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Utopia C5: ‘They find pearls on their coasts’

Utopia, section C5
Utopia, section C5

We’re deep into the centre of the map of Utopia, with two sounds from artists based in the UK and Spain today.

They find pearls on their coasts – Fernando Malaventura, Malaga, Spain

“The scene is a castle near to the coast. Instantly I thought of walking on the shore with the background score of the sea, near an ancient tower.

We have plenty of that in my area, Costa del Sol (Málaga), where some medieval towers still survive, placed near to the coast that used to work like a surveillance system against the pirate incursions in that age.

I searched in Thomas More’s Utopia for a passage that would fit with that first image and I found this text about jewels and childhood:

“They find pearls on their coasts, and diamonds and carbuncles on their rocks; they do not look after them, but, if they find them by chance, they polish them, and with them they adorn their children, who are delighted with them, and glory in them during their childhood; but when they grow to years, and see that none but children use such baubles, they of their own accord, without being bid by their parents, lay them aside, and would be as much ashamed to use them afterwards as children among us, when they come to years, are of their puppets and other toys.”

Every sound I throw into this soundscape tries to talk about this. Castles, pirates, diamonds, children… growing old.”

Through the eye of the hidden skull – Danny Bright, Brighton, UK

“When first approaching the idea of creating an ‘imagined’ soundscape for my section of Utopia I was drawn to the idea of layerings.

This was both in terms of the text/map itself – conceptually, politically, aesthetically – and it’s ‘real’ existence in the minds of all the people who have read it and thought about it.

As such, I found a starting point in the location – the fort and harbour which is described as rocky and treacherous, defending Utopia from outsiders, perhaps isolating it – and much of my audio material is related to that (sea, waves, etc.).

However, little of this is presented untouched and instead is warped, processed and folded in time and space in an attempt to suggest the intersecting of these layers – conceptual, temporal, spatial, historical or otherwise. The resulting soundscape is also an acknowledgement at the status of Utopia as somewhere in-between ‘nowhere’ and a ‘good place’, of the shifting perspective on the ideas it contains and how it relates to our wider concepts of ‘utopia’ now.

There are also some nods to Holbein and the role of the map as a memento mori: many sounds have been re-spatialised into mausoleums and tombs.

Perhaps, the soundscape is also an attempt to journey inside the fabric of Utopia, through the eye socket of the hidden skull, and reveal something about my own relationship to Utopia and alternative ways of listening to it.”