Hear A Pin Drop at the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe
Norwich sound artist Holly Rumble on listening to pins and birds
This article is from 2012.
These may be tough times for the public sector, but at least the officials at Edinburgh City Council are blessed with the Fringe to liven up their daily litany of licensing requests. Sound artist Holly Rumble provided one such chink of light in a local councillor’s day with a question about her show, One Minute Birdwatching. ‘Jings!’ came the bemused DC Thomson-esque response, ‘you think you’ve heard it all … ’
As a creator of interactive sound art and member of Norwich live art collective other/other/other – whose very name reflects their inability to be pigeonholed – Rumble is unlikely to be fazed by such reactions to her work. Of course, Edinburgh in August is probably one of the few places where many would not bat an eyelid at a group of people in a park shouting ‘bird!’, or a woman listening to a pin drop on a busy street; these activities are central to her two Fringe projects.
One Minute Birdwatching has Rumble inviting participants to join her in observing the avian life of West Princes Street Gardens for 60 seconds, saying the name of any birds they can identify (or simply ‘bird’ for those they can’t), all of which is recorded and placed online as a binaural sound file for all to hear.
It’s simple and playful, and that’s the point. ‘I’m interested in rules as a method of creating performance,’ says Rumble. ‘I think it’s quite interesting to set yourself some parameters and then allow chance or a chaotic, random event to shape the content. There is a danger of things like this being one-liners, but mine always stem from a genuine interest, be it generating sounds from chance, such as in birdwatching, or concerns about acoustics in spaces. They’re driven by something serious but in order to get that across I think it’s helpful to just be playful.’
Rumble is also working on Hear a Pin Drop Here, a piece specially devised for Edinburgh. She’ll spend the first week of the Fringe trying to find places in the city centre where she can do as the title suggests, recording their coordinates and photographing them to make a virtual tour of Edinburgh’s sonic oases. Audience members attending her live presentation at the end of the week will receive their own ‘pin drop kit’ so that they too can contribute to this little map of calm.
Supported by funding from the increasingly hit-making development programme Escalator East to Edinburgh, Rumble hopes to use her Fringe events as a kind of residency, allowing her to develop the work further. For both shows, the size and uniquely open-minded nature of Edinburgh audiences is a boon.
With One Minute Birdwatching, ‘the more people the better, because you get a lovely kind of overlap. If a bird is flying from left to right, then the people on the left spot it first and you get a nice ripple spreading. I do get genuinely excited if I see anything other than gulls or pigeons, but at least if it is just a pigeon then that’s a lovely sound: “pigeon, pigeon, pigeon, pigeon”. It’s fun to take words away from their meaning.’