Transcriptions stimming in music and technology

Where the stimming exists 

in-between texts 

In Conversation with Dee and Elinor: Sound / Senses / Regulation / Delay', of 'Stimming / Repetition', through reflections on the experience of "Neurodivergent Embodiment / Orbiting”

Elinor:    What were you inspired by to create the canal piece for the Biodivergent Sites and Sounds project? 

Dee:   Initially of course we had our rehearsals and just prior to that I went for a walk on my nearest part near the canal, on my part of London, which is Limehouse, so I took a long walk around Limehouse Basin and I took my recorder on my phone to record all the sounds like birds, water, the spray sound of the water, bike bells, and I came back with all these field recordings. And I used those recordings became the starting point of me sampling them, start the guitar, start stimming, so that was the starting point.  

Elinor:      The piece you performed and sent in feels like a song sent from the Otherworld, the portal through the water. Can you describe how you found this sound? 

Dee:       I locked myself in my room with those recordings because I had to embody that walk again and I do a lot of with delay on the guitar in particular with delay pedals which I really reflect with delay. My life has been very delayed so it’s a very poignant concept for me. I love delay it’s my favourite sound. So I just play around with it and rehearse with the guitar and the delay pedals and I embody the music, which is what I meant - everything about me sort of circles and flows and when I get in that place which I presume a bit different to a lot of other people, I finally get more peace in my head. And that’s when I start making music happen and I just start stim-singing and then I create a whole piece from it and that particularly happened with that piece. Well it was four pieces, I ended up doing four songs four stim-scapes effectively and then I cut them the sounds and I made them flow together from one to the other using recordings of the ducks actually, and the geese and piano and sort of piece them all together. And yeah. 

Elinor:     Thank you, that’s lovely, I could feel on the walk with you when you said that, and something I noticed about, within the track that you sent was that a definite “shquee, shquee,” sound like a beat it felt very eighties to me I wonder if that was intentional? 

Dee:     Was that the first part of it? 

Elinor: Yeah. 

Dee:    Because I actually regret putting that on. 

Elinor: Ah! 

Dee: Yeah. Initially it was really loud and it was combined with some water droplets. 

Elinor: Mmm! 

Dee:      Talking about a flowing orbiting zone, that was helping me to play along really happily and enjoying it but as a recording I didn’t feel it was appropriate. Although it came from a place that was very important to the process, I kind of wish I hadn’t left it on. 

Elinor:     I mean interestingly, I felt the same. I felt it was really jarring and I’d wondered why you’d done it because the work was beautiful what you’d sent in and it had this kind of jarring almost like not natural sound in contrast to your voice. 

Dee:     Yeah. I really regret sending it in like that. 

Elinor:     But I kept it in and I could have cut it out but I kept it in because I felt there was this duality of how quiet the canal is in contrast to the rush. Like, different streams going on. Like a still stream of the canal and the rush of the outside and so I actually felt that yes it is a bit off or odd or jarring but it is also a reminder of the Capitalist world if you like? Like, “Hey! We’re still here!” 

Dee:    This is actually really interesting because you’re right, and it does reflect the project and it’s how I worked on the project too because the reason why I’m - I like to be able to use one of Ableton’s beats, there’s part of me that’s trying to borrow the language of what I think is acceptable. I often worry about how weird my music is, I often have done for years and I’m always borrowing the language perhaps because I am autistic. The more acceptable, artificial what I talked about the gold bars in the sky along the canal looking at the bright towers against the old things that have gone. It’s almost like a ritual if you like, about my own weirdness that actually, the sound is really jarring and I grew to really dislike it even though I needed it in order to put it down (make the song). 

Elinor:    Yeah, and I think that’s really powerful to dislike parts of the work. The things that help us to make are also the things we’re ashamed about. Creating this project for me has been super tough because I’ve had such great access support and then it’s brought into being this immense grief of experiences in my past life where I wish I’d done everything so differently so like yeah, the work is never finished. You’ll now be able to, when you have your spoons back, go back to the track and send it over to me without the beat. 

Dee:     Yeah, I’d like to. 

Elinor:     Yes, and we can still create new things out of the tracks we have created from this project because when you hear the whole soundscape you won’t hear all that you’ve created and sent in, because I only had fifty minutes so there will be those. I think that’s the beauty of electronic music that we can keep going and add these to different projects in the future. 

Elinor:     I find your process incredibly wise and intuitive. I feel you listen so intently and I can hear a language but I can’t make out what you’re saying, which is why when I was transcribing the pieces for the “Tracks and Texts” section of the book, the collaborative pieces, I was like “I don’t know what she’s quite saying here!” 

Dee:       If you could describe the sound maybe, I could describe the sound. When I sing especially with what you’re describing which is - you know for years I’ve always written lyrics, written poetry but years ago it would never have occurred to me to not have a full lyric in a full structured song if I was performing. I’d get very you know “that I must perform in that language.” and I’ve been really freed in recent years to realise I’ve always sung, happier and better when I’ve just let my voice flow and I do sing in a particular language and it’s language that makes me finally feel relaxed in what I am singing. I really enjoy myself and I get into my flow. I’m orbiting. 

