Examples of sound-led work

please use headphones or good-quality speakers : here are excepts from a gallery & museum published works


Sidelong is an exhibition production, responding upon the North Lincolnshire coast, from the Humber Bridge down to south of Cleethorpes. It features Brian Larkman’s creative photography and Paul Ratcliff’s sonic response to these images and the places depicted within them. Like much of Paul’s sound recordings they feature a mixture of human, what Bernie Krause terms Anthropophony and wildlife sounds or Biophony. It was exhibited at the regionally important Ropewalk gallery between May 22nd and 11th July 2021. The recordings feature the sounds from inside and outside the train, coastal seascapes, bustling towns, the Humber bridge and level crossings along route. The location specific wildlife recorded features spring birdsong and calls, from the Cetti’s warbler, Reed warbler, Black cap, Greenfinch and White throat.

Temple Newsam – Outside In

This is part of a Temple Newsam’s – Leeds 2023 commission. The full work is a 40-minute quadraphonic composition, although the version here is in stereo. It depicts a journey, from just South of Temple Newsam grounds, through the estate and to just North and West of the parkland.  Exhibited between April and November of 2023 in the main picture gallery of the House at Temple Newsam, Leeds, UK, this is a site-specific response to the location.

It features over 35 species, and additionally, the sounds of storms passing across the parkland. In bringing the sounds of the grounds into the picture gallery, it enables listeners to travel through the diverse and important eco-systems and also through different seasons. Although time-compressed it is naturalistically arrangement offering the sonic-essence of the explored habitats. Furthermore, it responds to the themes depicted in the paintings in the gallery and encourages those visiting the House to connect with the animals of the grounds, with a hope that the importance of the wildlife-rich parkland is realised.

The exhibit also forms part of a 100-year celebration from when the House and Grounds being passed into public hands. The scenes in the installed composition are as follows, although this abridged stereo version only touches on some of these location-based sounds.

Thwaite Mills – Earth Energies – listening into the past

Renovated and restored these industrial relics, like Thwaite, trundle, whirl and rattle on in industrial museums. these contraptions baffle us in our less mechanically-aware contemporary times, where objects are now discarded instead of maintained and mended, or where our modern machines are hidden away from consumers behind aesthetically pleasing facades.  The elemental water power which drives these magnificent contraptions is the same eroding force which is decaying these relics, as nature tries to reclaim and restore.

Renowned animator and drone-cameraperson, Dr. Darren Wall, collaborated with this work and additional audio recording were contributed by Dr. Ben Challis. visually, these machines appear unfathomably, complex with perhaps only their adornments being considered decoratively-handsome, whereas audibly it is the sounds they omit as unintended by-products of their movements that are audibly exquisite and offer sonic beauty.

Sounds are produced that are percussive, rhythmic, pulsating, resonant and occasionally harmonic from these mechanisms, as metal, wood and drive-belts scrub against each other and water drives the paddles. Durational listeners will further discover sonic nuances emerging and decaying as the industrial equipment cycles, sounds often dismissed as unwanted noise to those audibly-inattentive or impatient to notice these details.

Thwaite is situated in an urban wildlife oasis, an island sanctuary for nature. Visitor now can hear species familiar to the millworkers traveling to and from work in previous decades.as sound recordists, photographers and animators they exploit contemporary digital-technologies to listen into and re-imagine the mechanical and natural world of Thwaite.

As a narrative this production starts with exploring the natural world around the mill, then progresses to the elemental force of the water, before moving into the lovingly restored mill buildings and its inner mechanisms. It ends by returning to the wildlife around the island Thwaite is found up on. This is an artistic local response to two global environmental issues: renewable power sources and connecting people in cities to the natural world, a world that sustains our existence.

The work is exhibited online, in Thwaite Mills and additionally at Armley Mills Industrial Museum in the summer of 2022 and spring summer of 2023. It was commissioned and exhibited as part of Leeds 2023 city of culture.

