HEAR, hear! The oratory, arguments and wit of the Scottish cradle of democracy are to be captured for posterity as part of a new “sound-based artwork.”
The initiative at the Scottish Parliament will record debates from First Minister’s Questions and various committees before being mixed with background noise and music. Snapshots of conversations from other areas of the Holyrood building will also be recorded as part of a project that will cost more than £1,500.
Described as a “portrait in sound” and an “audio snapshot of the activities within the Scottish Parliament,” the artists behind the scheme hope to create an “engaging and playful” representation of everyday life at the seat of Scotland’s legislature.
The two-strong team – a sound artist and a composer – have won MSPs’ approval and financial backing for the project, entitled Recording The Parliament and stress there is no political motive. Zoe Irvine and Pippa Murphy said they will include not just parliamentary debates and banter but also recordings of interviews with employees such as researchers, advisers, journalists, security guards, receptionists, tour guides, cleaners and canteen workers as well as visitors to the building.
Murphy is a composer of instrumental and digital music who has written for BBC Radio 4, the Scottish Flute Ensemble and theatre companies such as Traverse, Tron, and 7:84, while Irvine is a sound artist who lectures at Dundee’s Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design. The young mothers came up with the idea after visiting the parliament with their new babies. The artists then approached Tricia Marwick, the Scottish Parliament’s presiding officer, to discuss their proposal, before submitting a full brief.
The artwork has since been approved by the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB), which has also pledged to fund the project to the tune of £1,500. Murphy and Irvine are now hoping to receive further funding from Creative Scotland so that they can begin work in August.
It is hoped the resultant piece will be showcased during a performance at next year’s Festival of Politics, which is staged at the parliament, with plans to take the work on the road as an interactive audio piece.
The artists also intend to produce a CD which will be available to buy in the parliament’s shop, while the recorded conversations will be made available as an oral history archive of Holyrood’s “working environment.”
Murphy and Irvine said they intend to capture the energy of the debates in their work, explaining in their proposal: “It is not our aim as artists to represent any political claims or to embody any particular politics. We are interested in the processes, the working, the dialogue, the flow of conversation within the building and what we can learn and share by recording sound and composing this material into new constellations.”
They added: “We hope our work will be engaging and playful. It will in no way exploit the participants.”
Murphy said: “Holyrood is a fascinating building, architecturally but also as a hub of activity, and we’re really, really pleased that the parliament are happy for us to come in and look at the different lives and microclimates that are in the building.
“They have been very forward thinking in assisting us in our proposal. There are lots of different artworks in the parliament, and this is another wing of that. I have no idea what people in the parliament will think afterwards, but it’s a process of discovery, bringing the building to life and hopefully presenting it in a completely different way.”
Andrew Crines, a lecturer in political science at the University of Huddersfield and a specialist in the field of political oratory, said oral records of parliamentary debates offered a different insight into the working of a legislature compared to written accounts.
He said: “In the recording of debates you hear the inflexion of the speaker and their emotional intention. You can’t get that in text. Having an oral record of debates in the parliament is a positive thing.
“The expectations of the electorate have shifted a great deal, and politicians need to reflect that change. Before, people would go to party meetings or political associations and hear a political figure speak, but society has shifted away from that kind of political engagement.”
In sanctioning the scheme, the SPCB nonetheless noted that some sensitive discussions within Holyrood may not be suitable for recording, noting in its board minutes how the artists will “take advice from clerks and parliament officials.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Parliament said: “The SCPB was interested in the unique approach by a composer and sound artist to work with members of the public and MSPs to create an artwork inspired by experiences of daily life in the parliament and we look forward to working with the artists when the project progresses.”
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 5 C to 11 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west