Sheet Erosion

Audio Archaeology Series Volume 3: Brest

Sheet Erosion is the third episode in a series of works based around ideas of audio archaeology and found sounds. The setting this time is the city of Brest in France.

The piece is comprised of field recordings made in early 2020 during the storms Ciara and Desmond plus a batch of found open-reel tape recordings dating from the 70s and 80s. The tapes include domestic home recordings but mostly document the recordist, Michel’s tastes in music and radio programmes of the time. Daily life bleeds into these lo-fi recordings of radio and TV shows. Captured with a mic in front of a speaker rather than directly cabled, ambiguous activities can be heard in the background; babies crying, feedback, chairs scraping and muffled conversations.

In the composition family histories and musical tastes are transposed over a more contemporary soundscape of Brest. Over-saturated tape distorts time as well as sounds. Speeds change. Chronologies become confused. Different instances in time are blended and fused. What seeps through these chronological crevices are events and incidents unmoored from linear time taking place in a chimerical non-space.

Field recordings used in the piece include: Le Téléphérique de Brest (cable cars), hotel lifts, wind whistling between railings on the Pont de Recouvrance, wind whistling through gaps in doors, traffic, ventilation units, fans, light bulbs, alarms, automatic toilets, soap dispensers and hand driers.

The piece was originally commissioned as a radio work for Kunstradio and was first aired on Ö1, Austria on Sunday 29th August, 23:00 – 0:00 (CET). An album version has since been released as a CD on the Sonoris label.

Magneto Mori: Brussels


Magneto Mori: Brussels is a process-based sound work that investigates the collective memory of Brussels residents, intertwining them with the environmental sounds of the city to weave new and unexpected narratives. It is an exploration of tape recording as a form of memory storage – and the deliberate distressing, eroding and deterioration of present day sounds to disrupt their chronology; historicising the present and fast-forwarding the effects of time. Contrasting and combining these sounds with higher fidelity recordings draws attention to the different substrata of time that are an intrinsic (though largely unacknowledged) part of any non-realtime sound production.

The intention here was to create a ‘memory tape’ that acts as an audio portrait of the city and its inhabitants. This involved asking people to recall their earliest or most vivid memories and recording them direct to open reel tape. On the other side of the tape everyday sounds of the city were captured.

Through a series of processes that mirror the complexity and frailty of human memory this ‘memory tape’ was then fragmented, muddled, corroded, partially erased with magnets, buried in the ground for 10 days and finally excavated and reconstituted. During this process sounds and memories are literally erased and the remains are spliced back together in a random sequence. The end result is a cut-up collage of fragmented voices and distorted field recordings. In some instances I chose to ‘re-construct’ parts of the missing memories using copies made of the original recordings.

In counterpoint, a semi-autobiographical text by Elodie A. Roy reflecting on her parents memories of Brussels is interspersed throughout the piece appearing as a series of answerphone messages.

Produced during a one-month residency at Q-O2, Brussels in August, 2022.

Commissioned by Kunstradio for Ö1 ORF, Austria. First broadcast at 22.05 CET, 21st May, 2023.

Narration written, performed and recorded by Elodie A. Roy.

All other recordings by Mark Vernon.

Composed by Mark Vernon.

Featuring the voices of Henry Andersen, Diana Duta, Julia Eckhardt, Nika Breithaupt, Stuart McGregor, Amber Meulenijzer, Pauline Mikó, Caroline Profanter and Mark Vernon.

Thank you to the participants, everyone at Q-O2, Elisabeth Zimmerman, Elodie A. Roy, Barry Burns and Manja Ristić.

Leonie Roessler & Mark Vernon – Light Cloud and a Moderate Disease



A meditation on memory and clarity – attachments to objects, people and places, losing and finding things, letting go of things, the blurring of edges and the obfuscation of meaning.

Produced during a micro-residency at Studio LOOS, Den Haag in September 2022.
A studio LOOS production by Leonie Roessler & Mark Vernon.

Radio LOOS is the radio branch of Studio LOOS. It is a regular feature presenting music and sound art that is either produced at Studio LOOS, or coming out of its (inter)national network. The focus is on art radio, community, and connecting communities.

First broadcast on Radiophrenia, September 2022.

