Tom Bailey in collaboration with Jez riley French
Nightwalk is an immersive wander through the beautiful and historically fascinating Leigh Woods, found just behind the Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol. Described as ‘museum of sounds’, participants meet at the brink of the woodland and are handed a pair of headphones and a smartphone; the mobile application ‘Nightwalk’ open. Developed using Cavium’s ‘DIY’ mobile application platform AppFurnace, the Nightwalk app uses GPS technology to create a landscape of sounds.
The sounds reflect the sociological, environmental and scientific history of Leigh Woods. As you amble through the darkness, remaining senses heightened by the lack of sight, you experience a much deeper connection to the landscapes around you. Ranging from the buzz of arctic bees, to the creaks and moans of a very special tree, the visceral effect of the sounds aims to tell a story of Leigh Woods, the likes of which you never would have never heard or experienced before.
We spoke to Tom Bailey about how he came up with idea for Nightwalk…
“The idea for the soundscapes came from two things. I already knew that the wood had a fascinating history, and wanted to delve more into this. I also really liked Jez’s work, and the art of field recording in general, for the mental and emotional experiences they offer. So I thought that it might be a nice idea to combine the two, to an historical/natural historical soundwalk through the history of a place. The artistic concept itself is slightly Romantic – i.e. a walking meditation on the vast history of a place, drawing inspiration from the woods. Leigh Woods itself was extremely important in the Romantic arts movement in the 19th century, a place for wandering and artistic inspiration for many a poet and landscape painter. So perhaps it’s echoing that sentiment. I had heard that GPS based app engines were available, and it was fortunate that through the right networks I came across Calvium.”
Mobile applications are being recognised more and more within the artistic and creative industries. Take for example Kneehigh Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company who we have previously worked with. Tom told us why he chose to create an app for this project…
“I wanted to create a specific kind of experience. One that was essentially GPS based, which allowed a strong geographical element into the work. I have always seen this project as a kind of musical composition, as you like, with three equal elements – the soundscapes, the rhythm of walking, and the architecture of the woods. It’s an experience of chance encounter between these three elements. If you are walking at a particular place, then listen to a particular sound, then it might offer a specific insight/emotion at that very moment. I wanted to explore technological aspects for this project (most of my work has been theatre-orientated) and felt that an app might be a way to do this. It so happens that the engine that Calvium offers fitted really well to my artistic aims.”
The app building process can be quite daunting, but our AppFurnace platform makes it easy to create an effective app. Here at Calvium, we also run AppFurnace training days and bootcamps. Tom told us how attending one of these bootcamps helped him with Nightwalk…
“Well, the boot camp day was great to give me a starting place. That was invaluable. Creating the app itself has been a pleasurable experience, and is user-friendly for someone like me who does not use smartphones. A challenge I experienced was plotting a GPS based experience in woodland. Google maps and OSM are great for urban environments, but not great when mapping woodland. I’ve spent many (but enjoyable) hours wandering around the woods hunting for sounds that I thought I’d set in a certain place! But on the whole the specific app building process has been great and very user friendly.”
Photography by Paul Blakemore