It is sort of wordless but I’m also using poetry that I’ve written down. I write poems of the every day and put them on my phone. I just look at my phone when I’m singing a song and I look at the words, you know for a backing track, and I’m almost rephrasing words so they’re the sounds you’re describing and it’s something that has really freed me to enjoy singing again. I’m turning these words - I know what they mean - into a different sound. It’s when you talk about autism as well that autism is a different language. To me the onus is on everybody else to learn different languages. I know it’s good having - well I’ve spent all those years having to learn someone else’s language that when I’ve found my own one, although it is musical, that I realise how nice it can feel to feel free. 

Elinor:     I really identify with this, because it’s because of you and because of singing with you that I can make up language and I think what I mean by that is that I often make noises. You know if I’m experiencing things, you know it’s a shriek, it’s a huff. Sometimes I have to leave a room, to go cry or make a guttural sound. I turn words inside out, backwards, and I prefer to speak backwards than forwards. I used to do this a lot for my first degree. People would say, “Oh you know you can just turn the audio track to backwards setting.” and I used to think that’s not freeing. It felt very much like a kind of gagging or silencing of my voice or what I could express so I do find that really interesting. 

And also going back to ancient practices. When we sang together it felt very ancient and holy. And that’s what ancient religions do. You know they’ll hum, they’ll oscillate. They’ll sing parts of words. 

Dee:    For me, I have my poems in front of me and I’ll have ideas in my head often when the song comes to me. But it’s when I go to the microphone. Once I hear that feedback I seem to let myself go even when I've got the words which I'll post in front of me I end up sort of twisting but in a very natural way like you say that almost ancient way that I'm grabbing the words. I can read in front of me but I'm turning them to sing in the way that I feel it was gonna give me that sort of verbal and reverbal sort of vibrating feedback in the sound. It’s only then that I feel it works. And so I feel happy and confident with what's going through the mic and yet you know it's often it's me practicing actually trying to sing the words I've written down and I just feel they don't they don't flow as well from me. So instead, a very natural, very intuitive change occurs into these sounds I’m making. 

So in a way I'm unintentionally creating a language with poems that have been written but yeah but it means I probably need to share the original poem which I suppose I could do.  I can see how if you were to write down what I’m singing it would come out as “oooohs” and “aaaaahs”. 

Elinor:    Ha yeah, well you’ll see that in the “Tracks and Texts” section of the book. Okay, so if you had to break down your process for this piece what would you say happened and why did it happen this way?  

Dee:     I went to the canal and it's mainly a collection of songs that came out of locking myself in my room with the recording and just a bit like I've been describing just playing with the delay on my Guitar singing melodies just vocalising until eventually four pieces came together which I cut. I cut them into the bit I then chose for the track. I personally got the idea that each minute was a different month because I kept seeing seasonal scenes of the canal in my head and so I thought I want to make this exactly 12 minutes so I decided I don't know why I go with these things I decided I want to make every minute of the song a different season but that was more like an a visual thing in my head. 

Elinor:       That’s so interesting because as I was scribing our songs, and I was thinking these “oooohs and ahhhhs” are not doing justice to what you’re singing so I felt this urge to paint your voice, so I have paintings now of the tracks that show the journey of your voice throughout the track. 

Dee:        Wow yeah. Emotionally things are also changing so I'd like to do the track again really because I was getting a strong visual and I don't think I really carried what came out but I also cut some pieces from it which is what I've made for the stimscapes tomorrow at the launch. I didn't get to use some of it. It’s 12 minutes in the end so they're the ones I'm rehearsing without any rehearsal (laughs) it's scary they're the ones I'm bringing tomorrow these two stimscapes that I didn't actually send to you. 

I’ll be using them as the backing tracks when we perform live. I’ve never sung to a recorded backing track before and just sung over the top with guitar, it’s going to be really experimental. I told my autistic support, you know and he told me, you need to keep it simple and unfortunately I don't really do simple! I do intricate tracks with lots of delays to it. 

Elinor:     And because I’m singing with you, I could just sing or do poetry over the top. That's what I was gonna do but I mean I perform live very much on the spot without rehearsal as I have to feel the liveness, the live state of the room, the living state of the room. But that’s why, listening back to what we created in my living room. When I was transcribing the text of one of the tracks.  I mean I'd love to meet you again to just listen to one of the tracks because I played it to one of my supervisors and he was just saying like he was listening so intently and he just said I cannot believe you did that live in like the moment it’s so intuitive,  like it sounds like you've put so much work into getting to there and I was saying no like we just trust each other in the moment. 

Dee:   Do you remember what it was? 

Elinor:     It was,  “Their nests are made of plastic bags.” 

(Elinor plays the track and they listen to it together) 

Dee: Yeah it sounded like we’d been rehearsing together for years.  

Elinor:     Yeah I can’t believe it was just that once, that one song then we moved onto another song, but even me like I didn't sing because I'm bullied or targeted for my voice all the time and so whenever I want to sing, I sing in private. So you know your voice gives me permission to sing and I think that's also the power that you have so I think that you've answered the layering and I think you've answered this part about words and language. 

I think that we've had a really interesting conversation but maybe you could elaborate on like stimscapes and sounds senses regulation delay and like the duality of the autistic lived experience in your creations? 

Dee:   Yeah I am trying not to use the word “journey” but I guess I've been on a journey of again trying to step outside typical ways of making music even.  I used to love being in a band. I used to really enjoy it a lot but I used to get very anxious and uncomfortable. I didn't feel comfortable feeling I had to make things in certain boxes. For instance, they had to be verse chorus first etc you know I had to have the lyrics that everyone knew what I was singing out of a big chorus and it's not like I didn't enjoy it. I loved being in the band but it didn't occur to me that it was safe for me to do the weird music I have always done ever since I was a little girl. I thought people would say it was too soft and too peaceful. Like, she’s too odd, she's strange. I remember those things when I was little and repeating myself a bit but I felt frozen in the last years you know. 

