Word The Cat

Word the Cat

Heygate Heaven

Posted by Chris on July 8, 2012 at 3:55 pm  

London is a city built on power and restraint. Class strictures and verticality. The unending rise of the Shard, a physical metaphor for a brave new end of economic boom and bust driven by Qatari sovereign wealth. In its shadow, people are trying to live as they have done for the past forty years in state owned council housing. Over the past few months I made a couple of radio programmes about two estates in Southwark, the borough that hosts the Shard. They stretch south from Elephant and Castle, an area that is currently subject to a £1.5 billion urban regeneration project (the biggest in Europe). The Heygate estate is itself part of this regeneration plan, formerly housing around 4000 people, there are now two households left. It sits monolithic and largely empty, windows sealed with metal sheeting and electricity disconnected. Much of it is still open to the public, however and a visit will show you allotments which local residents have carved out of the open spaces, free runners climbing the concrete walkways and ruin tourists taking pictures on high end DSLRs.

I’ve been making a radio documentary over the past five months about the Heygate as it stands now, its past and its possible futures. It’s composed from the soundscape of the area and the voices of former and current residents of the estate, the original architect, a former leader of Southwark council, the head planner for the Elephant and Castle regeneration, academics and researchers. (stream below or listen here)

During this time I also worked on a hour long current affairs programme that looked at council housing and affordable housing london-wide. It was composed of some recordings from the Heygate, but also from the Aylesbury estate, a little further down the road from Elephant and Castle. This is one of the largest public housing estates in Europe and provides homes for around 10,000 people. Parts of the estate are being demolished and re-built according to a new rubric of ‘mixed communities’ containing ‘affordable housing’. Both of these are very slippery terms and, to put it mildly, there are serious concerns about how socially inclusive any new housing on the site will be. The programme was broadcast on London-based station NTS radio last month. you can listen here.

cosmopollination: a radio programme about urban beekeeping

Posted by Chris on October 14, 2011 at 3:52 pm  

Since April 2011, myself and Alyssa Moxley have been recording people who keep bees in London, their hives and the soundscape around… We spoke to people from Capital Bee, the Golden Company, Walworth Garden Farm and the Southbank Centre and recorded them tending to their hives and discussing what the practice of beekeeping and the organisation of the hive mean to them and to the wider urban environment. The programme was broadcast on Resonance FM on Tuesday 27th September.


More and more organisations are turning to beekeeping as a way to embed themselves into the urban fabric. The bees activity is a (embed) code which draws upon the urban environment, condenses it and transforms it into food. Pollen from plants 3 miles around the hive is collected and transformed into honey. People with severe allergies seek out local honey because the pollen from their surroundings, re-processed into something benign and absorbable by their bodies can increase immunity. Likewise, a bank or arts centre can embed itself into their physical locality quite easily by putting hives on the roof and having the bees forage in parks, gardens and window boxes nearby. Airborne urban farming which stitches itself into the city and re-processes urban materials into food.

Here are some of our recordings manipulated and re-presented as a 10 minute soundscape. The bass is by “Variacoes em La” by Carlos Baretto.

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bee soundscape


“After they developed social living, they realised that diversity was a help”

The queen bee carries around all the sperm she will ever use after one mating cycle. The bees in the hive will share the same mother, but have many fathers. Genetic variety in the hive allows for more gradated behaviour: If it gets cold outside, several bees will stop work and concentrate on insulating the hive with their bodies, if it gets cooler still, more bees will switch to working on insulation. If all the bees had the same genetics they would be more likely to switch behaviour at the same point, abandoning the other tasks in the hive. “They actually operate like they care less about identity and more about function. The function being preserving the conditions required to make new life.”

“honeybees bring in spring”

Bees are pollinators. This is one of the reasons that people are so worried about the colony collapse disorder. Honeybees (as opposed to solitary bees) move in an organised mass, the weight of their pollination is one of the factors in allowing the change in seasons to be realised and for new plants to bloom.

out of season

Posted by Chris on March 30, 2011 at 4:00 pm  


MoMoreTwixes! Forwards!

the first twix is one that’s been in the oven for about 6 months. you know when you cook a moussaka and you leave it in the oven for ages and the lamb goes really soft? well this mix is tender. includes adesh samaroo singing about how cat meat tastes much better than dog meat. there is also an interview with myself and and man called hanu(man). he did half the mix. don’t believe the hype – it wasn’t a battle so much as a brokered ceasefire. big up abstractor and pacheko for pulling it together.

here. hare. here.


the second thing is a live soundscape i did last week at the red gallery in ec2. it was for hackney hear, a gps-audio-triggering-smartphone-app based in hackney. poet-saturate. i took raw recordings from the hackney podcast (an excellent spoken word/field recording project – in particular check the ‘night‘ one) and ran them through ableton and effects. most fun of the evening was probably when some kids starting working out that if they touched this or that thing it made a noise. making noises is great.

wordthecat – hackney soundscape

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sounds of atomograd

Posted by Chris on October 25, 2010 at 9:44 pm  

1986. pripyat. atomograd. nuclear fallout. an unihabitable 30km radius exclusion zone is created (although around 300 mostly elderly residents remain). apparently wildlife is flourishing in the contaminated zone, high levels of radiation being less dangerous than the presence of humans…

… graffiti in pripyat inside the exclusion zone via

jacob kirkegaard went to the exclusion zone and made recordings of room sound in a few different places. he chose rooms which would have been centres of social activity; a church, auditorium, swimming pool and gymnasium. he played each recording back into the room and re-recorded it up to 10 times, creating a hum of reverb.

jacob kirkegaard – auditorium

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Posted by Chris on October 21, 2010 at 6:18 am  


occasional insomnia requires quiet music that will not disturb sleeping flatmates. robert curgenven provides with layered field recordings of australian landscapes mixed live. listen close and try to ignore the buses turning round outside.

Robert Curgenven – Silent Landscapes No 3

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Posted by Chris on June 12, 2010 at 6:36 am  


image by takehito koganezawa


today a track by kyo ichinose from 2002. it’s from this cd. file under well designed furniture. bought here, where you can get immaculately designed tables for over €1000. the track is from a evening of performance inspired by st.giga st.giga was a ambient radio station that organised it’s programming of spoken word and field recordings according to a tidal timetable. despite attempts at franchising (including a st.giga fragrance) the station was only operational in this form from 1990 to 1995 when a lack of subscribers forced them to cut back on the tide of sound broadcasts and cut a deal with nintendo to supply snes games via satellite. the station crawled on non-tidally until 2007.

kyo ichinose – travelling with st.giga

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