The D-Word

Image by: David Paul Ohmer (flickr)

Why is death such a difficult subject to talk about? From hospital mortuary to the grave, The D-Word explores our complex relationship with death through the perspective of those who deal with it on a daily basis.

Recently featured on Transom.org, The D-Word is an audio documentary I produced last summer on the subject of death. I’d urge you to visit Transom and explore their excellent site, but you can also listen to or download my piece below:

 View on PRX

The documentary was made in part for my MSc in Science Media Production and explores our relationship with death through the perspective of those who deal with it on a daily basis.

The piece experiments with a braided narrative weaving between interview and actuality recordings, taking the listener into a hospital mortuary, inside funeral homes and across a church yard to explore the concept of death from a number of personal perspectives.

This documentary is also a response to my own experience in dealing with the death of a close friend and you can read more about this in my article over at Transom.org.

In addition to this piece, I also produced two further shorts from the material recored for this documentary. These short audio vignettes experiment with form and sound to explore some of the themes touched upon by pathologist Dr Stuart Hamilton.

Adam as machine (more info)

Winters Rest (more info)

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Alder Hey’s Dawn Chorus

Image: Elisabeth Carolan

Our response to sound and noise are influenced heavily by the psychological associations we have with them. Hospitals and their internal soundscapes obviously carry very negative connotations and in the case of young children these negative associations can lead to increased levels of distress and fear. However the reverse of this is also true, certain sounds can have very positive associations and the effect of listening to these sounds can be very positive and powerful.

Several weeks ago, I was walking down the central corridor of Liverpool’s Alder Hey children’s hospital when I became aware of the sound of birdsong. As I continued down I could hear quite clearly the sound of a single blackbird gracefully chirping through the din of the chaotic hospital. As I focused on the sound I found that it brought with it a sense of calm and I begun to lose the feeling of unease that I tend to experience inside hospitals. However, there was no sign of this little bird or any other wildlife inside the hospital, save from the colourful murals adorned across the corridor walls. I quickly realised that what I was listening to was a very special sound installation; playing out the wonderful recordings made by BAFTA award winning sound artist Chris Watson.

I’d come to Alder Hey specifically to talk with their Arts Coordinator Vicky Charnock to find out how the hospital had been experimenting with sound to improve the experiences of their young patients. I also got chance to speak with Chris Watson, the creative talent behind the installation and he explained to me why he chose to bring the sounds of a local park within the walls of this hospital.

The Dawn Chorus installation forms part of the larger Sonicstreams project which is a creative collaboration between Alder Hey and the Foundation for Arts and Creative Technology (FACT); the project aims to creatively explore the impact of sound on the human body.

You can listen/download the radio piece below: