Send me your soundsNoize Choir

Mains dorées dans les pins

Created at the Nomadic village in Cuges Les Pins 2013

Return to the VAT

Since our first visit to the Vat we spent time devising and working on the score with the Newcastle Noizechoir. We temporarily located ourselves in Isis arts studio thanks to their kind donation of space. This allowed us some time to play and experiment and leave sound system and mics set up. The devising process was mostly done as a collaboration with the choir members, we spent time looking at our extensive collection of photographs and playing with the scores made by our workshop participants from the Burn O’ Vat. We then began to relate our geological and researches on how the space evolved and began to map out different periods of the Vat’s history. The choir shared their ideas and pooled geological knowledge about the pre-glacial North, volcanism and the ringing tone of the earth resulting from eruptions. We set upon a structure of four movements, each one representing a smaller and smaller time frame, from pre-history to the present.

These became:

Protist is a reflection on the ancient metamorphic origins of the Dalradian group, a complex unstable and evolving environment disrupted by volcanic activity rings, drones. Episodic sounds compressed into momentary flashes as if listening to pre-history speeded up thousands of times

Glacial spacious cracking ice and air, which the choir imagines tens of thousands of years of glaciation and the kilometre of ice rising up over the Vat, the towards the end we hear the water begin the shift and move.


Here the ice really begins to melt in a hard and violent movement, we experience the rocks grinding out the vat as the water moves ever faster over few thousand years

Sunday Morning brings us up into the present day and represents a number of hours with Claps, whoops, tourists, moss, mobile phones, insects, water, drips and trickles out of the Vat. This movement is populated by people and the energy they bring to the Vat.

We returned to Aberdeen with 6 of the choir. In the morning we drove to the Vat to perform our piece. It was a cool, damp but bright morning and we were fortunate to have the Vat to ourselves for most of our visit. Even though the choir are seasoned performers, it was good to have unbroken concentration. Our only onlookers appeared as we were warming up but they thought better of staying to watch and disappeared up the gorge. In spite of the difficult acoustic with the waterfall thundering behind it was great for the choir to experience what they had been singing about in rehearsals. We had to cut and run to make it back to Woodend Barn in time for soundcheck .

We loved the space and the floor so much that half of us performed bare foot. Such a treat! The sound in the space was perfectly managed by Simon leaving us to concentrate on the space and the sound. We decided to perform in the round and invite the audience to move around the space.

It felt strange to be performing a Sunday matinee performance and it felt so quiet that during the sound check we almost expected there to be no one there for the performance but the audience did indeed come. The afternoon’s performances kicked off with choreographer Hayley Durward’s piece – a high energy performance which rolled across the space conjuring up the North sea breakers on the Aberdeenshire coast and after all the other amazing performances we had witnessed over the weekend we were slightly apprehensive about how the work would be received but we needn’t have worried. We asked the audience to leave their seats and join us on the floor. We had intended the whole work to last for about 30 min and we had taken pains to create space in the piece. As we were performing it felt like we were speeding through the movements so it was therefore a surprise to find that that we had paced ourselves very well through the work. It seemed like a long way to travel to perform a short performance but from the reaction we received, the generosity of the Woodend Barn and how much the choir enjoyed the excursion we would do it all again.

We would like to perform the work again and we are hoping to arrange a performance in Newcastle alongside Chris’ video work.

Lindsay Duncanson – Noizechoir

Through and Between ( Burn O Vat) a four part movement from the Burn O Vat

Some writing from Our time at the Burn O Vat


The Burn O’ Vat is a pothole which appears to have been drilled in the surrounding rocks by eddying currents of water bearing stones, gravel and other glacial matter. This debris was carried in melt water flows 15000 year ago as the 1000m thick ice age glaciations covering ancient cairngorm magma began to melt. Our sonic journey to the Burn o’ Vat began by arrival in descending gloom of late summer nights on August 12th.   It was getting to too dark explore so we jacked up the caravan and cooked up some food.  Anticipating a grandstand view of the Perseid meteor shower I took a short walk after dinner but cloud rolled in and the midges forced a retreat. Sleep came quickly but not before catching  a streak of yellowish light as another lump of extraterrestrial debris vapourised


We began the day by kitting up and walking down to the Vat.  The car park had filled with  visitors, slightly to our surprise as we hadn’t anticipated the early morning popularity of quirky geological features. The approach to the Vat gives little away. A short walk alongside a gently burbling stream that runs through  a deciduous  valley  whose sides begin to steepen  as one nears the end of the path. The entrance to the Vat is hidden from sight, guarded by a collection of rocks, some as big as a buses. The sonic landscape shifts from open woodland to an enclosed  low growl as the outfall clatters over a precarious landscape of smaller rocks and   then  under  a  tomb sized slab that crosses the entrance giving the cascade a hollow woody timbre.

The way into the vat is across this sharp edged debris that seems to have defied the erosion of water, ice  and human footfall and down through a narrowing watery  passage  beneath a huge lump of suspended  granite. I felt it was somewhat reminiscent of Neolithic constructions I had encountered in Orkney where narrow passages beneath huge rocks may open out into subterranean spaces except that the Vat is open to the sky.