A Year in the Garden

This work asks what natural sounds occur in an urban garden, how these change throughout its annual cycle and how might these be presented in a representative yet engaging time-compressed manner. It additionally questions what adaptations a field recordist need’s to employ to work within a noise-ridden location and with species which avoid human contact. It focusses on sonic rather than visual encounters with wildlife and urban rather than rural location. Unlike many documentary-styled productions it conveys its narrative without a spoken-word narrator. 
It was disseminated in two galleries, the first as part of Hebden Bridge Arts Festival 2017, in a purpose-built installation in Gibson Mill; the second in Crewe’s Axis Arts centre. Listeners commented upon the wide variety of unexpected species recorded in the single small urban location, the quality of the recordings, the immersive nature of the composition and how they would listen more attentively to their own gardens as a result of experiencing this work.
This work compliments the focus being placed on gardens by the RSPB, BBC Spring-watch 2019 and the Sheffield Urban garden research project, all of which reinforce the ecological significance of these spaces when collectively considered. It challenges our visual sensory priorities when engaging with wildlife and it reconnects us with sounds of places we think of familiar, but in actuality are rarely entered into other than on summer days. It takes listeners through diurnal, crepuscular and nocturnal sonic activities of the suburban plot. Forming an auditory ecological time-capsule and the methods employed form a niche body of knowledge concerning urban wildlife field recording. 

Entering the Mill 

Entering the Mill is a collaboration with Dr Alan Dunn who activates the devices found in the archive. These are recorded using high fidelity devices and from from which a sonic composition was derived. The commission was to produce the sounds that might be heard when clogged-feet cross the cobbled floor as the textiles factor starts to function. All of the sounds come from the antiquities found there.  

This work led onto further projects where the sounds I recorded accompanied immersive and innovative 360-degree photography of the premises carried out by Dr Tom Jackson, whose work is admired as a Leeds based artist, academic and photographer.

The Mill

Collaborating with sound artist Dr Ben Challis, The Mill is a sonic investigation into a partially renovated water powered flour mill. Using sound recordings, it explored the many percussive, tonal, natural and electronic sounds of the building. It takes the listener from the outside-in, through the four floors and into the machinery used to process crops. Together with wind, water power is being examined again as an alternative to fossil fuels, yet this factory perhaps predates these contemporary energy generating experiments by maybe 300 years. Using specialist microphones, the sounds from beneath and above the surface, from the outside and the inside of mechanisms and ductings. These sounds are arranged to form an immersive floor-by-floor auditory-tour. Flooding in recent years has damaged the renovations and prevented many visitors from exploring much of the premises, and from seeing and hearing much of the works. Perhaps The Mill represents the last chance to listen to this green-powered mechanical-marvel in its full working order.

Thwaite Earth Energies – Accessibility/ Making of, Edit

This version of Earth Energies is made up of arranged site-specific field recordings and an added voiced narrative. As an audio-only version it is designed to offer further access to those who are visually impaired or who cannot easily get around the premises. Additionally, this production offers insights into the audio recording process and rationale.

Joined by expert sound recordist and artists Dr Ben Challis and renowned performance artist Dr Mark Flisher’s voice over, this artwork features detailed and dynamic recordings of the mill in action, immersing the listener in the sonic-variety found in this working water-powered factory. The voiced narrative locates the sounds and their meanings. 

Mixing Water with Electricity

Mixing with Electricity
This is a re-imagining of sounds and photographs which contributed to an exhibit in the Bradford Media Museum.  It explores the water feature in the centre of Bradford from above and below the surface of the pool, using hydrophones and contact microphones to listen in to the hydraulics of the fountain’s subterranean pumping station.

Although typically a popular location, these recordings mostly employ microphones and transducers to produce sounds of the machinery, water and premises, rather than the many users of the attraction. Like the exhibit they contributed to, these recordings take the listener on an auditory journey from ground level, through piping and into the subterranean pumping station hidden from the public. They explore the vibrations, fluid-flows and electrical controls of this sophisticate water sculpture. Similar to the water feature its elf, which is familiar at street level and whose complexities are hidden, this production starts with the recognisable before delving beneath the ground to listen to the sounds of the machinery rarely explored.

