Magneto Mori: Vienna

Magneto Mori: Vienna is a fragmented sound portrait of the city constructed from found sounds, buried tapes and field recordings. In this de-composition sounds from Vienna’s past and present are conjoined in a stew of semi-degraded audiotape.

Using a portable reel-to-reel tape recorder sounds from around the city were recorded direct to tape over a two-day period. This tape was then cut into fragments and buried in a hole in the ground with a number of tacky souvenir ‘Vienna’ fridge magnets that erase the portions of the tape that they come into contact with. After several days steeped in the muddy earth of a Viennese garden the remaining audio fragments were exhumed, washed, dried and spliced back together in random order. The deliberate distressing and erosion of these present-day recordings results in artificially degraded sounds that fast-forward the effects of time, disrupting the perceived chronology of this audio matter. During the tapes interment old cassette, Dictaphone and reel-to-reel tapes were gathered from local flea markets and additional field recordings were made around the city. The addition of these found sounds stretches the timescale from just the short period spent making location recordings to as far back as fifty years into the past. All of these elements provided the raw materials for a radiophonic composition that represents a portrait of Vienna in both place and time; an archaeological excavation of found sounds, lost fragments, buried memories and magnetic traces. Presented here are the sounds that endured…

A Kunstradio commission for ORF Ö1, Austria. Produced with the support of Creative Scotland’s Open Project Funding Programme.

First aired on Kunstradio, ORF Ö1, 92.0 FM, Sunday, 10th February 2019, 23:00 – 0:00 CET. Subsequent broadcasts on Radiophrenia, Borealis Radio, Wave Farm / WGXC, Resonance FM.

Dead Air Spaces

A live radio work created for Radio Revolten. Recorded at the Radio Revolten Club on Tuesday, 25th October 2016.

‘Dead Air Spaces’ is a new radio work that explores one of the most basic but vital of our bodily functions – breathing. It includes interviews with diving instructors, a singer, an organist and a yoga teacher and recordings of breathing exercises, snoring, pneumatic tube systems, purring cats, suction units and scuba-divers along with mechanical processes analogous to the human respiratory system such as church organs, bellows and hospital ventilators. The piece also incorporates the use of bi-nasal microphones, a balloon repurposed as an artificial lung and variety of pipes, tubes, whistles and other apparatus played live.

A ‘dead air space’ in diving terminology, refers to a pocket of air that doesn’t play a part in the gas exchange with the lungs; air left over in the snorkel, regulator or even the throat containing greater levels of carbon dioxide.

Vernon & Burns meet the Bride of Lichtenstein

A rampaging, radiophonic phantasmagoria of nefarious four-colour fear.

Originating as a live performance at the Poetry Club in Glasgow this studio version was broadcast as part of the ‘Vernon & Burns Hour’ on Resonance FM in 2016. Subsequently it has been aired on Wave Farm, Radio Revolten and Radiophrenia.

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.

Found Sound Bulletin #1

Originally conceived as a synchronized sound composition designed to be played simultaneously on audio-cassette tape and compact disc, the Found Sound Bulletin is an archive of lost voices, audio letters, home sing-alongs and phone conversations created for the Art Lending Library as part of Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art in 2012.

Drawn from a collection of found recordings unearthed from many years of sifting through car boot sales, second hand shops and flea markets, this compilation allows a brief glimpse into the everyday lives of others. These discarded recordings, rescued from the sea of cultural flotsam & jetsam are windows on another world, inadvertently captured for posterity on magnetic tape.

The piece was designed as a listening experience in two parts. Some recordings had previously been edited, arranged and mixed with sound effects and music to create a type of radiophonic micro-drama. For this edition these carefully composed sound pieces were prised apart and the voice elements put back onto cassette, allowing the listener to experience them as they were first discovered – on magnetic tape. The composed elements were compiled on accompanying CD. Following the spoken instructions on the tape the user could synchronise playback of these disparate elements for a unique listening experience.

Separating the compositions into their constituent parts throws into contrast the low-grade audio of the taped voices and the comparative high fidelity of the musical backdrops. It also serves to highlight the gulf between analogue and digital, found and composed material.


This piece was re-imagined as a radio broadcast for Resonance 104.4 FM in 2013 as part of the series ‘Data for the Doubtful’.