Keeping Time

“Spare compared to Poème Symphonique, and, as a consequence, more dynamic. Anomalous bells and dings make guest appearances and ring over the usual ticking suspects: the rhythmic foundation: the thuds in the wood. Spring-loaded fever with disco sensibility. Polyrhythmic paradise. The resort is captivating, in spite of its must, like an esoteric library or a dime museum. One could stay in this showroom forever, zoning out on the fathers of time, occasionally catching a glimpse at an endangered species.” *

Keeping Time is a 22-hour-long meditative radio work that focuses on our perception of the passage of time and how time is measured. The piece combines durational recordings of clock workshops around the UK and beyond with a specially constructed ‘radio clock’ painstakingly created from 3,600 individual percussive sounds – one for each second of the hour – plus excerpts from interviews with some of the horologists who generously gave up their time for this project.

It was originally commissioned by Radio Art Zone for Esch City of Culture 2022. Radio Art Zone was an epic 100-day long radio marathon in which 100 different artists each presented a 22-hour-long radio work.

Listen to the full 22-hour-long programme and view the documentation of the project on the dedicated webpage here.

There is something uniquely hypnotic about the constantly shifting polyrhythmic ticking of a room full of clocks. I first became aware of this when I randomly encountered my first clock workshop in Derry, Northern Ireland. As someone who finds the sound of a single clock ticking in a room unbearable I was surprised at how, en masse, a collection of clocks ticking together was both oddly restful and intensely engaging. After much intense listening, I am still unsure if I am perceiving micro-shifts in the timings between clock mechanisms that make them slip in and out of phase with one another or if this is entirely a phenomenon of my fluctuating focus and attention.

Keeping Time is a meditative radio work that focuses on our perception of the passage of time and how time is measured. The piece is comprised of three different elements that alternate throughout the piece.

The main component is a series of durational field recordings made in several different clock repair workshops or clock showrooms around the UK and beyond. Some are unattended overnight recordings with no human presence, others have been captured whilst the shops are open and include the sound of any of the daily activities that entails.

The second element is a kind of ‘radio clock’ painstakingly made from 3,600 individual percussive sound samples recorded by myself to create every tick of the second hand in an hour-long period. These percussive sounds were made using a vast assortment of improvised beaters, surfaces, everyday objects, and instruments, and each sound is unique. Additionally, home-made chimes and strikes played on pots and pans sound on the hour and quarter hour.

The final component is a series of short, semi-documentary, radio pieces featuring close-up recordings of individual clocks from various workshops, winding, repairs, clock demonstrations, and conversations with some of the many horologists who generously gave up their time for this project, beginning with one simple question – “How does your occupation affect your perception of time?”

All of these segments are punctuated by recordings of hourly chimes from public clocks in towns and cities around the world drawn from my personal archive of field recordings played back on a Dictaphone.

Recordings were made with the following Horologists in their workshops:
Tony Nuttall, Cumbria Clock Restoration, England.
Kenneth Chapelle, Antique Clock Restorer, Glasgow, Scotland.
Unknown clock workshop, Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland.
Dalibor Lebarović, Urar Dalibor Lebarović, Zagreb, Croatia.
Brian Cathcart, Clyde Clocks, Clydebank, Scotland.
Lucas Marijnissen, Lucas Clocks, Edinburgh, Scotland.
Jon Reglinski, James Ritchie Clockmakers, Edinburgh, Scotland.
Uhren Museum, Vienna, Austria.

The piece was first aired at 2pm CEST on Sunday 10th July on Radio ARA 87.8FM in the South Luxembourg area and online via the stream at Radio ARA or Resonance Extra.

* Rick Weaver on ‘The Clock Showroom’ – an earlier incarnation of ‘Keeping Time’

For more details visit the Radio Art Zone website.

Call Back Carousel: Voyages en Grèce

An audio time-travelogue… A found sound road trip… A vicarious vacation…

The basis of this piece is a found reel-to-reel tape labeled ‘Voyage Grèce en 1972’ bought from a flea market in Brussels 15 years ago. As might be expected it is a document of a Belgian family camping holiday to Greece. One side of the tape is an audio diary of sorts documenting the trip moment by moment, much of the time recorded in the car in between destinations it seems. This side runs to an epic 3 hours on long play. The other side is a recorded slide show commentary over a backdrop of traditional Greek music at a more modest 2 hours. Although it becomes apparent that there is a wife (referred to only as ‘bobonne’) and child in tow we only ever hear the voice of the father. They don’t even appear in the background. Maybe they were mic shy or maybe they were just never given a look-in. Either way their absence on the tape is perplexing.