Temple Works – prelisten

Temple Works
 This work questions what sounds that emanate from a historically locally important decaying building in last days of access; an apparently sonically-inert location. Unlike many documentary-styled productions it conveys its narrative without a spoken-word and focusses on sound rather than visuals. It seeks to find a compositional approach that balances documentary field recordings being presented in a creative and engaging soundscape.  
Multiple visits to the site were made over two years exploring many spaces in the premises and recording these from many perspectives to gather significant sonic- variation. These recordings were arranged compositionally to portray a journey around the decaying structure, juxtaposing the apparent with the unfamiliar, the inner with exterior of the premises and the subterranean with upper floors. 
It has been heard by the public as part of three exhibitions in three separate locations. Temple Works is an auditory time-capsule of a significant historical building to Yorkshire’s industrial past. Whilst declining premises are the subject of photography explorations, they rarely the concern of sounds recordists. As a production it sits along side Dr Tom Jackson’s immersive and user-navigated audio-visual archive of the Temple Works site and photographer Brian Larkman’s evocative images of the many rooms.

Hebden Water – pre-listen

Hebden Water. – A collaboration with land-artist and photographer Trudi Entwistle
Collaborating with renowned land-artist and photographer Trudi Entwistle, this work asks what a location sounds like in the aftermath of flooding disaster. It additionally questions how using field recordings a valley’s water course can be sonically recorded and represented, from a town centre to the moor-tops. It seeks to find the necessary field-craft practices to record in these difficult locations. It asks how the recordings of anthropophony, geophony and biophony can be composed into a location-specific soundscape, that enables listeners to hear the sonic variations found in a mill-town in close proximity to nature-rich eco-systems.  
It blends a mixture of urban and rural field recording practices with an iterative site enquiry of five different regions in, and in close proximity to, the town which was flooded. It aimed to record the everyday familiar sounds of the town and contrast these with the less familiar wood and moorland species found in the region. This work required lengthy durations spent attempting to record specific wildlife and their springtime vocalisations. 
This work was made in response to the water-theme of the Hebden Bridge arts festival 2017. It was exhibited in a purpose-built installation mid-point on the journey depicted in its sonic narrative. Comments from visitors expressed astonishment at the variety of wildlife sound found in the valley close to the homes, the immersive and sonically rich recordings included and how the listening experience left them with a sense of well-being. Unlike many documentaries this offers real sounds from the place rather than library recordings and voiced-narration.

Grey Stone – pre listen


Grey Stone -Harewood
Collaborating with distinguished artist and photographer Brian Larkman this work questions what species can be found in one location and how these might be sonically represented. It also asks how these audible natural world sounds vary over an annual cycle. The recordings are composed in an immersive manner, in response to a seasonal photographic image. Recorded over six years, all on the Harewood estate, from only public access locations, this work employs location-specific, wild-life field recording practice and natural soundscape composition. 
Listeners commented upon the species variety and sonic perspective variations heard in the composed soundscape. These were not just bird recordings, like many wildlife projects, but also included weather-sounds, mammals and insect life from the location.  Listeners said they were immersed in the production, which combined contemplative moments of winds sounds in trees with dramatic sequences of deer-ruts. Sound narratives, such as this one, challenge our typically visual sensory priorities. Nature narratives contest our anthropomorphic perspective on the landscape, reminding us that we co-occupy these spaces.

Temple Newsam Grounds – pre listen

Temple Newsam Grounds
 Commissioned 2019 and recorded in 2019-2020 this artwork focusses on the site-specific sounds of wildlife and the parkland in Temple Newsam grounds. Unlike many documentary productions, which use sound-libraries sourced in other locations or foley sound-effects, all of the sounds heard here are site-specific and are recorded in the parkland. This work uses sound to explore and depicting the place. It contributes to an ongoing conversation between Temple Newsam, nature and art.
Despite their close proximity to the adjacent motorways, the grounds are rich in wildlife. The parkland is part of a natural-wildlife-corridor that includes the two nearby and successful RSPB reserves of St Aiden’s and Fairburn Ings that lie to the south. Temple Newsam grounds are not only visually stunning, complimenting the impressive Elizabethan manor house, but they also provide green-space and tranquillity for visitors, a sanctuary from the built-up and industrial outer-reaches of Leeds, one this country’s largest cities. 
Many people today are realising that we need to reconnect with our wildlife and wooded-areas, so we might empathise and learn how to save these places for future generations. For those living and working in cities, green spaces also offer us a mindful rest-bite, a chance to re-discover eco-systems familiar to preceding generations.
These recording celebrate the dawn chorus, heard and recorded in spring-time in the grounds. One of the Yorkshire’s natural wonders. These sounds also connect the landscape paintings viewed in the main gallery to the parkland around the house. Wildlife sounds are subtle and intricate, requiring listeners to stop and take notice. These sounds bring the outside, in, and remind us, as a society, we need to experience and value these special suburban green spaces. 