Coming to understand my own divergence etc which came from you know understanding my son and it’s been a long ten years of understanding things differently and it's really reflected in my music so you know following on from what I mentioned about voice being read for me and understanding that my language is okay it makes me happy why not and it makes me create better. I’ve also realised it's okay for me to write whole pieces that I like, like stimscapes.  

It never occurred to me that it was okay, that it’s alright to write this music. It's okay to face this and make these sounds and record them like I've always done and to not worry and once I got a bit of help with technology in recent years I was able to record that and it has completely liberated me to make them up because I am stimming when I'm doing this and it's freed me of the years of feeling really chained up. That I can make the music that's actually in me. 

And that it doesn't matter and I think after working with John as well, particular last year we did the We Shine project so that really helped me to understand that I wasn't the only one and obviously working with you as well, so it was liberating to know it's okay, stimming to make music,  it's a good thing I don't need to be shy about it anymore. I don’t need to hide away and not forget it so to me it's been a huge huge difference in my life to be able to create these things. I couldn't escape from what always felt natural to me. 

It's like it's what I've been looking to do for you, to basically free up what's in my head and actually have the technology to try and record it. 

Elinor:      Exactly I think that stimming is so much more than behaviour or movements but it's language and even breathing 

Dee:     Yes, exactly, like the flow within me like I didn't realise I was permissive to express and share and that, and that's been a total change for me in recent years to understand that yeah that exists in music and I am flowing. 

Elinor:     I think that’s so powerful and so affirming. I struggle with immense burnout, and so stimming saved me during those moments of absolute exhaustion. So this leads to the next question, can you describe the track’s message in terms of connecting to the climate crisis? 

Dee:       A lot came from our discussions and collaborations as well as the themes of the old and the new. I kept getting images of the fact that my house is built on a canal and thinking about the past, the things that have gone and then the gold bars in the sky going up by the canal. 

People float gently along the canals and there is this sense of a lost industry who lost people, the lost coast, the lost everything I mean how that is all reflective of things moving too quickly and also, that moment of how are we going to preserve things? And we need to preserve it. 

Elinor:    I really struggled with knowing how to respond to all these climate crisis briefs out there you know like because that's not how my mind works but it's it's sort of for me, this project has supported me to be more deep listening of how nature is treated in the same way and this sounds very insular but in how I'm treated by society so when I'm listening to your music and Jo's you know I'm feeling so much stronger and then feeling more purposefully alive than in ways when I'm not. 

Dee:     It’s about preservation of the ancient the things that have been there for hours. It’s why I wrote “you always have the sky.” I always look at the sky when I get really really low the sky is always there, like the landscape, they've been there but the gold bars will crush down again but to me it's more about preservation and conservation and of the things that matter and you can relate that back to the ancient voices that we're talking about as well the natural that comes out that will last for much longer than the gold bars in the sky. Gold bars is what I always refer to when I’m talking about the constant building in London. 

Elinor:       Why do you think society squashes disabled and neurodivergent people? 

Dee:      Well, it’s because the world is run by the most powerful elites. They decided everything and a lot of them (neurodivergent and disabled people) are not represented as themselves and there are no disabled; no neurodivergent people because they're the ones who don't get the opportunity to become elite so if disabled people and neurodivergent people are not leading at the top, there is no representation.  If no one disabled or neurodivergent is in power at the top, how can you possibly speak for those at the bottom?

Elinor:      Has this project or contributing to this project empowered you or made you think of things differently? 

Dee:       I think there are two kinds of strands to it. The first strand is it's time working with you and Jo in person. It's reinforced my confidence in practice to again just flow with others. In this amazing way. I talk about being liberated which is amazing and wonderful! And in the other strand; working alone writing the canal I think again it's reinforced my feeling of confidence to just be making music at home as well and record so it's freeing it's liberating. 

Elinor:     Thank you Dee, that’s so lovely, thank you so much. 

In conversation with Charles 

Elinor:      Thank you so much for taking the time to meet with me. I know I approached you and I also know that it was because Jo put us in touch, but why did you want to be part of Biodivergent Sites and Sounds? What sort of interested you about the project? 

Charles:     Yes, I wanted to be involved because there are some things that just feel inevitable … and so when we started a conversation about what you wanted to achieve and that sounded like a logical progression from other things. It was an exciting proposal when we started to talk about it and of course it continued that way. There were elements or ideas that emerged as we were working on it, where I could really feel a resonance with how I would approach things myself … very quickly we had some shared perspectives that acted as really fascinating roots of a conversation, before we even got into making anything together.  

I'm not sure if we were talking about the idea of stimming at this stage of the proposal, but if not, it was certainly something that emerged as something to really lean into and explore, in terms of how somebody interacts with a work like this. I think that for me it became one of the key aspects to consider, because in other projects, working on something interactive … certainly in educational contexts … there are always different aims, like in terms of how somebody might be encouraged to interact with something in what's deemed to be the "right" way, and that's inevitably going to exclude people who might want to interact with it differently.  

