Thursday, 11 April 2013

Digging into London: Expressing History

The news is hot at the moment with archaeological discoveries being made by the banks of the Walbrook in the City of London. I'm following it on Twitter with my curiosity piqued and my brain cells firing. Over the years, I have also read some of the more lengthy descriptions of past London digs such as No.1 Poultry, studied photographs of the bombed out City, St. Paul's standing proud, the hollow shell of St Bride's on Fleet Street and visited many times the far older walls of earlier churches revealed on the same site. History made physical is fascinating. The discovery of the history under our feet tends to be met by our population with an enduring curiosity and wonder.

To be able to work with such a subject is a humbling experience. The further away human culture can be found the more I feel we peer into it, like a mirror, wondering if that we look into that darkness for long enough something will emerge, perhaps a reflection of our own very human selves.

It seemed appropriate to me to look again at a project from 2011, one which was designed to do just that, to bridge the sounds of "now" with the sounds of "then".

The Diespeker Wharf brief was to condense everything that had ever been on one site into 5 minutes. Being London, the site has been exceptionally busy, from Romans to revolt, preaching to pleasure, inns to industry. A story of London men and women and, being by the canal, also of barges! The piece showed the cycles of building up and taking down. What stands now is what was left of its last incarnation, now converted into offices.

History is an enormous subject. It is always an educative and satisfying experience to work with it in different ways in sound, in music, in imagery, in the pieces I make.

So, here is the Diespeker Wharf Project again, recorded live. Identify the eras as they pass, history flying before your eyes.
Why does the drive of a Roman army seem to match the persistency of our drum and bass, how does the noise of industry blend with the syncopation of Latin rhythms? Perhaps we make everything after our own internal rhythms.
Ronan, a field archaeologist at the Walbrook site
image from the blog Walbrook Discovery by MOLA 
Go there to follow the progress and find out more.