The Bone Collectors Index

The Bone Collectors Index (Brayshaw, Kendall & Ratcliff, 2015) used pre-recorded sections, personal stories and sounds from a place, which were relayed to the audience whilst they explored another location and watched a mesmerising performance by Lisa Kendal and Teresa Brayshaw, its self, symbolic of Irish graveyard happenings. The Bone Collectors Index adopts many contemporary sound-art practices including the reproduction of sound in a public non-gallery space. The sounds and voiced-elements examine the performers relationship with Gaelic burial rituals, their own lamenting and includes; spoken word, sung allegories, recordings of the grave being excavated, from beneath the surface and from above, and recited poetry written for the performance.

 The Barton Line

The Barton Line

Commissioned by experimental-photographer and artist, Brian Larkman, this production sonifies the journey between Barton-in-Humber and Cleethorpes. Both artists see and hear this is an intriguing yet often ignored part of Northern England. The production focusses upon the local train route, The Barton Line, as it skirts the North Lincolnshire coast line, taking in agricultural, industrial and suburban locations. The work utilises site-specific sound recordings made in early 2020. This online exhibit is a preview/pre-listen of the forthcoming Ropewalk exhibition in this ‘regionally acclaimed centre for the arts’, which will feature both artists work.

Paul’s sound recordings echo the apparitions experienced in Brian’s work, moving seamlessly between the natural and the man-made, ranging from the comfortable and familiar to the unnoticed and unusual. Exemplifying the rhythmic properties of the train as it navigates the branch-line and contrasting these recordings against the specific location sounds of the stations experienced along the route.

Yorkshire Soundings

This Soundscape was released through Framework Radio https://www.mixcloud.com/framework_radio/framework-611-20170924/

You are going to hear a collection of sounds from the region of Yorkshire in the North of England UK. This collation is the culmination of four years of field recording practice and is arranged to show both the sounds of human-made constructions, what Krause would call Anthropophony, and also the natural history sounds found in the urban areas of the county. It starts with renovated Victorian machinery, sounds from the past, passes though the common and less common sound of a modern city, using both close proximity omni directional and contact microphones to expose outer and inner workings of the places we live. It develops into an exploration of the sonic relationship between our wildlife and our machines and concludes with dusk and dawn recordings of ancient woodlands of the area. Many of the recordings were made after hours and days of waiting for the phenomena to occur, but there are also chance happenings in this composition, found through pedestrian explorations made around the region. In part this work questions our engagement with the environment, as we thermally and as a result sonically, insulate ourselves for the sound of the world around us. It suggests that we listen more, walk more and explore more. It also challenges our UK-based seasonal behaviours as we move from home to transport to work and back again, only venturing out in the summer months…. as many of these recordings are made in winter, autumn and spring. It additionally questions our relationships with places after dark, for although this is a sound-based exploration, many of the recordings are made at crepuscular times. It suggests in part, that we need not venture too far from home, as these recordings are essentially from my neighbourhood. Although these are all sounds recorded in Yorkshire, they do not include sounds of regional or commercial development; instead these sounds might be heard as heritage sounds, sounds of past industry, sounds of industrial decay, sounds of transportation and natural history sounds. These are not the sounds of people, but instead the sounds of some of objects they produce, and these are not the sounds of wilderness but instead the sounds natural history co-existing with humans in a North England county. 

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