Learning to Listen: Tom White
Over the past year we worked with a group of students and staff at the world-renowned Royal College of Art in London to develop a series of sonic design experiments, pushing the envelope of sound design and communication. Listen and find out more below. Check out the full collection here.
|Photos: Clayton Cavender|
Can you tell us something about your background?
At art school I began as a painter but became increasingly dissatisfied with the results. I’d been interested in experimental music and looked for an excuse to integrate sound into my practice. I abandoned the painting studio and made short super-8 films and pieced together accompanying soundtracks. I obsessed over Berlin Horse by Malcolm Le Grice on a beaten up VHS and it seemed this was an acceptable art form to a naive student, somewhat of a revelation. For the past 10 years I’ve been making installations, performing live, publishing sound and teaching: I ran an improvisation workshop with students at the RCA for this project.
What inspires you to work with sound?
I’m interested in sound as a physical, sculptural medium. For me it’s the most effective material to express ideas and the most immediate. What keeps it interesting is the variety of contexts I’m able to work in, unrestricted to a singular environment and able to keep surprising myself.
What is the concept behind your project and how did you make it?
The source material for this piece is a binaural recording of my father proudly demonstrating his log burner. He had just moved to the south of France for his retirement. As the fire began to come alive, we both listened to the otherworldly hisses and voices it produced. Recording binaurally gives an eerie sense of space, akin to being actually in the room. Further manipulation and editing gives the recording a narrative structure and surreal feeling – a micro radio drama of remembered experience.
What have you learnt from listening to the world more closely?
I imagine this applies to most artists working with sound, but I’d say I’m more sensitive sonically to everyday life. This of course can have a detrimental physiological affect in an urban environment, but at the same time allows you to listen more carefully. For this project I was able to share that with my father during the process of recording the activity, as usually it can be a solitary practice.