Kathy Hinde

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. 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 and co-commissioned for the festival with Lancaster Arts. 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.

Chirp & Drift continues to tour and has been exhibited at : Light Up Lancaster; Wigan Light Night; Sonica Glasgow; Sound Art Brighton; Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh; LUX Helsinki; Bristol Lights Festival; Illuminate Adelaide; Oxford Christmas Lights; Durham Lumiere and Inside Out Dorset.

More information about the ideas behind the piece. : The idea for Chirp & Drift grew from discovered how urban noise can cause birds to adapt their songs to a higher pitch in order to be heard. This got me thinking about ‘bandwidth’ availability, and the many methods of communication that are fighting for space.  In a biodiverse ecosystem, species have evolved to make themselves heard at specific frequencies allowing space for each other to create a rich and full sonic spectrum. In the case of an overloaded spectrum, important messages may can get lost within noise, whether that be sound or other kinds of interferences. I choose Morse Code because it is a method of communication that is almost obsolete, yet still used in some circumstances, and is often associated with emergency. Morse code can sound like a message, but also, perhaps like music and maybe a little like birdsong if you stretch your imagination. 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.

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 &  Light Up Lancaster  ; Developed on residency at – Know West Media Centre The Factory and at Hackspace, Bristol.

The accordion reeds were sourced via accordionist Andreas Borregaard during the development of our collaborative piece “Aeolian” with composer Maja Ratkje and the Red Note Ensemble.

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