In The Hull Of The Temple

Deep Listening and Ambient Roosting in The Heart of The City

OtherSide Maps

3 min read

Watching the schoolkids sniffling and coughing their way onto the already crowded bus, as the windows begin to steam up with the shared breath of a hundred strangers, on this freezing November day - I begin to seriously question what the hell we are doing going into the city centre, voluntarily, at school kick out time, during xmas shopper mayhem season.

But here we are.

It's 3.30 pm and already the weak, lemony light is beginning to fade. We will be too late for the birds, well, possibly some night gulls, but that's about it.

We're on a mission to make some ambient recordings for our music and sound art project, wrapped up in scarves and gloves with a loose plan to head to Temple Church, the two of us are feeling less than enthusiastic at this moment in time.

Escaping the intensity of shrieking and crisp packets on to Old Market, it's a relief to breathe some unshared air, but the icy wall of chill that slaps us in the face as we alight really gets me thinking maybe this was a stupid idea.

It's bloody freezing.

With the cacophony of traffic, sirens, shoppers, building sites, workers on their way home and students surging in and out of buses - it's difficult to imagine why we had thought this might be a good plan. There is certainly noise - but is it the right kind of noise? Can ambience be this hectic?

Making our way through the dusky back streets, already beginning to tune in to the sounds around us, I notice an antagonistic sounding monologue close behind and prickle at the perceptible stress that travels further than usual through the crisp, taught air. Car horns beeping, pedestrian crossings bleeping, distant shouts and screeches, the clanging and banging of girders and cranes, generators and industrial vents - it's an orchestra of bustle.

New buildings are springing up everywhere, and even though it wasn't long since I was last here, I struggle to find my way to the Temple gardens, due to the constantly changing layout of streets and new blocks.

The gardens have been completely enclosed by towering structures now - the crooked spire barely visible between the tall office blocks, apartment complexes and hotels. But it is there.

The Temple Church, also known as The Holy Cross Church, or as I like to call it - 'The Temple of The Rose' due to it's extensive, well kept rose gardens - is a ruined church in the Redcliffe area of central Bristol, UK, and is one of my favourite atmospheric zones in town.

Originally a round church of the Knights Templar, it was built on land granted by Robert of Gloucester sometime between 1128 and 1147 - which would make it one of the earliest Knights Templar churches in England - a fact which doesn't seem to be much noted in the local historical literature.

Although only the remains of the later square church are now standing, the footprint of the original round Templar church is marked out within the ruins, and extensive renovations have been recently completed in order to make the space safely accessible to the public.,_Bristol

It is an atmospheric site for many reasons, but a major aspect of it's ambience may be a modern phenomenon. Who knows what it sounded like here a thousand years ago? But now, with the flanking of the gardens by tall concrete edifices all around, it has the strangest acoustic properties, which are immediately apparent as soon as you pass through the gates.

We intuitively make our way over to a bench in an area where the sound feels the most interesting, and set up the mic.

As soon as the Record button is hit, everything changes. Forced into silence and aware of what the mic is gathering - the chaotic sounds and random noises begin to sing a previously unheard song, as though the act of listening itself affects the composition.

Gulls move overhead from East to West and their calls bark back in a perfect delay as they go.

The clangs of girders so perfectly reverberated they become resonant in the cold air, build up barely audible tones and infrasounds which amalgamate into symphonies with distant buses and trains.

A helicopter purrs through the hum and it's vibrations swirl around the amphitheatre in subtle repeats.

Starlings begin to arrive in the tree behind us, rustling and squeaking, and the sounds of lorries braking in the distance send deep bellowing cries through the ascending swooshes and splashes of passing traffic in full 360 surround sound.

When we listen to the recording later - it sounds like being inside the hull of a giant ship, or perhaps in an enormous dockyards warehouse. You would never guess where it was actually recorded. But we're looking forward to incorporating some of it into our later work.

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