Once through entrance hole we emerged into a narrow gorge with towering sides. Rising from the floor along each wall, the rock has been gouged out to reveal the  top half of a spherical hole in the rock, half filled with a red gravel so uniform in size that it looks artificially laid down.  We are struck by the gentleness of the water tripping over the rocks on the inflow and the obvious violence of the formation. It is obvious that our visit is only courtesy of light summer rainfall.  The  Vat was busy  with visitors and our first soundings were the kind of  tentative claps and whistles that we saw repeated by almost all subsequent visitors and quickly abandoned as there is no obvious repeat echo or grand reverb but more a subtle acoustic shifting that revealed itself slowly.  In retrospect it is hardly surprising as the curve of walls will tend to focus sound inwards  and downwards  into the unplumbed depths of the gravel bed – a perfect sound damper.

We spent a good couple of hours exploring the layout of the vat and the geology  of the space.  Occasionally clapping, yodeling and shrieking in the gaps between visitors. (for although we are seasoned performers there is still a residual reserve with regards to howling at unsuspecting strangers). We wound our way back down the path to introduce ourselves to the staff at  the visitors centre having arrived too late to do this the previous evening. The visitors centre is a fantastic place full of maps photographs, samples of tree bark and stuffed wildlife and best of all,  free books on the Cairngorms geology we met our contact and were  reassured that we could stay in the car park.

We returned to the Vat  and started to work on an idea Lindsay had brought.  Working the score in a radial fashion notating graphic scores onto a radial graph seemed to be a perfect fit to the Burn O’ Vat allowing us to map the geological features, topology or colours with the idea that the score could be read in a radial manner converting our observations into time based performance

We spent the rest of the day preparing for the following day’s workshop.  This was to consist of a  voice warm up which we planned to conduct up at the Loch Kinord  viewpoint above the Burn O’ Vat car park. The warm up was to be followed by  a sound listening walk to the Vat  where we would spend some time exploring the acoustics of the space by improvised singing we would then spend sometime creating scores on the radial graphs based on how  the  participants were inspired by  the Vat. We would then perform the individual scores and attempt to layer or sequence them into a performance.

Night  brought out a different side to the Vat  notably an explosion of local wildlife  Lukas found 6 toads.  I went to explore the acoustics of the vat at night and by torchlight found that avoiding toads became a bit tricky-  I stopped counting in the thirties.  Now darkness shouldn’t make a great  physical difference to the sound but heightened perception of auditory senses in the absence of light is  palpable.  


Our early morning  explorations of the upper reaches of the Burn revealed a Wooded valley  with few visible clues as to the formation of the vat.  I had half expected to find further unusual  granite outcrops or terrain that made suggestions as to the  striking features further down stream.  It is also odd that the valley gives little hint below the Vat of any rocky structures. Leading me to idly speculate at the forces that created the Vat thousands of years ago. Perhaps a granite outcrop or ridge impeded the flow of a sub glacial river carrying debris  and  then subsequent deposition of moraines formed the hills through which the valley runs. We need to find  an expert !

Following  lunch  we install ourselves at the visitors centre to await participants in the planned Noizechoir workshop.  We find that, of the potential participants only two have been in contact and they had turned up at the Woodbarn by mistake  and were subsequently  sent  on their way to the Burn O’ Vat visitors centre. As no others had turned up we decided to wait for them and whilst waiting outside the visitor’s centre a party of four and a dog  had turned up to see what was happening. We think that they had come to listen rather than participate but they seemed game. Our missing  people had still not arrived  so we asked all to keep silence and  set to on a listening walk up the hill to the viewpoint. Following an introduction to Noizechoir and an extensive warm up   we  descended to the Vat to explore the acoustics and improvised some singing.

One of the things I had noticed  the previous night was that there were sweet spots in the vat where the sound was magically enhanced and we invited the temporary choristers to see if they could locate the same spots. Strangely there were no arrivals of  walkers  during our vocal explorations which was for the best as our workshop party were not the most confident singers. We introduced the idea of writing visual scores using the radial graph papers that Lindsay had prepared. After about 20 minutes of score writing we attempted to perform through  all of the resultant scores with some  interesting results. It seemed as though our party had enjoyed themselves so we waved goodbye  and  retired to the caravan for a Martini or two.

Very pleased to see this lovely video our performance at the Baltic last year.

FR174 or the 21.05 from Dublin from Marek Gabrysch on Vimeo.

From Noizechoir summer trips out!

Sodium Orange to Red Shift from Marek Gabrysch on Vimeo.

from our van tour we have a few lovely photographs to come from the location.

Such a privilege

to work up in Northumberland and with all the groups that got involved, especially our choirs and Woodies groups!

tarset test HD (by Marek Gabrysch) looking forward to trying this out with a  new 11 mm lens for more sky action. Fraught with difficulties and a long wait in the cold night air