Elinor:       That's really interesting because since our project, now other artists either directly related to our project or who have interacted with the technology are now talking about stimming in their practice openly as the methodology or as a tool or instrument in or of itself. I really think that although only 30 people came to the launch, what I'm trying to say is whilst the launch was not teeming with hundreds of people, still so many people at the launch could openly speak about stimming as part of the practice of music making or interacting with the technology. I have taken on a new physical helper (to cover for my current one who is travelling at the moment) and they now never stop talking about stimming in their practice after taking part in the launch as access support. They were so inspired by the project, that they have identified how stimming is a sort of strength or tool that they use in order to reach deeper into their own practice and connect with what it is they do (they are also autistic). 

Also, one of the musicians who I interviewed, also for this book. In her interview she talks about how now she feels so liberated to talk about what it is she does and how she’s realised what it is she’s doing. So what you said just now about the actual physical interaction with technology - here's a type of stim - and you shared a video where you'd done all those lines you know and that was absolutely fascinating to me to see you visually show through colour and lines, the layers the multiple layers and layers and layers and that that was a stim- 

Charles:       Do you mean that video when I was showing how I would connect devices together on the screen to make music? [the software is MiiRack, a modular synthesiser]

Elinor:         Yes. The way in which - I suppose it's you on your Youtube channel isn't it? The way in which you teach and show your processes has helped me formulate a new glossary of words if you like. As a musician and sound artist I've always - Jo and I were talking about this:  that we don't often tick the mainstream solo artist shows because we almost always rely on collaboration. We need to respond to other people, for example, either a creative technologist or another musician or another artist to collaborate with because of the Echo.  We need this kind of Echo sense and I've been thinking about this in terms of this idea of dissociative-becomingwhere I have to almost go into a state of dissociativeness in order to work solo and that's going off on one but it made sense to me in my head! 

Charles:       That does make sense. 

Elinor:          Yes, and what is interesting is I'm developing this new language and new glossary of words since this project and this comes to the idea of the map and the elements. 

Charles:       Yes. 

Elinor:            I’m going to bring it back to the questions: I know I gave you some directions and instructions but I also felt that the project was really collaborative so how did we get to that idea of the elements placed on the map? 

Charles:  Yeah, when I talk about collaboration or when I talk about creative process, rather, I’m immediately thinking about constraints as well. The constraints kind of become another person in that space, almost. And so that includes the constraints of technology that we're working with, which is not a phrase that I like to use actually … or rather not one that I would use lightly, given my misgivings of talking about technology up front [since I get frustrated when people assume that I am talking about purely technical processes, where from my perspective the tools are just integrated differently in how I work]. 

The reason why I said that… The idea of the map, as it was originally discussed, was originally quite straightforward, and some things grew out of it and we had to actively work to get that map back into the flow. I mean, please tell me if you disagree, but there were moments in the process where I was probably thinking, “ Are we still working on the map or Is this something else now?” And that was a… that was a really interesting process seeing how these different things grew around which were originally meant to interact with points on the physical space. In a way I guess, just thinking through the process, it became - thinking spontaneously now about an idea that the map is not as straightforward as a piece of paper with some dots on it and lines, and rather that the process of mapping becomes more multi-dimensional … transdimensional, even.   

Elinor:     Absolutely, I think that's where I was going with this situation. It's kind of like maybe the way the neurodivergent brain works is through language and through music making and maybe creative technology. It’s always a constant mapping.  It's almost like a live walk. Or like we're always apologising for rambling or for waffling or for going off on one but if you think about when we just go for a [physical] walk, we are always noticing more and more and then we see more different things and then we get distracted and then we end up walking a bit longer than we first thought we might get lost.

Charles:       Yes I can relate. In response to that, we had set out with quite a straightforward idea of a map and then we really needed to work out what we were mapping. And then there's the other idea of mapping I use in other areas of my life, in my creative practice, which would be an act of mapping one thing onto another, so these two ideas: mapping as in drawing a map, and then mapping from a range of, say, near and far, to a range of pitch, so we can turn movement into a melody. Yeah, these parallel processes, trying to bring out the essence of what you're investigating… and also not being present myself for the physical interaction with the spaces, and rather having that come to me through recordings and conversation…all these kind of snippets of information, 

Elinor (interjecting quietly barely heard): Like a collage 

Charles:    I was trying to piece together kind of a space and then it was almost a little dissonant with the idea of them. Crossing it directly onto a map like we didn't have like a fixed set of ideas… or even the idea of fixing the set of spaces or places. Then this kind of started drawing out more questions about what we were really trying to do. 

Elinor: Yes! I mean what I really loved as well was that we got lost in the layers and we had to peel back the layers again you know like as you said the code was so thick I don't know if that's the right vocabulary to describe it but there was so much thickness. There was so much you had to sort of swim back and so and I want to read out something very quickly that I've been doing some writing on the project and and I came up with the word “ecoes” which is a portmanteau of the words echo and eco so it's like ecoes’ perspective for the creation of the map.  

(Elinor reads out some text from the BSS book) 

“.....Delay delay and then delay becomes a portmanteau in describing the soundscape of the canal and describing art in the polluted age showcasing artistic and compelling ecoes’ perspectives that engage with watery recovery and texts eco echo eco echo echo as an ecoe the past future or after lives of Environmental Waste extraction (such as the Rusty can as a sound), harm and toxicity is mirrored and Echoes with as an echo with how Society treats autistic or/and neurodivergent people.”

