The Polish War Memorial gives its name to a junction on the A40. This is the film I made about it as part of my Traffic Report series.
Clacket Lane Services, on the M25, is mentioned almost daily on the traffic reports on the radio. Here it is revealed to sit at a nexus of routes dating back to the Stone Age.
The first in a series of films from London’s traffic black spots. Over the next few months I will be visiting areas in and around London where levels of congestion regularly merit mention on nation traffic reports. Places whose names have become part of the national consciousness.
First up, Charlie Brown’s Roundabout in South Woodford.
There’s a new Spaceship album available for pre-order from my bandcamp page. Shipping on the 15th April…
So this is the Bond covers album that my Crock Oss alter ego features on. It also includes fantastic versions of all the Bond themes and other music associated with the series. A lot of work has gone into this and it’s available for free from 23rd October 2015!
In addition there will be a very special edition of the Union Chapel in Isnlington on 007th November to celebrate the launch. I’ll be playing The Man with the Golden Gun in collaboration as well as featuring on some of the other songs too. I’ve also manufactured some incidental music to play between the acts that I’m quite proud of.
The details of the show can be found here.
I few months ago I created this documentary test using the music I created from field recordings of Chigwell ROC Post and some excepts from the first interview I conducted.
Now summer is approaching, and looking busy with many projects, I need to start trying to schedule some interviews with more ex-ROC personnel. If you have already contacted me I should be in touch soon, but I am still looking for more people to interview. It probably won’t take more than an hour of your time and I think it would make the piece all the more interesting. I can be contacted via this blog or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the beginning this was unusual. I arrived near Hatfield Peverel Royal Observer Corps post on a cloudless day. The post, clearly visible from the A12, stood exposed in the middle of a ploughed field. Normally these posts are just by a footpath or behind a hedge, in this case I felt I should seek permission to cross the fields to the post. Knocking on the door of what I hoped might be the farmer’s house I was greeted by an elderly couple and an even more elderly lady who told me the land belonged to Lord Rayleigh, but they were sure it would be fine as long as I wasn’t planning to do any shooting, “Only photos!” I didn’t quip.
Having negotiated the muddy field, taking care not to step on any of the freshly sprouting crops, I found the post. There was an old Orlit B aircraft observation tower and an underground post. The shaft had lost its lid and their seemed to be a lot of rubble inside, but the ladder seemed secure so I descended.
The post was in a very poor state, the hatch lid was at the bottom along with a lot of broken concrete. The thing I noticed after the mess was that someone had affixed a poppy to the BPI shaft. Then I saw that ‘Rob Baines, 15.11.2014, Lest we forget’ had been gratified on the wall. Finally I saw some tobacco and cigarette papers on a dry piece on concrete.
I had to assume that these things were connected. Very recently someone had paid tribute, with poppy, inscription and offering, to a departed friend. Was Rob Baines an ROC member? Was the site chosen just because it had some military connection? Perhaps Rob and his friend had played down here as children, the post has been out of service since 1968. I do not know and I am not sure if I want to know.
What I did know, immediately, was that anything I created from my recordings there would not form part of the wider project. Somehow it seemed that it would not be appropriate. It has taken me just over two months to come back to these recordings and create a piece of music, perhaps a tribute to Rob Baines.
And this is where another unusual occurrence took place. Once I get going these pieces come together fairly quickly and I had the shell of it worked out. I wondered if, through pitch shifting, I could create a kind of spectral ‘Last Post’ at the end of the piece. So I tried. When I looped and overlapped the high C at the end I thought I heard something odd. I listened again and their it was. A choir had materialised in the music. They were faint, but they were there.
