Data Gathering in Senate House Library


Leverhulme Trust Sound Art Residency 2016: Artistic Achievements

Hannah's Adventures In Library Land

The sound art created reflects the multiple coexisting timescales from the macro- and mesa- to the micro and atomic, dissolving the distinctions between science and engineering and the arts and humanities, characterised in and between the collections of Senate House Library, and representing both the establishment and subversive, mirroring the tensions in the identity of Senate House as a building and in the microcosmic society living within it.

Book Paleography
The authors & books of literary expressionism Paul Raabe


Wall Cavity up length of SHL


P Valéry Cahiers*1
Victor Hugo

From the deep vibrations of the 1937 air-conditioning still rumbling from behind the wrought-iron grills in quiet periods, to excited anticipation of postgraduate fairs in the grandiose first three floors. The sounds are homogenized through walls and lift shafts, forming resonating chambers around the wired-brick structures, amplified sonic pipes, spreading sound between the floors above and below from the ceremonial horizontal base of Senate House into the library itself, from the beautiful carpeted reading rooms on the fourth and fifth floors, to the open access shelving up to the ninth into the stack, through to the nineteenth floor of the tower and the flagpole on the roof. 

Ground Floor Vestibule
Metal Grills


Special Collections
Artist Reflected behind Dr Seng Teng Lee

Relentless drilling, clunking and clanging moved illusively through the site, from the SOAS student hub development in the heart of the library, between the ribs of Charles Holden’s spine-like design, and over the enclosed stone quadrants. Replacing the dislocated, Gormenghast strangeness of these sonic bubbles of lofty stillness in the heart of the W1 - as experienced from the court room - with the percussive noise of building work transformed into the glass ceiling of SOAS, and marking a radical shift in the building's history, from the pre-World War II Britain to that of today. 

All of this was captured in the physicality of the building, unitl it landed under the basement on schedule for Being Human. World War II radio from the Babble machine eminated from the top of the grand staircase and the Ministry of Hope and Fear reception desk. The Memory Hole Coding Machine allowed people to sign in to the festival, with a message to represent Being Human for the Senate House Library Being Human archive - with the clanging of solonoid pins in the Memory Hole machine and a strange computerised voice intoning the messages input by visitors, over the gentle sweeping sounds of the library played back to accompany the messages. All the sounds of Being Human, above the fierce rumbling through the air conditioning drills and shaking the building from its foundations in the basement.

Recording Equipment and Environmental Data Collection

Sontronics multi-cardiod Condenser microphone
Tascam DR40 portable field-recorder

Pressure Sensors, humidity, vibration, motion, air pressure, flex and light with display for reading the data

The academic and seasonal cycles are layered with the omnipresent noise monster - the building work, creating distinct musical forms aping those described and analysed within the music collection volumes - a complex ‘Charles Ives–esque’ sound-palette on multiple scales of time and space.

The multi-directional motion of Charles Ives "best understood not merely as a single linear succession of ideas, but in terms of a network or web of multiple displaced chronologies’ that blur the lines between ‘the lived present and the idealized past and future, and the distance between the real-world experience of time and God’s eternity, both the temporal and spatial effects of multidirectional motion as well as its ramifications for understanding some of the larger philosophical issues raised in Ives’s music …. inspiring contemplation of broader aesthetic issues, such as the dualities between god and man, community and individual and intuition and expression."*2

*1Paul Valéry Cahiers - Valéry’s all-embracing curiosity and intellectual agility are most apparent, however, in the 261 notebooks he left behind, the Cahiers, in which he ceaselessly fashioned new connections between the different spheres of knowledge. As one leafs through these notebooks one is astounded by the dense and varied interweaving of text fragments, drawings, and formulas (Karen Kauthausen).

Paul Valéry's Cahiers manifest the interdisciplinary nature of the Library celebrating the polymath, so uncharacteristic of British higher education.

*2 Breaking time's arrow: experiment and expression in the music of Charles Ives / Matthew McDonald. Bloomington; Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, [2014]

Paul Valéry Cahiers
Paul Valéry Cahiers
Ligetti - La Grande Macabre
Ligetti Opening La Grande Macabre
Ligetti Strings

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