Art of noise

Cass Music Technology Alumna Hannah Thompson is Senate House Library’s first artist-in-residence

Senate House Library will offer visitors a unique opportunity to experience Charles Holden’s iconic building – through sound and vision - with the appointment of Cass BSc Music Technology graduate Hannah Thompson as its first ever artist-in-residence this month.

Funded by a Leverhulme Trust Artist in Residence Grant, sound artist Hannah has been commissioned to create a sonic testament to the living history of Senate House as it undergoes structural remodelling through the University of London’s Programme Beveridge.

Her ‘sound art’ installation goes on show to the public in November as part of the 2016 Being Human humanities festival. Based on themes of juxtaposition and interactivity through this period of disruption and change, it will capture the building’s history as the war-time Ministry of Information and its cultural representation as George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth in 1984.

Taking Orwell’s Memory Hole as its inspiration, the installation will feature a Memory Hole Machine from which information and sounds gathered during the residency will be played back for the first time in the public performance. It pays tribute to the devotion to research in this home to a world-class library for the University of London and the School of Advanced Study (SAS).

‘It’s a real privilege to work in such an inspiring and iconic building and interact with specialist researchers from the diverse range of collections,’ says Hannah. ‘And it is humbling to be able to create a sonic dissemination of the research carried out and the systems and networks that facilitate the academic activities within its walls.’

Her ten-month post allows her, armed with recording equipment, to roam the art deco building which is being developed to provide improved technology and new workspaces. She will document the works in progress and archive the sounds that will be lost as the institution is irrevocably changed.

The installation will continue to gather and play back data from the building and its occupants into the future. Placing Hannah Thompson’s work in its historical context, Colin Homiski, research librarian for the visual and performing arts, says ‘Over a century ago, the Futurist Luigi Russolo’s manifesto The Art of Noises, called for the expansion of music to reflect better the sounds and noises of machinery found in early 20th century industrial Italy. Hannah’s work sits on that continuum which will allow us to hear Holden’s architectural gem as we have never heard it, breaking down the boundary between life and art.’

‘The building and activities provide a dynamic myriad of sounds, a rich body of thematic material and varied, curious narratives,’ adds Hannah Thompson. ‘Through the generosity of the Leverhulme Trust and the enthusiasm of my hosts, as a resident artist I will be able to support research projects, events and exhibitions throughout the year.’

Hannah Thompson graduated last year with a BSc in Music Technology (Audio Systems). She is a trained violinist and recorder player whose journey from classical soloist and orchestral player to experimental electronic sound artist, audio systems designer, electronic instrument builder and audio programmer, has opened up a vast palette of sounds and control possibilities embracing and utilising technologies from the acoustic and mechanical to the electronic, analog and digital. Work includes site-specific installations, live performance, improvisation and composition, from live radio to audio application development.