I'm just sharing that with you, you don't need to comment if you don't want to but I feel like… I think what was lovely about us collaborating together was that there was that sense of maybe also a social justiceness sensation as well of how exclusion can also bring us closer in maybe mapping out what it is that we're doing. Giving us the freedom to process and collaborate using our neurodivergence.  I don't know if that makes any sense so I mean how was it like working on a neurodivergent led project? Or working with me? 

Charles:      Could you repeat the question? 

Elinor:         Well maybe, it’s better to go to the next question which is about Bridge specifically but maybe going a bit more in-depth with the elements because the ones that were chosen were a lot to do with like the actual - what I mean is, I know it became further away from that but the points on the maps like the experience of going under the bridge or you know the “rusty can in the water”, they were quite specific though you know like have you had to work in such a specific way before or was there more freedom in this I don't know if that makes any sense? 

Charles:      There is definitely a thread I'm feeling here. So … I guess I don't necessarily have the same perspective on it being specific or not. I think what immediately comes to mind was the moment when we started working on places where the map would become interactive, back when it was a much more conventional map. 

To describe what we were originally working on: it was a map that you could move around on the screen all in one go, and different parts of it could be interacted with, without actually diving into an interactive page. Although having said that, we very quickly realised that we needed much more of a focused close-up version of that interaction. 

Immediately, each of the scenarios, or what we came to call elements, really took on a life of their own. The kind of the interaction between the different parts was not just a case of: "here are the areas of the screen you will tap, and these are the sounds which will be played", which I would say is probably the more conventional expectation, common expectation, typical expectation, and not much more. There were more abstract ideas we wanted to dive into, or express and explore, or areas that we could dig into. Say, for example, you just mentioned the bridge … just talking about the experience of the acoustics of walking under the bridge … we'd very naturally move through that into what I would describe as musical ideas. But if an outsider were looking at that situation I'm not sure they would hear it as an overtly "musical" conversation. 

I'm still trying to get through to a point where I feel like I can jump into answering your question…. it's coming I think. I suppose to put it really bluntly, and coming coming back to something I said earlier on as well, I'm used to situations where I am working on an instrument that is going to be played, either to recreate a piece of music, or to fit into a style of music where what I'm generally trying to do is work on an experience that overlaps with the experience of playing a musical instrument. It's not to recreate something usually (well, sometimes it is), but more to to bring about a different sense of interacting with the world and reality. And so when you were talking about dissociative- becoming, or … like … needing to get into that space to perform, that's very much the sort of thing that I try to explore with creating an experience that you can interact with, that one can interact with. 

And often that is very much the sort of thing that I try to explore through creating an experience that you can interact with, that one can interact with.  Often, particularly with something online, it doesn’t really get into that territory. Often that [dissociative] experience is more in the making of it, because there's so much that has to go into the process of creating something like this that ideally you kind of lose yourself in doing that. I think it was certainly refreshing to be able to dive so immediately into working on something that wasn't so focused on music, per se. Like any divergence from musical aspects would be distractions in other settings, and the focal point of the conversation was this type of abstraction that I feel like we're both trying to describe.  

Elinor:       Maybe this leads on to what I said about the elements, so we've got Bridge and I wanted to explore sound spatially so you kind of touched upon that where it wasn't about the music but it was about the kind of sound of the space but through a kind of spatial way so the way the sound changes when a duck goes under the bridge. How does the quack of a duck change going under a bridge? How does sound change when we walk under a bridge, and where does it take us in the process?

Charles:        I am not sure that there was a brief, unless maybe you had it and I lost track… or if there was one… my memory of it is that there was a conversation that evolved … it's possibly been recorded actually. I think it might be. I can't remember, but do you … just as a quick counter question … do you have a brief that you remember? 

Elinor:       What I mean by process is first of all, there was a square and then you showed me how to fade colour across this square and you showed me what happened to the sound when you did that. Perhaps you could share a more technical breakdown of what you did because I think this is what is fascinating about the elements and I'm wanting to give you a space where you break down what you did, and then after we did that duck sound in the space then then like you got stuck because we were both, well you were kind of saying to me this is it but I don't know how the audience can quite interact with this unless they just go backwards and forwards and for you that didn't feel so engaging so then that's when we brought in the bridge and the colour and the changing of the colour then you know the bridge went dark and then the river lit up. We used urban colours because we were thinking of the graffiti on the bridge and then we were also thinking of black and white photographs of London and how they have the bright red bus for example. So from that,  it became a kind of, I think what we were also discussing was that we wanted to be true to London because it is a canal in London, it's not just anywhere. And that the canal is also man-made so there was that urban style and also Harlesden is where reggae is and you knew the area well because you went to university nearby so it became as you said earlier, it did completely evolve from just being able to kind of go you know like this (Elinor motions with her finger in the air) with your finger across the screen and the duck sound would change because it became almost like a walk.  Maybe now I'm the one who is now talking about the whole thing but I just wanted to hear it from you as a creative technologist. What did you do to create Bridge? 

Charles:        I think the process is like … there was something that you were picturing that I was not "getting" [not through any lack of clarity, but knowing that there we were describing something abstract on both sides]. So the best way for me to respond to that situation was to make lots of things and send them across to you, and to see if they fit in a practical way. And often not trying to go with the most obvious answer, partly out of the fear that we would end up with something obvious. 

