- A sound installation in the Ashbourne Tunnel Derbyshire
Jony Easterby reports
on his specially commissioned Cycle path sound art installation
built halfway through an old railway tunnel, near Ashbourne, Derbyshire.
Using sensors and recordings Easterby has used the tunnels remarkable
acoustics to bring alive the tunnels sound qualities, thereby bringing
new media sound art to the cycling world.
Ashborne Tunnel a 350 metre long disused railway tunnel under the
town of Ashborne Derbyshire has recently been lit and renovated
to allow the safe passage of cyclists and walkers along the Tissinghurst
As part of the
tunnels regeneration, Derbyshire Dales District Council commissioned
the artists Jony Easterby and Mark Anderson to create an artwork
to enhance the tunnels features.
The work is
the third sound installation in as many years in response to unique
environments, other works exist in the Grizedale Forest and in Hasslingdon
on the banks of the River Irwell.
Seeing the tunnel the artists realised that this was an unparalled
opportunity to experiment with the movemant of sound in an extraoridnary
acoustic environment. The tunnels natural reverberation and echoes
still resonante with the ghosts of a thousand trains roaring and
whisting along its length. Now there is only the drip of water and
the sound of human activitty. The irresistable urge of walkers within
the tunnel is to vocalise the sounds of trains, and their whistles
is often heard as they long to hear the effect the sound would have
had on the space during its time as a working tunnel.
It seemed important
to respond to the length and notion of travel suggested by the tunnels
length, a system was designed and built that would allow sound to
‘travel’the length of the tunnel using a sequencer and
started their work by recording and collecting snapshots of sound
from local heritage railways as well as scouring sound resources
for sounds that would ‘work’ in this environment. Snapshots
of these sounds were selected and recorded on to Eprom soundstores.
A sequencer triggers each sound in turn in a chace along the tunnels
Each sound is
a small snapshot of between half and two seconds with a delay of
three seconds to allow the natural reverberation to be used to the
greatest effect. Two twelve inch bass drivers (activated by a infra
red motion sensor) were mounted in the centre of the tunnel with
one minute long recordings of passing trains.
The twelve seven
inch speakers are placed 20 meters apart along the tunnels roof,
enclosed in waterproof pipes, housed in black steel tubes, they
are almost invisible.
‘Sound trains’ pass through the tunnel every fifteen
minutes or so. Clunks, clanks, puffs, whistles, voices and slamming
doors richochet and echo up and down its length.
The sound rests in a quiet ghostly space, it is possible to hear
the smallest sound from one end of the tunnel to the other, as the
listener walks through the tunnel the sequencer chases the sound
towards the listener and over their heads.