Sound Travels

Sound and Music

Sound Travels exhibits women composers and their candid and personal stories, through diary entries taken over ten days and accompanying photographs, the music of women from diverse backgrounds into the heart of the British Music Collection. Curated by Sarah Sayeed

Shama Rahman
‘Sound Travels’ is a particularly salient and apt theme for me at this time, as through my music I have recently received invitations to travel to three different latitudes and longitudes spread far and wide; Korea, England and extraordinarily, Antarctica. From another perspective, I embed sound from my travels into my music through audio field recordings of both physical geographical locations and organic nature with native wildlife and human culture. So my music is both an expression and a representation, containing as it does both my environment and my response to it!  Rather than being gender-oriented, my compositions draw from a broad human gamut. I do see the need to provide a space for expression and encouragement, where women can contribute an equal and diverse voice to these fields.  My main performance instrument, the Sitar has a special quality as it has sympathetic strings under the main strings that resonate at the natural frequencies of the notes being played. This sound travels through the instrument, my body and the air, acting as a natural amplification system. I’m very interested in the different media through which sound can travel and current projects including composing music that people can hear through bone conduction!

The furthest east I’ve flown on my own for my work is to Korea and I feel grateful to have had this opportunity opened up to me as a culmination of hard work and honesty.

I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight the impact of
climate change and global warming on this incredible environment...

I had been commissioned by the Antarctic Biennale to create a new electro-acoustic composition,
‘ReSound’

I performed my album ‘Truth BeTold’ on the Antarctic Peninsula in a concert that is completely unprecedented - invoving playing the Sitar on ice.

Pictured: The organic, yet technologically futuristic, Roli Seaboard Rise on which I’m improvising, inspired by and sonically translating the stunning secluded backdrop of Paradise Bay, Antarctica.

Yumi Hara
I live in a country where I wasn’t born. I perform in countries where I am not living. I operate art music practice in a rock context. I bring improvisation into composition. I am a commuter and an outsider. I am a medium of sound. As I travel, sound travels.

Performers who have commissioned me were either women or gay men. Straight men have never directly commissioned me. I think this is why female composers have fewer opportunities.

Is it going to be necessary to sell our ‘-ness’ forever? Will ‘deeply rooted’ to your ‘culture’ and ‘DNA’ always be requirements to ‘exotic’ looking people?

Diversity should mean that you could look any ethnicity and have an unmatched cultural background to what your name sounds like.

Colette Dutot
I am revisiting my compositions that span thirty years and thanks to technology, I am hearing pieces for the first time. It’s exciting to re-engage with my musical past. Listening to them now is evocative, and looking back, I realise I have always had a strong compositional voice. It’s magical.

Growing up in Jersey was an incredible experience; living freely in a beautiful place. This was the start of my compositional journey. I'm proud of my Jersey heritage.


Listening back to the work of my younger self is both radical and enchanting. For me, writing at the piano is a total love affair.

I love to record sounds when out on my travels. My piece ‘Imp’ was created on a Hebridean cliff top. 

Henrietta Smith-Rolla
It is important to see a human's face when communicating. Even though this is not always possible, we as humans need facial expressions to communicate. Subtle facial signals are part of a larger communication process but a simple smile can indicate our approval of a message, while a scowl might signal displeasure or disagreement. Understanding facial expressions and their meaning is an important part of communication. When the face cannot be seen it is harder to communicate.

I’ve always listened to music when I travel, a habit that began with my first portable cassette player. Whenever I leave the house I’m listening to music.

I find this time to be one of the most valuable times of my day. Listening and traveling can put many things into perspective. A time to listen, to watch others process thoughts and my environment.

When someone traveling wears a pair of headphones, they physically look disconnected from other humans traveling around them....

....They appear to have no desire to listen to or connect with the reality surrounding them, existing in their own reality. I have drawn this theory from my own experiences.

Laura Reid
 I love living near the sea. Undulating waves, resonating above turbulent seas. The sound of seagulls, perching on rooftops. It all sounds romantic, but it hasn’t been without challenges.

I love walking by the sea, the coast reflects back a constantly changing perspective, unstable yet fixed within the landscape.

Taking the train to London is such a great change. I love just sitting back and looking at the view.

As a mum it is hard finding the time to get composing work, but I am constantly trying to look for new opportunities despite this.

Have performing / composing projects happening so need to arrange childcare and get plans organised....

Didn’t get a chance to compose today but had time to think about it. The piece is for cello and electronics so I need to be think of ways to fully integrate live sounds with electronic effects.

Renu 
Sound Travel. The uncovering of new frequencies. I initially breath the sounds and let them absorb into my being. I then transpose the sound into an instrument I play or a composition. Sound travel has no form. It is like ether it passes through one's body and like dust it settles into subconscious psyche, conscious and sub-conscious.

I try not to use cut & paste pastiches of gender & cultural identity.

My productions/compositions are now gradually leaning towards the more abstract. I hear sounds so differently now. They are currently a therapy for me rather than a manifesto for my ego.

Music is maths. I wake up in the morning, I do 2 hours tabla practice as a form of meditation. It is a daily ritual, like jogging, making a cup of tea or doing namaz/puja.

I feel my voice/music/message has, in the last few years, become more free, more clear and more sincere.

Credits: Story

Would like to thank all of the artists who offered their photography and candid, personal thoughts to the Sound Travels exhibition: Shama Rahman, Yumi Hara, Laura Reid, Henrietta Rolla-Smith, Colette Dutot and Renu Hossain.

The women have been extremely open and honest with their own experiences and this wealth and quality of material offered has allowed for a really enjoyable curating process.

The images have been provided courtesy of the artists. Credit to Ed Robinson at Clearspace Photography for his photographic images of Colette Dutot.

Many thanks to all the staff at the British Music Collection who generously offered their time in allowing me to view archive materials of compositions and the work of documented female composers. There are relatively few women composers recorded in comparison to the male composers but nevertheless it was promising to see that the work of women musicians and composers is being recorded and acknowledged. I hope this work continues through this wonderful resource at Heritage Quay.

Finally I would like to thank Sound and Music for the curatorial space and opportunity. It has been amazing to be a part of building Google Cultural Institute's exhibition collection and I'm really grateful to Sound and Music for selecting me for this particular area of women composers, diversity and visibility. It has been a pleasure.

Sarah Sayeed
Musician and Composer

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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