I had been invited to Brussels this summer to make a new radio piece for Radio Picnic’s ‘Musica per la radio’ series. I was also supposed to be going on a family holiday to Greece but because of obvious circumstances neither trip has happened. Out of necessity the production of this radiophonic excursion has been my way of taking a holiday without travelling anywhere – a sonic souvenir from a vicarious vacation.

In the composition of the piece excerpts from the tape have been combined with my own field recordings from holidays in Greece decades later in 2005 and 2015. Holiday memories of Greece from different times have been transposed on top of one another, intermingle and become confused. In addition, improvisations with a collection of objects selected for their sound making properties that were bought from the flea market at the same time as the tape have also been incorporated.

Special thanks to everyone who helped me with translations: Elina Bry, Selene Mauvis, Jonathan Frigeri, DinahBird, Anne-Louise Kieran, Sonia Dermience, Inès Guffroy and Meryll Hardt.

Extra thanks to Elina Bry for additional Athens field recordings.

A project by Radio Picnic with the kind support of the Swiss Foundation for Radio and Culture and Pro Helvetia. First broadcast on Freie Radio Berlin, 18th August, 2020.

The Dominion of Din

Originally created for the Amplify 2020: Quarantine Festival – As the world was increasingly forced into isolation, Amplify (and Erstwhile Records boss) Jon Abbey began planning an online festival of newly recorded pieces from sound artists around the world. I participated at the invitation of Penultimate Press’s Mark Harwood making my contribution number 156 in the series.

The Dominion of Din is a radio play made out of recordings from a single fixed perspective over an eighteen-year period. It is created entirely from field recordings made out of the rear window of my flat. In essence, it’s a catalogue of exterior sounds that have annoyed, disturbed or angered me over the years living at this residence – and sounds that have largely disappeared during lockdown.

My go-to method of dealing with nuisance noise is to record it. A sort of recording banishing ritual. The hope being that one day I will be able to utilise these sounds in some way, converting these sources of irritation into something positive.

The piece includes now familiar soundmarks such as the daily delivery of beer barrels to the local pub, the shattering of glass bottles as they are emptied into recycle bins at night and the weekly maintenance of neighbours gardens that always seems to require extensive use of a leaf blower no matter what the season. More irregular sources of nuisance noise appear in the form of workmen erecting scaffolding, magpies nesting on the side of the house, drunken outdoor singalongs, overflowing guttering and a faulty burglar alarm that didn’t stop for three days solid over one memorably torturous bank holiday weekend. The irony is that on the only occasion that these sounds have ceased for any length of time I’ve spent several weeks doing nothing but listen to them over and over again.

The pub has made use of this time to create a beer garden at the back of our flat now so at least I have fresh impingements on my peace to look forward to as things begin to return to normal.

Source sounds recorded in Glasgow between 2002 and 2020.

Composed between May 20th and June 20th, 2020.


“These field recordings are deftly processed, edited and overlain so that the quotidian and the uncanny sit side by side… household appliances become abstract compositions for amplified percussion a la Tony Oxley, or whistling feedback loops and ominous drones… as the drinkers disperse and the bar staff lock up, a nocturnal jazz requiem starts up, like an Art Ensemble tone poem via Bill Dixon at his heaviest… we can describe Vernon’s sound design as Lynchian, but where he most closely resembles the master is on a narrative level, as he plays with temporality and moves through dimensions to create work that is uncanny, absurd, and often moving.”
Stewart Smith, Ion Engine

Reviews in Full

“Mark Vernon is one of Glasgow’s undersung sonic heroes: in addition to co-curating the experimental broadcasting platform Radiophrenia and the Lights Out Listening Club, the sound artist has racked up an impressive range of recordings, both solo and in collaboration with Barry Burns, Hassle Hound and others. Following hot on the heels of the splendid Paper Gestures for Jason Lescaleet’s Glistening Examples label, The Dominion of Din is his contribution to Amplify 2020, the online experimental music festival.

