Circular Thinking

Using interviews and field recordings pertaining to all manner of cyclical processes; circuits, loops, spinning things and rotating machines, ‘Circular Thinking’ is a multi-channel sound work by Mark Vernon and Jenn Mattinson. The piece applies radiophonic production techniques to quadraphonic sound composition and was originally commissioned by the Octopus Collective for ‘The Hub’ – an outdoor ambisonic sound system situated in the town centre of Workington, a small town in the North West of England.

Sourced from across the region of Cumbria, the material used in the composition of the piece includes recordings of a potter’s wheel, a launderette, wind turbines, speedway races, a water mill, bicycle wheels, a clock restorer’s workshop and a tour of the Cranston’s sausage factory where they make the famous spiralled Cumberland ring sausages. As well as a catalogue of revolving and spinning things the piece also charts a timeline of sounds that stretches from artisan handicrafts to the beginnings of industrialisation and present day factories, taking in machinery driven by manpower, natural resources and electrically dependent manufacturing.

‘Circular Thinking’ was premiered at the FON festival in Barrow in Furness in 2015 where it was diffused through the ‘Hear This Space’ sound system with the audience seated in a spiral arrangement in the centre of the speaker array. It was subsequently presented on ‘The Hub’ ambisonic sound system in Workington later that year. The stereo radio version was premiered on Radiophrenia 87.9FM, Glasgow in 2016 and has also been aired on Resonance FM, Radio Revolten, Halle and Deutschland Radio, Germany. The piece was joint winner of the Radio Art category for the 2016 Phonurgia Nova Award in Paris. The excerpt above is from the stereo version of the original quadraphonic piece.

Saturnine Orbit


“Mark Vernon revisits the life and work spaces of an isolated and meditative Morandi, making the debris of everyday life reverberate through spectral soundscapes and eerie tones: an exercise in modern hauntology.”

Commissioned by Xing, ‘Saturnine Orbit’ was a new sound installation, radio series and live performance made for the Casa Museo Giorgio Morandi and in the spaces of the Campiaro barns (a favourite subject of the Bolognese painter during his holiday periods in the Bolognese Apennines in Grizzana Morandi). The work was produced as part of the ART CITY Bologna 2024 festival in association with XING, MAMbo Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna and NEU Radio.

Both the 6-channel installation and the live performance were composed entirely from the sounds of Morandi’s summer house, his studio, replicas of the objects used in his still lifes and sounds recorded on the mountain trails he would often walk, starting behind the Casa Morandi.

Alongside field recordings collected on site during the production residency, Vernon employed Morandi’s objects as sound instruments, using the negative space of bottles, pots, jugs and vases from the Casa Morandi studio as small resonant chambers, while the environmental field recordings of the surrounding countryside were played from inside these objects using tiny speakers amplified by microphones. Through this process the outside becomes the inside: the world in a bottle. In addition, by recording sounds directly to open reel tape Vernon created a linear tape collage of sounds with an instant narrative of its own. The tape acts as a chronological sound diary, verbally annotated with the location, time of day and the weather conditions. The piece also features excerpts from the only extant recording of the Bolognese artist’s voice.

Sound installation at the Casa Museo Giorgio Morandi –
Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th February, 2024.

Live sound performance at the Fienili del Campiaro (also streaming live on NEU Radio) –
Sunday 4th February, 2024.

All photographs by Luca Ghedini, courtesy of Xing.

Temporary Dwellings

A series of constructions made on areas of disused wasteland in Derby in 1995. Generic house plans were mapped out and then filled with as many household items as could be found within the area. Once constructed and documented these ‘temporary dwellings’ were simply left for whoever happened to come across them.


The Object Library

A metaphorical library dealing in found objects. For a month-long period the empty shelves of a closed-down public library were filled with found items, each with its own label and classification under the Dewey decimal system. Some of the objects were labelled literally – for example a broken food mixer in the Cookery section or a tennis racket in the Sport section – others were more abstract or metaphorical – the Romances section consisted of lots of odd pairs of shoes tied together and the Biographies section was made up of things found in other peoples rubbish bins. The Object Library was run as a working library for a full month. Members were issued with a library card and could borrow objects from the collection for a set period.

Installation, Littleover Library, Derby, 1995.

In-Between Addresses

The residue of everyday life. A pile of black bags found in the street sparked an investigation into the whereabouts of a family that had seemingly disappeared. Amongst their possessions were family photographs, a marriage certificate, utility bills, food, clothes, toys, books, records, school reports and other personal documents. It soon became apparent that something happened that had caused this family to leave in a hurry. Were they intending to return at some point?

