A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to visit NGTE Pyestock. Near where I spent a chunk of my childhood in Fleet (Hampshire, UK), Pyestock was a major site for testing jet engines. Concord, Royal Navy and many other engines were tested across various ‘cells’ on site. For the last 10 years Pyestock has slowly faded after it was closed. When we visited the site Tesco had been planning to turn the site into a major distribution centre (and may still be). This got me thinking about liminal ideas and (re)presentations as Pyestock continued to be threatened by a form of impending form of topocide… The signs were upcycled from a Tesco supermarket and then carefully placed in and around Pyestock’s rooms, cells and equipment.
I enjoy listening to music and sounds to intentionally evoke feelings about a place. On the London Underground I will sometimes use my iPhone to record one place only to intentionally listen to it another. Doing this can be highly disorienting to the point where ‘phantom’ sounds force me to stop and make sense of what’s reality. It’s not too different from being in a shop and being apologetic to a mannequin.
Most recently I’ve taken to listening to the soundtrack of Sunshine while navigating the tube. Directed by Danny Boyle the score for the film was created in collaboration between John Murphy and Underworld (who I understand improvised much of it while watching the film). This is essentially a sci-fi horror film about an attempt to stop the Sun from going out by flying a nuclear bomb into it. For those on the ship that will deliver the bomb the journey is far from easy. As the brightening ‘sunshine’ grows so does its beauty, draw and intensity.. but bad things happen on Icarus II, not least the trauma of dealing with the remains of Icarus I, which led the previous and failed mission. This is a tense and psychological film and the soundtrack reflects this.
Stepping into the underground, descending the escalators, boarding a train and listening loud to tracks like ‘Kanada’s Death’ and ”Pinback Slashes Capa” can be more the unsettling. While I know that I’m in a relatively safe environment the whispers, tense chords and creeping acoustics always force me to tighten up. Underground trains are essentially spaceships that journey through dark space and eventually into sunshine.. they move in and contain political spaces that exist to provide freedom but have been exploited to instill fear through violence.
While the score for the film has been composed for something (un)real it has a very real impact on my (un)enjoyment of travel and one that I suggest you give a try…