Vernon describes the 50 minute piece as a radio play made from sounds recorded in Glasgow between 2002 and 2020, specifically nuisance sounds that impinged on his flat: bins being emptied, people spilling out of the pub, tradesmen, nesting magpies, an infernal burglar alarm… These field recordings are deftly processed, edited and overlain so that the quotidian and the uncanny sit side by side. Saxophone muzak wafts unctuously in and out of earshot, as Vernon’s microphone roams through what sounds like a busy kitchen. Pans clatter and clang, knives slice and chop, before we end up in the backyard to empty the bins.

Through clever blends and transitions, Vernon obscures his sound sources: at one moment we might think we’re hearing a kettle boil, only for it to take on the deeper resonance of a bath running. A lonesome piano playing ‘Fure Elise’ floats in from next door: an audio verite snapshot or a constructed scene? Either way, it advances the narrative and provides a witty comment on the accidental juxtaposition of sounds in a busy neighbourhood.

Reverb and tape delay fog and smear the sounds further, so household appliances become abstract compositions for amplified percussion a la Tony Oxley, or whistling feedback loops and ominous drones. Yet at other points, Vernon presents them clean, so the perspective suddenly shifts to Vernon getting in the car, only to be called on by a workman attending to a blocked pipe. Such irruptions of realism bring us back to earth and can also be very funny, not least when drunken revellers break into the Cranberries’ egregious Troubles dirge ‘Zombie’.

Yet Vernon never lets you get too comfortable. As the drinkers disperse and the bar staff lock up, a nocturnal jazz requiem starts up, like an Art Ensemble tone poem via Bill Dixon at his heaviest. I can only guess at the source of those lowing horn like tones: those magpies pitched down to a crawl? That burglar alarm, screwed and chopped? We hear a drunken singalong of Radiohead’s ‘Lucky’, before Vernon abruptly stops the tape, relishing the ability to finally exercise control over these unwelcome sounds. A few seconds of silence gives way to ghostly coda of spectral tones.

I’m hesitant to use the term Lynchian in a musical context, seeing as it’s come to denote any kind of spooky reverb-laden Americana. Sure, we can describe Vernon’s sound design as Lynchian, but where he most closely resembles the master is on a narrative level, as he plays with temporality and moves through dimensions to create work that is uncanny, absurd, and often moving.”

Stewart Smith, Ion Engine, July 2020

“Next comes a sonic report from Glasgow that Mark Vernon has totally lost it during lockdown. For years, he’s been recording The Dominion of Din, comprised of every annoying sound he’s heard from his rear window. Neighbors use leaf blowers at ungodly hours, objects are dragged, dogs bark, beer is delivered every day (but unfortunately not to Vernon), recyclable glass is broken every night. Vernon reports that these sounds virtually disappeared during the pandemic, during which he played them back and created a soundscape. Yep, he’s definitely lost it. Someone’s hammering, someone’s panting, people are yelling about inane things (a water pipe!), workers are singing “Zombie” off key and oh God, not Für Elise, make it stop! I wouldn’t want to live where Vernon lives, but I understand his situation ~ the lack of the usual annoying sounds has been nirvana. He’s made something good from something bad, at the cost of his sanity.”

Richard Allen, A Closer Listen, July 2020

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. Winner of the Radio Art Category of the Phonurgia Nova Awards 2020.

“This cubist and fragmentary portrait of the city of Vienna hides another, astounding one. In order to create Magneto Mori: Vienna, Mark Vernon recorded sounds on magnetic tapes which he then “buried” so that they would deteriorate, then, once they were “degraded”, he “cleaned” them and then “used” them for this work. The result is a new way of listening: the erosion of sound time is thus accelerated, simulated, amplified and brought to life. From then on, the listener, instructed in such a method of sound fabrication, re-reads the title of the work in a different way… Magneto Mori: Vienna… As in reference to the medieval “Memento Mori” which means “Remember that you are going to die”… And this portrait of Vienna by Mark Vernon then becomes another world: an archaeology of the city as well as of the sound device, the transformation of space into time and vice versa, a story of ghosts in the heart of Europe. Sumptuous.”

Alexandre Castant, Phonurgia Nova

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.