CHIRP & DRIFT : 2018
The light and sound sculpture, Chirp & Drift is a flock of illuminated instruments that chatter in morse code messages. Gentle tones and harmonies are made by accordion reeds hidden within each ‘bird’. As they move, air is pressed through the reeds, reminding the listener of the delicate and fragile state of the environment and our own health. The installation translates text into morse code via a musical system devised by the artist, that is possible (but difficult) to decipher. The text is customised for each location and previous editions have created music from the names of local birds, to short bird-inspired poems devised on workshops.
A playful probe into questions around interspecies communication, messages being obscured by interference, mis-interpretations and speculations around birds singing purely to enjoy making music.
Premiered at Light Up Lancaster in 2018 (above video), Chirp & Drift continues to tour internationally, performing new compositions each time. Below is a video from LUX Helsinki 2022, created using the names of local children paired with their favourite bird.
This version below was generated from the bird-themed street names of Blackbird Leys and Greater Leys, Oxford, with each bird name translated into a ‘musical morse code’, presented by OCM at Oxford Christmas Light Festival 2020.
Chirp & Drift was premiered at Light Up Lancaster in November 2018. The instruments made a temporary home in the majestic copper beech tree in the Storey Gallery garden. The Chirp&Drift workshops for Light Up Lancaster were a collaboration with poet Sarah Hymas and conservationist / writer Laurence Rose and took place at Leighton Moss RSPB reserve. This edition was interactive with a live audience tweets via twitter – made in response to three simple question – what is your favourite bird?, What do you think birds tweet about in the trees? and If you were a bird, where would you migrate to?
Chirp & Drift was re-shown at Below the Blanket, a dusk time walk through the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh produced by Cryptic in August 2019. This version played a composition based on morse code translations of birds local to the Flow Country in Scotland.
The piece continues to tour and Kathy recently performed live with the installation in collaboration with Stavanger’s Kitchen Ensemble in Norway.
More information about the ideas behind the piece – Chirp&Drift aims to highlight processes where errors and miscommunications occur and was inspired through learning about how urban noise can lead birds to adapt their songs to different pitches in order to be heard. This got me thinking about bandwidth availability, and the many methods of communication we have available – but also how things can get lost within noise, whether that be sound or other kinds of interferences. I choose to use Morse Code in the translating because it is a coded method of communication that is used less and less. It can sound like a message, but also like sound or music. The title of the work comes from 2 different terms used to describe morse code when it becomes distorted. ‘Chirp’ is used to describe a change in the frequency when a sound starts and stops; and ‘Drift’ is when the over-all frequency gradually shifts as the temperature of equipment changes. Both words also connect to birdsong and bird migration.
Follow the development of the project here… Leading up to the piece, Kathy carried out a period of Research and Development with funding from the Arts Council England.
PROJECT TEAM :
Audio-Visual Artist: Kathy Hinde ; Interactive programmer – Matthew Olden ; Poet / Writer – Sarah Hymas ; Conservationist / Writer – Laurence Rose ; Studio Assistant – Jasmine Butt ; Environmental Scientist – Stuart Sharp ; Co-commissioners – Lancaster Arts ; Co-commissioners – Light Up Lancaster ; Developed on residency at – Know West Media Centre The Factory and at Hackspace, Bristol.