Hubbub

An urban soundscape composition that attempts to reveal the marvellous within the everyday. This piece was made from a series of field recordings gathered in Paris on two separate trips. The overall effect is of an audio journal or travelogue without narration. In the hustle and bustle of a busy metropolis we rarely have time to focus on the sounds that surround us. Many of the most interesting and unusual sounds only became apparent in hindsight through playback of the recordings captured. The recurrence of music and musical phrases provided by busking musicians produces a cinematic quality that was deliberately exaggerated by the edits and the division of the piece into different ‘scenes.’


Hubbub was first broadcast on Resonance FM in 2004 and was selected for ‘Drift’ a festival of sound and radio art in Glasgow in 2003. It was also released as a limited edition CDR on meagre resource records (mere 011).

Self Help Self Harm

A 30-minute Therapy Session with Dr. Vernon; sometimes grim yet occasionally amusing listening, guaranteed to make you feel worse than you did before you started. A trawl through the darker side of the human psyche. Tips and advice for the lonely, anxious, stressed and bereaved. Improve yourself the hard way.

Sorry folks, the Chatline is now closed.


First broadcast on Reboot FM, Berlin, 8th April 2004.

A Trip Down the Clyde

Produced for a micro-radio broadcast as part of an exhibition at the Fairfield ship yards for the Glasgow international festival of visual art in 2010 this nostalgic documentary features oral history interviews with people who used to work in the shipyards or holidayed on the river Clyde. The recordings were gathered during a series of  memory sharing workshops at the Lighthouse in Glasgow. The final piece is an evocative blend of voices, found tapes, music and sound effects. Part of the programme was originally commissioned as a soundtrack to accompany a film compiled from clips of amateur films from the Scottish Screen Archive edited by Rob Kennedy. It was screened as part of the exhibition, ‘The Clyde – Films of the River 1912-1971’ at the Lighthouse, Glasgow in 2009.

Featuring the voices of:
Hugh McGeorge
Tom Urie
John Alexander
Harry McColl
Claire Harker
Rita Harker


The radio version was also aired on Resonance FM and Glasgow’s Sunny Govan Radio 103.5fm in 2011.

The Leicester Tape Recording Club

The past is often said to be a foreign country. This programme features audio postcards from some of the inhabitants. The Leicester Tape Recording Club was a club for tape recording enthusiasts active in the sixties and seventies. Like a latter day Mass Observation, amateur radio producers and documentary makers sometimes unintentionally captured the minutiae of a now surreal suburbia. A forgotten world of bri-nylon, briar pipes and tank-tops met an arcane society who spoke of tape-speeds and soldering irons.

These programmes takes a nostalgic and humorous look at the club and its members. Ex-members memories wow and flutter like their disintegrating reel-to-reel recordings. This is a story not just of a club but a community, a community of hobbyists, amateurs and charming personalities who captured otherwise long extinct phenomena like ‘The Golden Wonder Boy’. Memories are made of hiss…


A four-part series about The Leicester Tape Recording Club, ‘Imagination Unlimited’, was aired on Resonance FM in 2008. Condensed versions of the series were broadcast across the RADIA network, on NE1 as part of the AV festival, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, on the Framework radio show and as part of Sonic Arts Network’s Brighton Expo 2008.

See the ‘Tape Recording Club’ section for more information.

The Derby Tape Recording Club

The Derby Tape Recording Club started out as a six-part series of one-hour programmes on Resonance FM in 2002. The programmes were haphazardly constructed from a ramshackle archive of disintegrating open reel tapes bought from a car boot sale in Derby. A thirty-minute version was commissioned as a programme for BBC Radio 4 by Loftus Productions in 2003.

Programme note: “A few years ago radio producer Mark Vernon bought a hoard of old reel-to-reel audio tapes in a car boot sale in Derby, as a job lot with an elderly and very heavy tape recorder. Coaxing the old machine back to life, he realised he had rescued the jettisoned archive of the Derby Tape Club – a group of amateurs who made, played and swapped recordings in the 1960s and 70s, when domestic tape-recording was in its infancy and before the audio cassette had conquered the world. A radiophonic elegy to an anonymous group of people and their forgotten enthusiasm: domestic tape recording and amateur radio in the 1960s and 70s.”


This condensed version of the Resonance FM series ‘The Derby Tape Recording Club’ was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at 8.30pm on the 1st March 2004.

See the ‘Tape Recording Clubs’ section for more information on tape clubs.