Rhiannon Armstrong reports on their residency project supported by Compass – The White Noise Factory, which took place in Spring this year. 

The White Noise Factory is an evolving set of music and sound collaborations, and a performance project designed to share those collaborations with audiences. It comes from a desire to make something that privileges sensory meaning-making over intellectual meaning-making.

This desire has been bubbling up over the last three years as I have been collaborating with young people for whom language is not a primary means of communication, and I wanted to use my residency with Compass Live Art to begin to explore how we might go about sharing the products of those collaborations with wider audiences.

Photograph by Jemima Yong

Image Description: Left to right Lucy (a young wheelchair user and session musician on the project) Rhiannon (lead artist) and Sam (Lucy’s parent and creative support) at South House in Kent. Rhiannon is learning from Lucy a sensorily-prioritized way of playing a tambourine: Lucy plays with the instrument in her mouth and Rhiannon holds it lightly.

I brought a collection of looped sounds with me to Leeds, all created in collaboration with young people for whom language is not a primary means of communication using our mouths, instruments, and everyday objects like straws, paper, wheelchairs. Lucy Bowen (pictured above) is one session musician on the project: many others have contributed as part of their school day at Ashmount in Loughborough, and Swiss Cottage in London.

With the support of both Compass and Horizon I was able to spend a few days at Sheaf Street with local DJ and sound artist Sayang and designer Sascha Gilmour, exploring how a listening journey and environment might be crafted using light, vibration, curtains and spatial arrangement, and live remixing. You can see and hear a snippet of that exploration below:

Film by Sable Radio

Film Description: A test session set up with a few participants in Sheaf Street exploring listening environments. Clips include designer Sascha wrapped in lace material, DJ Sayang mixing the music and Charlotte from Compass experimenting with the paper and foil bracelets. 

Compass director Peter Reed and I also spent time meeting people who provide education, arts and culture provision in the city with those who face the most barriers to access in mind. Our plan is to bring the project back to Leeds next year to collaborate with students at West SILC on a playlist of new tracks that will be placed around the city for listeners to find. 

Film by Rhiannon Armstrong 

Film Description: As part of a test piece, an audio track made in collaboration with students at Ashmount School in Loughborough plays over shots of the Industrial Museum in Leeds. Images and sounds have a relationship: strumming and string on still loom, voices and an empty chair, movement and rhythm in a room that used to be full of working looms.

We are also continuing to develop the performance environment and listening experience, and hope to be back in the city to share this work with disabled and non-disabled audiences in future.

For more information about The White Noise Factory follow the link here.  

To see more of Rhiannon’s work, please find their website here.