Chirp & Drift is a flock of illuminated instruments that chatter in morse code messages, some of which are de-coded into fragments of projected text, and others dissolve into nighttime whispers. The flock of instruments are hand-made bird-like kinetic sculptures that play accordion reeds salvaged from broken instruments using waterproof paper bellows. Each pair of bellows and reeds ‘sing’ morse code by translating the ‘dash’ into a low note, and a ‘dot’ into a high note. The results are musical coded messages, constantly changing in response to audience interaction. The flock of instruments perform a combination of texts devised in workshops combined with real-time tweets sent in from the viewing audience.

The audience tweets via twitter were in response to three simple question – what is your favourite bird?, What do you think birds tweet about in the trees? and If you were a bird, where would you migrate to?    The Chirp&Drift workshops were a collaboration with poet Sarah Hymas and conservationist / writer Laurence Rose and took place at Leighton Moss RSPB reserve.

Chirp & Drift premiered at Light Up Lancaster in November 2018. The instruments made a temporary home in the majestic copper beech tree in the Storey Gallery garden.

Chirp&Drift aims to highlight processes where errors and miscommunications occur and was initiated from learning about how urban noise can lead birds to adapt their songs to different pitches in order to be heard. This got me thinking about bandwidth availability, and the many methods of communication we have available – but also how things can get lost within noise, whether that be sound or other kinds of interferences. I choose to use Morse Code in the translating because it is a coded method of communication that is used less and less. It can sound like a message, but also like sound or music. The title of the work comes from 2 different terms used to describe morse code when it becomes distorted. ‘Chirp‘ is used to describe a change in the frequency when a sound starts and stops; and ‘Drift‘ is when the over-all frequency gradually shifts as the temperature of equipment changes. Both words also connect to birdsong and bird migration.

Chirp&Drift was commissioned by Light Up Lancaster and Lancaster Arts. Leading up to the piece, Kathy carried out a period of Research and Development with funding from the Arts Council England. She invited a team of artists, researchers and technologists to take part in the project over summer and autumn 2018.  This was a time to experiment, to discover, to have conversations, to share and develop ideas together. Within this R&D period, the ideas for the light and sound sculpture emerged as one outcome – watch this space for more!

Audio-Visual Artist: Kathy Hinde ; Interactive programmer – Matthew Olden ; Poet / Writer – Sarah Hymas ; Conservationist / Writer – Laurence Rose ; Studio Assistant – Jasmine Butt ; Environmental Scientist – Stuart Sharp ;  Digital Artist – Ed Holroyd, Co-commissioners – Lancaster Arts ; Co-commissioners – Light Up Lancaster  ; Developed on residency at – Know West Media Centre The Factory and at Hackspace, Bristol.

Accordion reeds were sourced via accordionist Andreas Borregaard during the development of our collaboration “Aeolian” with composer Maja Ratkje & Red Note Ensemble.

Interactive sculpture commissioned by Light Up Lancaster and Lancaster Arts 2018
Funding for ‘R&D’ stage of Chirp&Drift gratefully received from Arts Council England and Lancaster Arts
With invaluable support in kind from Knowle West Media Centre ‘The Factory’ and RSPB Leighton Moss.


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