Although my German is not great, and Google’s is worse, this seems to be a fine review of Walthamstow Marshes:
“länger schon wollte ich Euch auf diesen release aufmerksam machen. aber irgendwie passte es stets nicht. mittlerweile aber ordnete sich “walthamstow marshes” ganz vorzüglich in die vorherigen bzw. nachfolgenden posts ein. es handelt sich bei diesen feldaufnahmen, die in einen einzigen track von über 17 minuten kulminieren, um sounds, die an einem nachmittag im londoner eastend in einen recorder gepresst wurden, um sie später etwas manipuliert an den mann zu bringen. leider erschien dieser release nur in einer 10er cdr auflage, so dass man ihn nur noch digital geniessen kann. es hat etwas gespenstisches und zugleich voyeristisches, dem treiben zuzuhören, sei es dem stimmenwabern, dem vorbeiziehen eines flugzeugs, das in der betrachtung durchaus intimen charakter tragen kann, sei es das vorbeirauschen von autos, das rattern eines zuges, das vermeintliche winden, allesamt zu einem soundcharakter verwirkt. mark s. williamson zeichnet für diesen track verantwortlich. neben spaceship, unter diesem moniker veröffentlichte er “walthamstow marshes”, betreut er weitere projekte wie missing robots, mark and rebecca williamson, crock oss und und und. nachfolgend der track, lasst Euch ein wenig mitnehmen.”
From das klienicum.
The first time I visited Nazeing Royal Observer Corp post, the hatch was completely covered with earth. However on a second visit access was possible. This post was closed in 1968 and yet, despite fire damage and the passage of time, it still contains the frames of a single bed and a bunk bed.
The springs of the bunk bed form the background to this piece. The main rhythm is a loop of an accidental sound I found on my recorder and the melodic sequence was from the rungs of the access ladder.
For the last eighteen months I have been slowly researching, photographing and recording for a project based around the work of the Royal Observer Corps. This, mainly volunteer, organisation would have filled a vital role if the events of the Cold War had led to Britain coming under attack by nuclear weapons.
The ROC was formed in 1925 and its primary function was to search the sky for enemy aircraft. In those pre-RADAR days, getting eyes-on a threat being the only way an attack could be anticipated. These posts, built by the volunteers and often little more than garden sheds, were replaced with more substantial structures during the Second World War, where the Corps came to be a complement to the nascent RADAR system.
Post WW2 the plane spotting role continued, now in standardised posts pre-fabricated in concrete by the Orlit Company, but continuing technological advances were rendering the Corps less and less necessary.
The advent of the Cold War heralded a new role for the ROC. This was a role of recording and reporting the effects of a nuclear strike. For this purpose a series of, what would eventually be 1,563, small underground posts were built.
These underground posts, arranged into groups, would be responsible for triangulating the location of any strike and for providing data on bomb power and also the subsequent fall out and radiation levels. If the threat level became high enough the posts would be manned by three volunteers, listening in shifts for the infamous ‘attack warning red’, the signal that a strike was imminent.
Following a downsizing of the network in 1968, most of the ROC was stood down in 1991 and since that time a variety of fates have befallen the posts. Some have been demolished by the landowners, some have been stripped of equipment and locked, others have remained open or been broken into. These open posts have often been burnt or otherwise vandalised. A few posts have been privately purchased and either converted to other purposes or restored to their operating condition.
My study has two aspects, firstly I am visiting a number of these abandoned posts, recording the ambient sound and also the sounds made by creaking hinges or rusting air vents, passing planes or roaring roads. These sounds are then manipulated, edited, looped and processed into a sound collage. Many of these pieces have ended up sinister and atmospheric reflections of Cold War concerns and paranoia. At sites where the post has been completely demolished I have just recorded what is there to hear, the sound of birds and traffic.
These pieces become a soundtrack to the journey. Having spent many years visiting prehistoric ritual sites I am interested in whether the journey can be as important as the destination. Can a ‘pilgrimage’ to a series of, essentially identical, practical, secular sites take on an almost ritual and cleansing aspect? Aside from these investigations and creations, I am also interested to find out about those who served as volunteers for the ROC. No so much what they did, the ins and outs of post life, but more ‘why?’. What inspired them to volunteer? How real did they perceive the nuclear threat to be? Was the joining the Corps born purely of a sense of duty or was there, in addition, a desire for camaraderie, a social aspect?
Ultimately I would like to combine interviews with former ROC volunteers with the music to create a kind of oral history piece. Much of the music has now been created in its first draft. The next step is to find some people to talk to, some former Royal Observer Corps volunteers.
If you would like to be involved, please contact me at email@example.com . Thank You.