Sound UK’s artist development programme, Sound Generator, supports early career artists and the work they present.
In this series of Spotlight interviews, we find out more about the artists on our 2022 programme, delve deeper into their Sound Generator project and discover what the process has meant to them.
This week, we talk to Andrew Woodhead.
My project is called I Sing of a Place That is Dear to My Heart - it’s about my roots in South Yorkshire and things that remind me of home, starting with ideas of landscape and zeroing in on dry stone walling in particular as a source of inspiration for creating music.
My goal is to combine this with the a cappella folk singing and pit band traditions of the Pennines as well as my own practice, which blends jazz/free improv, contemporary composition and electronic music techniques.
It’s definitely evolved from my original vision quite radically - from initial thoughts of creating a speaker installation in a stone structure. I’m now on the road to looking at etching into the stone itself as a way of creating scores and musical instructions which are built into a stone structure that lives permanently on the land.
I’m taking a stone carving course next week and am also enrolled at Birmingham maker space STEAMhouse to test laser cutting and water jet cutting on various samples of gritstone, limestone and slate that I’ve taken from my home town.
Having the time and space to test ideas, to feel safe enough for things to fail, completely change your mind and go back to the drawing board is something I’ve rarely had the opportunity to do before in my career - it’s incredibly liberating as an artist.
Most definitely, it’s pushed me well outside of my comfort zone and the amazing mentors I’ve spoken to have really prompted me to re-examine how my music can be presented.
It’s definitely a big step forwards for me. Plus, thanks to my DSWA beginners course I can now officially repair a gap in a dry stone wall...!
I would definitely point to the Stanza Stones project by Simon Armitage/Tom Lonsdale/Pip Hall as a reference point, it’s a beautifully executed piece of public art which resonates very strongly with the inspirations behind my own project.
I’ve been diving into ideas of journeys, walking and landscape forming the inspiration for song and music in the folk world, particularly discovering the wonderful Northumbrian piper Kathryn Tickell and great vocalist/guitarist Bella Hardy via the Folk On Foot podcast has been great.
Marsden Jazz Festival’s Chronotope series recorded over lockdown was another touchstone for this project, particularly Tom Challenger’s pieces for the project and the duo of Matthew Bourne and Keeley Forsyth, all responding to the landscape.
Nate Wooley is also a big influence on me, the laser focus of his compositional practice and his commitment to process are always in my mind somewhere when I’m creating projects of my own.
The distilled elegance of Kathy Hinde’s work has stayed with me since discovering her earlier this year. Amazing stuff.
I’ve been lucky enough to be mentored by some of the artists that inspire me too in the forms of Rie Nakajima, Jim Finer and Matthew Olden, all of whose work resonates in different ways with what I’m trying to do on this project.
Blue Ruth’s tape release Mausoleum from last year is astonishingly good and has been on repeat a few times recently.
Ruth Goller’s Skylla record is also absolutely stunning.
On Anton Hunter’s recommendation I’ve been listening to Mavis Staples’ If All I Was Was Black - a beautiful album.
Fellow Sound Generator artist (and fellow Birmingham resident) Piera Onacko’s new EP with her band Un/Procedure isn’t out yet at the time of writing but I’ve been blown away by both of the live shows I’ve seen them do and I imagine the EP will be no different.
I know it’s not technically music but…Ben Sharrock’s film Limbo which came out last year is one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in ages and has been resonating in my head ever since I saw it. It also features amazing improvisers Sue Lynch, Adrian Northover, Hannah Marshall and John Edwards on the soundtrack, which I didn’t realise until the credits rolled!
I really hope it can become a reality in the not-too-distant future! Working through these ideas has been such an inspiring process, I’d love to find the right partners to take it forward from here.
We look forward to sharing more information on Andrew's Sound Generator project as it develops. Visit Andrew Woodhead's website to find out more about his work.
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