The Greater Manchester Sound Archive is the new collection of sounds at Archives+ , Central Library in Manchester. It is a rich sonic treasure trove charting the socio-political history of the city with oral histories, music and nature recordings to name but a few. I was asked to create a soundscape and work with the LGBT archive for the LGBT Voices live event at Manchester Central Library. The aim was to raise awareness of the archives by undertaking some outreach workshops, I ran a soundart project with young people at the Proud Trust where we used contact mics to unearth and record the hidden sounds of the youth centre. We also put out an open call for spoken word artists to respond to the LGBT oral history archives, these responses were performed live at the event. We also had a submission from Reform Radio who had created a podcast with their young trainees.
Over the past couple of months I have had the priviledge to listen to over 60 of the oral history archives. As well as learning so much about the history of gay rights in the city and lots of different LGBT narratives and topics including Polari, Section 28, how Manchester City Council was the first to invest in a gay centre for it citizens and political perspectives on spaces for subcultures to exist.
I was interested in the ‘sounds of recording’, the pops, clicks and false starts that happen when conducting oral history interviews. These small incidental moments were of interest sonically as I constructed loops and rhythmic patterns out of these. As well as referencing the oral history archives I wanted to showcase some of the wider sounds in the archives that I was particularly drawn to.
The Jodrell Bank space tapes were really exciting, I was able to digitise these from tape cassette so I could work with the material. These included sounds from the sputnik satellite, moon echoes and an interesting lecture called ‘The centre of immensities’. Other textures I worked with were the industrial mill sounds, orchestrating the sounds of an Arkwright machine, spinning jenny, mill hooter on a drum pad, creating beats from the machinery of Manchester’s past. The Paul Graney archive was also fascinating and I sampled some of his world music recordings from his catalogue of radio show archives.
I look forward to using more archive sounds as a source of musical inspiration, the act of sampling, manipulating and creating something new out of the historical material and combining this with new field recordings was truely special. It;s got me thinking of a new musique concrete performance I might like to try with old formats at the library.
Thanks to Dave Govier at Archives+ for all his support, knowledge and enthusiasm whilst working on the project.