In this paper I will look at two sound installation projects realised in 1998/99, the first in the Oldham Art Gallery, the second at the Kew Bridge Steam Museum, London, where the source sounds for my earlier piece Grand Junction had been gathered (see KlangArt 97). The pieces will be discussed in particular reference to the integrated composition of space and the way that spatialisation contributes to representational, metaphorical and structural aspects of the works. In both pieces the spatial distribution of sound is determined by both the context and the content of the work. While the space for which each work was commissioned is a determining factor in the overall approach adopted, the use of the space relates strongly to the musical and extra – musical content of the works.
The use of text and the human voice in Boomtown creates a quasi – documentary style which while highly representational is still rooted in musical form. Spatial characteristics of the work serve both the musical structure and the storytelling capacity of the work, forging a link between them and introducing another layer of metaphor.
The placement of sounds in their natural sonic environment in Living Steam raises issues of the boundary of the work that are paralleled in 20th Century visual art.
Commissioned by Oldham Museum as part of Oldham borough’s eponymous 150th anniversary exhibition, Boomtown was an aural accompaniment to a part of the exhibition entitled Radical Thinkers, dealing with the political history of the borough and focusing in particular on the 19th Century Radical Movement, Trades Unionism and electoral reform. Included in the exhibition were trades union banners, pamphlets and portraits of political figures from Oldham. One particular set