Underground (2013)

Underground is a radio adaptation of a multi-channel sound installation created for Heartlands mining museum in Pool, Cornwall. It combines spoken testimony, the use of oral history archives, and field recordings to create a piece that treads a delicate line between documentary and soundscape composition.

The original installation is spread across seven rooms in two separate buildings, each space covering a specific theme relating to mining in Cornwall. Underground is an expanded programme based on the material presented in a room dedicated to the experiences of the miners who worked in and beneath the buildings where the exhibition is now located.

The original site-specific piece was able to respond both to the architectural spaces in which it is installed, and the ways in which visitors move through them. Given that acoustic isolation between the spaces varied, interaction between the different spaces was inevitable and became a key feature of the sound design. While the radio programme loses this aspect of the original work, the intimacy of the private listening environment affords new approaches to the unfolding of the work in time, as well as the opportunity to explore a much greater level of sonic detail than was possible within the reverberant concrete rooms of the museum.

Building on approaches to voice and the representation of subjects pioneered by Ewan MacColl, Charles Parker and Peggy Seeger in their Radio Ballads, the Solitude Trilogy by Glenn Gould and more recently a body of work developed by the Kitchen Sisters, Underground weaves disparate fragments of interviews taken from hundreds of hours of material to form dialogues not only with other interviews, but also with the field recordings made in and around Cornish mines.

Underground was first broadcast on Concertzender Dutch Radio on 25 September 2013 as part of SoundFjord’s contribution to Inventions for Radio.

Further information on Heartlands can be found here

Acknowledgements: Interviews with Robin Boon, John Dungey, Kingsley Rickard and Richard Williams recorded by Lawrence Holmes for the Mineral Tramways Oral History project. With thanks to Azook. Interviews with Alec Nippard, Harry Trembath recorded for the Geevor Oral History Archive. With thanks to Geevor Tin Mine Museum. Interviews with Cyril Honey, Peter Hughes, Mark Kaczmarek, Mike Osman, Kingsley Rickard and Colin Short recorded by David Prior for Heartlands.

Site recordings were made at Geevor tin mine Museum, Holman Test Mine, Kew Bridge Steam Museum, Morwellham Quay Mine, Rosevale Mine, Tolgus Tin and the Performance Centre at Falmouth University.

 Special thanks: To Nick Thomas and Cyril Honey at Geevor, Gus Williams and Mark Kaczmarek at Camborne School of Mines, Claire White and Tim Robbins at Azook, Rick Stewart at Morwellham Quay, Adam Sharpe at Rosevale Mine and Alan Barnes from the Falmouth Shout.