Sound Thought 2011 Part 1

Non-musical mushrooms

“I’m looking for the musical mushrooms” I said, pointing to The Secret Sounds of Spores Installation in the Sound Thought 2011 brochure, “but I haven’t a clue how to find my way round this place”. I was in The Arches, the cavernous converted Victorian railway arches beneath Glasgow Central Station, and I was running late because of the unfortunate oversight of rushing out the house sans hearing aid and having to go back. I was there to enjoy the promised festival of ‘mould-breaking music, sound and performance research’, and was particularly interested in the afternoon session on musicians’ use of hearing aids.

“Just go right to the end of that corridor, turn right and someone will direct you”, said the friendly girl at the box office. Several minutes and a quite a few hundred metres later, I reached the end of the Kafkaesque corridor, where a Type 5 Inaudible steward emerged from the gloom and said something, well, inaudible. I was just about to say “I’m here for the mushrooms” to end the verbal impasse, when I was swiftly ushered through a set of double doors and found myself in almost complete darkness.

A strong smell of disinfectant assaulted my nostrils as I entered the space. I could hear voices, and once my eyes adjusted, I realised I was in a huge brick vaulted cavern illuminated by red safelights and the reflected glow from a projector screen. This isn’t the flippin’ mushrooms, I sighed as I noted the silhouetted audience of fifteen scattered round little metal cafe tables near a stage with a microphoned presenter on it. Oh heck, it’s the end of the first set of paper presentations, I thought, as I slid into the only available seat at the back while I worked out my next move. Resigned to a slight detour in my fungi-finding schedule, I settled in and cast my eyes around the scene. I saw with great satisfaction that the stage had two enormous speakers and an amp on it, and I basked in the nice warm glow of clearly audible voices from the stage.

My joy was short-lived, however, as the first of many trains rumbled noisily out of the station directly above my head. Dah-duh dah-duuuuuh…..dah-duh dah-duuuuuh…..thudded the wheels  on the track joints, as 400 tons of slowly moving metal bore down on the meticulously arched Victorian brickwork overhead. The hearing aid rattled with great excitement at all the unusual low frequency reverberations, before being enticed into a high-pitched duet with a bleeping forklift truck which had started up in the space next door. When a passing underground train now shook the concrete floor between my feet I felt relieved that, with the notorious exception of The Tay Bridge, the Victorians were renowned for the over-engineering of all their load-bearing railway structures.

Between trains, as the undecayed echoes from a distant bout of industrial hammering along the corridor bounced straight into my gaping lugs, I realised that the day was going to be an interesting listening experience for all the wrong reasons.

Coming up in Part 2:

  • My greed for free tea and biscuits results in an embarrassing tussle with a glass door
  • I get mistaken for a missing presenter as I eagerly await the start of the Music and Hearing Aids session
  • I catastrophically destroy the poetic silence of a soundless performance piece
  • I finally get to experience the Music of the Spores

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