Brendon Bussy

Monument at the Cape Town Castle

Posted in Events, Sound by Brendon Bussy on February 23, 2011

I spent the past few weeks creating the sound design for Peter Van Heerden and Anne Historical’s (aka Bettina Malcomess) performance, Monument.  Sponsored by GIPCA, its single performance took place last Friday evening – a dramatically (but fortunately not too) windy and balmy evening outside a major landmark, the  Castle of Good Hope – the oldest permanent built structure in South Africa.

Unfolding over about 45 mins, the performance started with a walk through an abandoned part of Cape Town central station which lead the audience to the the roadside site which had been transformed into an evocative stage filled with odd  structures – two stages (one mock Elizabethan), a shack, a large pile of sand and a discarded boat.  And inhabited by mysterious performers including one resembling a sangoma wearing a dress with a bustle.

The audience were lead through the space by an estate agent (selling the site to them) and walked in amongst a small team of builders creating structures out of old doors. Eventually they were lead to a stage where Anne Historical gave a lecture collaging fragments of early Cape history, tales of Jan van Riebeeck and descriptions of the effects of apartheid era land division – during which she made several costume changes (whilst Van Heerden dressed in a decrepit dress suit, dug frantically into a large pile of sand).

My Sound Design
Partly predetermined,  partly improvised, the performance explored the past and the present, the broad arc a process of construction then deconstruction played out in front of the castle battlements.
My sound design reflected this arc as well as the events taking place. The audience arrived to the sounds of trains arriving, squealing brakes and rumble – the result of an afternoon spent recording at the Cape Town station (with a home made microphone and my eee netbook). This moved into an ambient city sound scape, minibus taxis pumping bass heavy sound systems and footsteps clicking through abandoned parts of the station as the audience members were lead around the site.
Following Anne Historical’s speech, I created a sonic building site as the construction team moved through the site creating structures out of doors. First hand building (nails been hammered recorded in my bathroom) gradually becoming more aggressive and industrial building methods – angle grinders (recorded in a friend’s workshop). This culminated with the majestic sounds of ship’s horns (thanks to the excellent field recordings of Leon Milo made available on Freesound) and then devolved into a gradually more and more serene ocean setting (more excellent recordings from Freesound – full acknowledgements below).

For each scene I created a basic sound mix which I was able to augment with live samples and EQ adjustment to add drama keeping one eye always on the action. I also added live rhythmic pattern using one of my new home made harps.

And all played through a 500 watt Eon system, including subs supplied by Hellfire Hire. For those of you who know me,  you’ll know that I’m not exactly a gear head (note: my home made microphones), and yet those subs rumbled very beautifully 🙂

Soundtrack  sample and recording acknowledgements:

David Stegman for his (generous) grinding, cutting performance.

The Freesound Project

Garbage truck:  Tim Kahn
Ship Horns:  Leon Milo and Schaarsen
Sea: Digifish Music and Acclivity
Creaking ship:  Walter Odington , Anton Woldhek and Percy Duke
Seagulls: juskiddink

Garbage truck:  Mike Koenig

2 Responses

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  1. […] A close up of an early version of the solenoid. Note tortured wooden block base, the result of enthusiastic sound design for this project. […]

  2. […] first became aware of my work through the soundtrack I created for Monument, where I used the floor tile pattern of a long corridor in the older part of Cape Town’s […]

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