I'm thinking about the communication on that one idea, and I'm not sure if we ever had a direct one-to-one connection over what I originally thought it was going to look like, actually … because we were talking about the map interaction as kind of "moving through" the map, which developed from an idea of the audience being able to move a mouse point or finger or whatever across it. So, the concept was that as you moved through the path of the map, it would kind of get darker, because you were going under the bridge at the same time. And we became removed from that overhead view of the map and we dove into it. We dug into it because… I seem to be saying "digging" a lot today.

Elinor:      We dived in. 

Charles:    Yeah "dive"…. because to represent the water we moved into a much more close up view of that. So if we're talking about the technical process … for me, it's not going to be a case so much of describing which components I got in place and why, so much as what we were trying to communicate at the time and how I could best communicate through something interactive … so that we could move from a space of trying to communicate directly with words into a space where the words are still now wrapped around an interaction that we’re sharing. The first step was for me to get something over to you, where you could play with it, and tell me if the interaction in terms of movement was going to work with the sound that we’d been describing. We'd had some wonderful wonderful conversations around … just the sense of 

space changing, and how we could relate that to the sense of the light, and the colour, and the resonances, and actually just the feelings of what it could evoke to be walking under the bridge, as well as the concrete feeling too. 

Elinor:     I’m so grateful. I’m so grateful to you because listening to you talk makes me realise how complicated it is working with me because I end up being so inspired working with you that I end up with bigger and bigger and bigger ideas and it must have been really hard to contain. I’m really grateful because you were perfect and I almost feel regretful that we didn’t stick with the original map because I was like, “Oh yeah, that sounds amazing”. I feel like and I know that we lost each other a little bit in the middle but I’m really grateful to you Charles, especially because what this book is going to do is that it’s helping me to write in a way I never felt able to write like before because I often feel I'm confusing myself for other people. But I think this project and working with you is very special because it really gave me the freedom to speak because I'm often told I make no sense or I'm rubbished a lot. What I'm trying to say and I think apart from Jo but with Jo, she will respond with cello whereas with you I had to speak language. I think what was very powerful about this project was you responded to what I was saying with exactly how I actually understand or process language or music in my head. I did violin and piano when I was a child but I was constantly told off by my teachers for playing the wrong strings or playing the wrong note or whatever so how I was able to find my way back into music is through technology. It's been a real on gift to work with you because just being able to explain what it is I needed and then that you almost offer it to me on a plate and also the response from all the audience at the launch was really powerful too so this isn't a question this is just a thank you and that it's also been very empowering to me as a disabled artist to work in a lead artist role but in collaboration with you because you've really broken down so many barriers for me. 

Working with you enabled me to lead on a project I wouldn't have been able to have done without working with you. I'd love you to talk about Crossing

Charles:     Ultimately they’re all kind of the same process, because it all ties together. I was going to say – in response to something you just said as well – that I think that worked, certainly in our case, because we could move into interaction one way or another quite quickly, to invite an interaction. I mean, you were able to to reach out and touch some of the things that were kind of manifestations or responses to your ideas through this process, and I was often quite surprised by how well you said they worked – that in some cases, you said that they were exactly what you'd been going for. 

I'm not sure if "surprised" is quite the word, and I wasn't necessarily expecting to have met or captured or created exactly what you were talking about but I think from my perspective it's constantly a case of just asking, “well does this fit?” "Is there enough of your idea in this or is there enough space for this in this for your idea that you can see it working?" If I'm working with sounds and images that you've already created, sometimes I’m taking liberties with them and kind of changing things around. 

At least, I feel like I'm in that space to a certain extent, and hopefully using vocabulary which you're already familiar with in terms of the images and the sonic textures. There was a really abstract element to the Bridge, in terms of how you described it, that was essentially just something you move [a finger or cursor] across from left to right. And my concern about how abstract it was, that was a recognition that all my focus had gone into trying to make it as flexible as possible: having all these different parameters that the sound like the length of the echo tailing off, the tightness of the space, the brightness of it perhaps, all being linked to one movement of "back and forth", and having that sense of it working but not knowing what it was going to be mapped onto, so to speak.

So in a way there was this process that could kind of be fitted onto many different types of interactions, as long as they have a beginning and end – start and end points in space – and somewhere in the middle that you can move through. 

And then we're talking about Crossing … that's a much more straightforward representation for the audience, of something that you can move left and right across … you can also move it up and down, but moving left and right will get you the mix between two channels as if you're a DJ with a cross fader going back and forth.

For me, ultimately, they're all kind of the same kind of process, or the same kinds of questions. And so we are moving between two different sound files, so to speak, on Crossing. And that could have been the case with the Bridge, we could have used a pre-recorded "under-a-bridge-like" sound on one side, and an acoustically "open" sound on the other side … just moving back and forth between them [without directly affecting any of those effects, like the echoes]. For a lot of people it would probably just do fine, it would be indistinguishable from the more complex sound … although if you really spend time with what we ended up with, you can find little nooks and crannies on the page where it sounds quite different.

Elinor:     Yes, what was very powerful about Bridge was you know how normally being in your bedroom and interacting with an element, it takes you out to the place but I felt actually we brought it to you in the room. It was like the opposite of bringing people out to landscapes, instead, we brought the Landscape into the bedroom, we brought the Landscape into the phone or it became a very intimate experience. A very one-on-one experience with landscape and it could become a conversation with the landscape. 

