Eargates / Eyegates

Live collaborative audio-visual performance by Jake Williams and Nick Roberts

Abney Park Chapel, Stoke Newington, London. October 6th 2012.

The performance was featured on Vice’s Creator’s Project website.

In two 40 minute evening sittings, using a bespoke performance setup (including a turntable used as a controller), field recordings of London churches  where manipulated into an extended version of the psychoacoustic soundscape piece Eargates. This was accompanied by projections created and controlled by visual artist Nick Roberts. During the daytime the normally-gated Chapel was open to visitors, allowing them to explore the space whilst the recorded version of Eargates played quietly over a multi-channel system.

Eargates is a sound piece made from recordings of 7 church services around London. It explores varied forms of Christian rituals, from the intimate to the grandiose, their effects and meaning, and the spaces in which they occur, all from the perspective of a non-believer.

Appropriating, subverting and even at times transcending the source material, Eargates is not intended as a statement or critique of religion. Rather, it aims to capture both the beauty of the sonic experience and snatches of the emotions evoked by the rituals themselves (detached from the theological meanings attached to them). These feelings range from calm, meditative reflection to unease, joy to melancholy, awkwardness to cathartic release.

Traditional editing techniques of musique concrète evoke the sonic geographies of modern urban worship in an abstract rather than documentary form. Loops of singing, chanting, organ, room tones and preaching slowly evolve and are layered over each other in rounds, with no recording ever heard alone, creating an intensely evocative soundscape.

“The installation itself was extremely thought provoking and suited perfectly its environment. The feedback we received from our visitors during the day was very positive. Opening the cemetery gates in the evening for a booked audience allowed the installation to evolve into something quite spectacular. The combination of sound, visuals and the chapel, created an ambience never before seen in my time here at Abney Park.” 

John Baldock, Abney Park Trust.

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Photos by Ali Wade