What are the Stone Tapes?
Four Sound Art pieces, collectively entitled “The Stone Tapes”, have been created by artists Catherine Ellis, Janet Hoy, Stephen Lewis and Amanda Walker of the Bishop Street Studios, as part of the 400th Year Anniversary celebrations for the City Walls of Derry/Londonderry.
As a way of bringing to life the proposition “If Stones Could Speak”, the artists drew inspiration from the 19th Century theory of “stone tapes”.This was the hypothesis that psychic phenomena were little more than disturbed energy fields; memory traces of events absorbed and trapped in rocks and built structures. Under certain atmospheric conditions the sounds are released to play and replay – sometimes lyrical, sometimes a cacophony.
A soundscape for each of the four original gates – Shipquay Gate, Ferryquay Gate, Bishop’s Gate and Butcher Gate – has been researched and produced, each speaking to the history that has unfolded around their arches; as if sounds of city life over 400 years have been captured, jumbled and compressed over time, only now to be released again.
The artists hope visitors to the Walls will listen to these works in context, using their phones, and ideally headphones, while walking from one City Gate to the next. The intention is to transform a walk into a creative engagement with the location.
To listen, please click on the links below.
I would like to introduce you to my soundtape of Bishop's Gate, standing tall between the Bogside and the Fountain..both holy grounds intertwining..again.
Touring around the walls, we took recordings inside and out which reflect the city from 400 years ago to the present day...from sounds of the locks originally hung on the gates during the siege, to a child's whisper..a subtle voice trying to be heard. This soundscape brings us to a place in time and I hope mirrors my experience of this part of the city. - Amanda Walker
The histories of cities are often written about the exceptions.
These exceptional events and the people involved may be dramatic, glorious, and often infamous, so they get recorded, mythologised, celebrated, and can overwhelm the everyday true history of a place.
The vast number of people that live in a city, especially a working city like Derry, live wonderful, beautiful, 'ordinary' yet 'extraordinary' lives - they work, they laugh, they cry, raise kids, have problems, face adversity and thrive. This piece has been created to celebrate all the people who have lived here over 400 years - making their own goals, striving for their own personal successes, meeting their own challenges and carving out their own paths in life - every one, equally interesting, equally valuable. Celebrate the everyday. - Steve Lewis
All cities carry a certain ‘air’. Its personality contained within layer upon layer of sights, sounds and smells, released up into the air before settling back down into the streets, the buildings and the people, giving the city character.
The main gateway for export and import of goods and people took place at Shipquay Gate, via the river Foyle, which originally lapped up against it. Shipquay Gate is now adjacent to the Guildhall and Guildhall Square, the main space for local events, singing, shouting, speaking……. silence, a continuation of the accumulation of the ‘air’ of the city. - Catherine Ellis
Butcher Gate looks out over the Bogside – a vista with perhaps the most troubled of histories amongst all of the city’s gates. This stone tape takes you on a journey down into an underworld of conflict and out again into the light. The final climb of the steps of Walker’s Monument acts as a metaphor for the journey towards peace and reconciliation which we are still on today … I’d like to think there is no going back.
I would like to thank Vinny Cunningham at Open Reel Productions and artist Alex Cecchetti, creator of The Astronomic Weather Choir sung by Voices of the Foyle – Glórtha an Fheabail (2018), for permission to sample their works in the creation of this piece.
- Janet Hoy
To produce the Stone Tapes each artist researched the history of the Walls and the story of their particular gate. Using that research, they responded to what had captured their imaginations.
The four Soundscapes were produced using recordings from the streets of Derry-Londonderry, from archive footage, from performances, scripts, songs and improvisations -all tightly woven together.
Within these rich aural tapestries you will be able to pick out the sounds of one of the original 17th century gate locks being closed; of the Troubles; of sewing machines rattling in a Derry shirt factory; an embarkation list from 1867; the price of food in 1689, during the Siege of Derry – a shilling for a rat anybody?... and the world-famous hymns of Lady Cecil Alexander.
If stones could speak what stories would you imagine they’d tell?
How the Stone Tapes were made.
THE STONE TAPES
Photography by Mickey Rooney.
Sound mixing by Harry Kerr of Memory Factory
The artists would like to thank , Vinny Cunningham of Open Reel Productions, artist Alex Cecchetti, Creative Village Arts and all the voices of Derry we 'borrowed'. A special thanks to Heidi Stevenson, Carl Taylor, Niall Rooney & Kathryn Ellis for providing voices and readings.