This found material became the basis for an installation – a wall text with items presented on shelves to illustrate conclusions reached from extensive analysis of their belongings. The rest of the material was presented as it was originally found – in a pile of black bags in the middle of the space.

Amongst the items examined were a few unmarked cassette tapes. On one of the tapes was a recording of the whole family taking it in turns to sing on a home karaoke machine including fights over the microphone between songs. It was an unsettling experience – to hear the actual voices of these people whose possessions I had been sifting through for the past few months. It made them real in a way that none of the other stuff, including the photographs could have – and it had a profound effect on me.

Interim Show Installation, Mackintosh Building, GSA, 1997.

Sonology of a Mute Spectacle

Produced in association with Dundee University’s museum services. An array of found objects, musical instruments and exhibits from the Museum’s collection were selected with particular attention to their sonic properties. Through a collage of sound and narration these static objects presented in museum display cases were reanimated in the imagination of the listener as they were guided through the exhibits by a specially recorded soundtrack on headphones accompanying each cabinet.

Lamb Gallery, DJCAD, University of Dundee, April – May 2003.

Fairfield Shipyard

As part of the Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art 2010 five artists took over the Fairfield shipyard offices in Govan for an exhibition of video, performance and site-specific installation works. Working together they created artworks that responded to the history and fabric of the building including large scale paintings, projections, sound installations, amplified drawings, an avant-garde brass band and cucumber sandwiches and tea in the boardroom to finish.

The exhibiting artists were: Colin Begg, Sarah Kenchington, Emma Bowen, Belinda Gilbert Scott and Mark Vernon.

The audio clip is an excerpt from ‘The Engine Room’ by Mark Vernon, a four-channel sound installation created from original field recordings presented in a blacked out space.

Fairfield Shipyard, Govan, Glasgow, 24th April – 2nd May, 2010.

Christmas Rewind

A nostalgic journey through Christmas’s past as we trawl through the archives of found recordings, festive greetings, carol concerts and audio Christmas cards from long distant relatives. Specially commissioned by the Octopus Collective ‘Christmas Rewind’ was a six-channel sound installation created specifically for the bandstand in Barrow Park, Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria in December 2010.

An extended radio version of this piece was produced for Resonance FM with its first broadcast on Christmas Day, 2012.

Static Cinema

An audio-visual Installation at the Intermedia Gallery, CCA, Glasgow, October – November 2009. The work consisted of multiple slide projectors on timers, an ad-hoc stage with seating bank and a composed soundtrack diffused over four speakers.

A vacant stall at a Düsseldorf flea market re-imagined as a theatre set… the attic of a derelict building, infested with pigeons… a dank, concrete basement in an atelier in Norway…

Static Cinema is an exploration of three evocative spaces captured and interrogated for meaning through the microphone and the camera lens. Each of the locations function as spontaneous mise-en-scène waiting in suspense for an event yet to occur, or an actor still to make their entrance. Through a composed soundscape of field recordings and improvised music, a fictitious narrative develops between these seemingly disparate locales. This is a cinema of the still. The staging of a micro cinema and the projection of the photographs as slides sets up the expectation of motion which is frustrated by the frozen images. The meaning of each image and the relationships between them become contingent on their juxtaposition with the soundtrack at any given moment. Sound becomes the primary medium through which narrative is modulated.

The audio from this installation was later re-worked into an album released as a CD on the Entr’acte label in 2011.

Map Magazine Review

Yesterday’s Tremors

This field recording formed part of a series intended to document the effects of club culture and amplified music on the architecture of the city. It was recorded in 2001 at the rear of the ‘Vic’, the Glasgow School of Art student union.

“I had long been fascinated by the effects that bass-heavy music had on this particular structure, witnessing it first hand on many occasions when passing by at the weekend. Due to age and design the panes of glass would rattle loudly in their frames under the assault of bass, causing more of a disturbance to local homeowners than the music itself. My exploration of this phenomenon took me to the back of the building where I discovered a broken yet intact windowpane. Here, the edges of the shards of glass (held in check by the frame) were ground together in time, but at a slight delay, to the music – I began to trace the cracks of the window with the microphone making audible the miniscule differences in pitch and vibration across its surface.”

Utilising Feonic technology the resonant surface of a glass windowpane was turned into a speaker for playback of the work. The work was installed on the window of the Janitor’s office in the foyer of the Mackintosh building, directly opposite the building where the original recording was made 11 years earlier.

Exhibited as part of the Group Show, The Interzone, Mackintosh Museum, Glasgow School of Art, 3rd – 30th November, 2012.