I love going under bridges but bridges are often very unsafe places. It's kind of bringing this sort of sensation that we really enjoy when we're out underneath it that can't last forever but with the element you can make it last for as long as you want, so kind of playing with time I suppose as well.  

Charles:     Yeah, and for me, so much music is about tapping into that [and it goes both ways: I think over time, music nurtures in us a different perception of our environment, different ways of listening and interacting]. I've noticed that there are certain places that if I walk through, I can't help but just make a sound as I'm passing through that acoustic. There was a staircase in the house I lived in before, where the length of the echo was so short it sounded exactly like the snare on a dub record I had. I couldn't help but just move through and "play" that sound by snapping my fingers every time. 

Elinor:      yeah I really I really and I think that's actually a key element of maybe what Jo and I often talk about, especially with journeying through sound where we can take ourselves to a space and replay that memory or that sound in our heads but what was lovely about working with you is you took that sound out of my head and brought it to the audiences that I would never have been able to do without a creative technologist. 

Charles:      Something about … yeah, music creating spaces I suppose, that's all. really all of it comes down to resonances, and the texture and scale of your surroundings if you if you choose to look at that point 

Elinor:    I'm not calling you a neuroscientist but I think what I'm trying to say is I think you did more than create a sound experience you did more than create an environmental experience but you also enabled the… you know when you think of a memory just to bring a memory back to enjoy the memory and then you kind of stim with that memory and I think that's what I felt we were bringing to people that they could enjoy that stimmed memory or that stim sensation and it suddenly became an ASMR experience for them. A lot of our audience or people who interacted with the technology weren't sure that this was an ASMR experience for them until they suddenly started doing it and repeating it and repeating it.  You see my goal was that I wanted people to create their own soundscapes but actually what they ended up doing was they were just stimming a sensation over and over again that they really really enjoyed so that is what a stim is. I think it was an invitation to stim really and not just to enjoy it or to create soundscapes or to interact with music or elements but to kind of just enjoy a sensation. To normalise the sensation as well because we are so marginalised or demonised for those sensations. 

A neurotypical person came to the launch and they came up to me afterwards and were just like “it was the most powerful thing they'd ever experienced and it was just so breathtaking and that they reported back that the experience of both the live performances and the stimming with the technology were both very very self soothing [for them] and they were just totally blown away by it and they texted me afterwards saying, “I'm still doing the experience” so it's almost like using the elements as the space to stim. So I feel [in this project] there's really…. there's that intention of encouraging people… to stim.  

Charles:    Yeah, asking people to to create their own soundscape could have been something that we leaned into a lot more directly, but early on just playing [and] showing somebody an early demo of Crossing, over here, in person, and watching them not just kind of go back and forth between the two channels … it was kind of like: "this needs to be played with … this needs to … they really needed to just really interact with it with velocity" which to me wasn't how I was originally thinking of it. 

It was … it was almost like you need to slide it to go from left to right to find the mix of the different sound textures, and then I'd almost expected somebody to "set it and forget it", because in this case, they're not creating their soundscape. Rather they're just choosing between two channels, potentially, because we want to wait for people to choose … maybe they'd want to hear something that could be deemed a bit harsh for some people, or something that was perhaps a bit soft or dull … those are obviously words with negative connotations, but we needed to think about the qualities of the sound textures in terms of how those could create barriers, could be perceived that way.

Okay, so in that kind of situation, we want something that you can move between. But immediately as soon as you have a slider or something interactive on the screen, it's kind of like: it's there to be used however somebody chooses to use it. And then as soon as we introduced specific instructions to it, you’re then changing that space of interaction. 

Elinor:    With Crossing how are you inviting audiences to engage with that sound and that element? So how are they interacting and moving across the screen? So for me I visualized an ice rink and like they were skating across sound on an ice rink but you might have a much better interpretation of what it is they're doing. 

Charles:    With me I think it's open … it's the most abstract in terms of the content, as far as it relates to the setting and the context. It's the most abstract element, I think of them all, and it's the only one that doesn't contain a direct representation apart from perhaps the School element. Crossing doesn't have a direct representation, visually at least, of the canal environment or or the general environment that's being mapped and described so I tried to make it … like I said … just kind of more conventional slider, but to have it movable just left and right [as an interactive element] there's not making sense. So we spoke about [different shapes, like faders laid out in a triangle, and it ended up sitting in a circle].

Elinor:    It’s interesting you did that though because Dee talks about orbiting would that sound like a similar thing 

Charles:     From my perspective it’s open … it is open to be shaped in conversation with you as to how how the parts fit, or how they maybe inherently represent something, but ultimately I'm thinking in terms of the relationship that the audience will have with it. So I guess all I can really say about this one is it's the most abstract, and to me therefore the most "open", potentially. 

Elinor:     What's your favorite element? 

Charles:      I think all of them worked out. They all have a different angle. I think the one that I am the most excited to really explore more, which I feel kind of needs the most work, would be the text based one for the Water’s Edge … because there's so much we could do with [captions from] spoken word broken up on the screen, and in that way that was really exciting to work with. We only made one version of it in the end, but I think my favourite part of this, or the thing I find the most engaging, is the water ripple being potentially the basis for everything. 

I mean, I think all of those elements we created could actually have that water ripple underneath. Something I really love about the elements, at least a couple of them, is the fact that we have the echo of most of the sounds somehow, and how that just drifts in and out of phase.  

