). Without further ado, I’ll give you a brief history of the Wilberforce Memorial School for the Blind.
Photographs showing sections of the front part of King’s Manor
It seems odd that when I’m creating something that will primarily use sound that photographs would be such an important source of information. But it truly is. For example, take a look at this photo from the 1880s:
Photograph looking down Bootham Street in C.1880
One of the most interesting ways of finding things about the area is to consult the historic maps. I’ve been consulting this interactive map from 1852. Comparing maps is like a historic spot-the-difference. So, without further ado, this is what I’ve discovered so far….