Potentially with the rippling of the water, you couldn't convince me that it isn't "in time" with the ripples even though I know technically it's not linked at all. I love having these different layers, and also that being the most … I suppose … the element with the most interactive aspects, with the most agency [for the audience] even though it's just it's fleeting … but it's a real … for me, it's a real sense of interacting with the "page", or with the screen. 

Elinor:      I've been to several science museums and yours is the best because they always have these like on the ground for the children to play on and it always sort of misses by a little bit but yours was very exact! 

Charles:       Well I can't take credit for it. I searched, I pored through lots of other people's code [to find a water simulation I could start from], and eventually adapted stuff from a couple of different people, and brought everything together.

Elinor:     I think that was my, I would say my biggest surprise and I was kind of blown away by it was when you took my painting and then you introduced my photographs of the reflection of the sky and the trees on the water and what I loved is that you took all of the things that I do always and you overlaid all of these parts of my practice, and then made that an interactive element and you made it so simple looking. It was so alive and so soothing and exciting for me and really beautiful. 

So many artists will use collage, a method of cutting out poetry and texts and sticking it together like that but to do it in such a way that the words drift and depending on how hard you press the screen you can hear the underlayers of spoken word, me in the boat, autistic stimming words, and then I actually see my thoughts as words so it was really quite powerful for me to see it like that and also yeah to be able to almost create your own poetry from R’s work I thought that was very original. 

Charles:     I mean you're talking about all the things that you would usually do being brought together, and it's really the same case for me. This approach is just a general kind of everyday thing. It's wonderful to actually have a platform or an opportunity or a space to do it, and have it make sense … and to be able to interact with somebody else on it, because often it's restricted to the notebook and the … you know … the sketching out of ideas and “wouldn't that be nice, of course that would work well”, but never having anything to bounce off. So that's one part, the other is just the sense of the collage, and being able to interact with that. 

The idea of rearranging stuff. It's just so much rearrangement, and just trying to get things to fit once we have an idea, just trying to get it to fit. Sometimes with the constraints of "somebody needs to be able to interact with this" … and they need to interact with the touch screen, and perhaps not have so much information flying at them that it becomes overwhelming. And then just dial it back. It’s that whole process that is creative. 

It's like a sound engineer mixing a piece of music so that it will play on the radio, in a way. It has to work for the most people possible, someone might be listening on a cheap speaker in their kitchen and the harsh reality is that all the beautiful detail just won't come through.  You could think of that mix as a technical process, but you are still doing that with the ear and the creative intent, often, unless you're just a technician. Those constraints can provoke creative results you wouldn't have come to in a world of endless possibilities. I just wanted to add that all of that just makes sense in this context.

It's so wonderful to have such a rich dialogue to just try and home in on that and come out the other end with something that we can present and what becomes the work. I would say I'd have no regrets about the kind of … "not working on the original map" that we might have discussed. 

I say "might have discussed", because it was … you know … a big conversation, and this is just how I'm describing it now. But I think it’s just that process of "needing to present something", wanting to obviously, but there is a presentation of this, and having to make compromises and trying to make those compromises creatively knowing that underneath all of this is just this bubbling with potential and possibility that still there is a beautiful thing.

 It's just my take on compromise, and it's alluding to such a huge conversation, which is very much embedded in everything I do and want to keep doing. 

Elinor:    When you said rearrangement it made me think of like the classical music composer who arranges music on the line and how that's how I felt it was like composing with you but in a very 3D physical moving type way. It was so lovely to work with you. Thank you so much Charles for speaking with me about the work today. 

Elinor and Jo in conversation

Elinor:    What were you inspired by to create the canal piece for Biodivergent Sites and Sounds? 

Jo:   I was inspired by the brief to create a transformative work from the dark, dirty rubbish filled canal, to the people cleaning it up and the canal coming back to life. I was particularly excited about creating the darkest murkiest depths of the canal as this lends itself to cello very well and I am very drawn to being creative with low sounds.

Elinor:      The piece you performed and sent in has a rumbly pull to it. Can you describe how you found this sound? 

Jo:       At the time of making the piece, I had been messing around and experimenting a lot with different objects to play the cello with. I was interested by the way that objects extend the palette of sounds and textures available. I got really into pens and pencils, for smoothing, tapping and pulling across the metal spike and strings in conjunction with different FX on my Line 6 Helix Floor Processor. 

The rumbly effect comes from experimenting with rhythmically pulling and pushing the textured grip ridges on the side of a plastic pen, across the lowest string. This was then looped on the Helix and played back at half speed, making the sound lower much than a standard four string cello.

Elinor:       Most of your process is very guttural and intuitive but if you had to break down your process for this piece what would you say happened and why did it happen this way? 

Jo:       I created a three part structure based on the brief, and then worked on the content from there.  Part 1 Atexture loop represents the murkiest darkest depths of the neglected and polluted canal and a solo line in the Aeolian mode is played above this. A pentatonic blues scale is referenced in a repeated pattern before the transition, as if the canal is in lament. 

Transition A light repeated pizzicato pattern and a smooth light texture with shimmering  FX trails is introduced.  This represents the light from the people coming to clean up the canal. The dark rumbly texture loop fades out gradually. The new loops were created by improvising over the darker loop to find lines and FX that could flow seamlessly from the dark to light.

Part 2  The light repeated pizzicato pattern and light texture with shimmering trails continue over which there is a solo line in D Mixolydian mode.

Creating textures, merging, fading and flowing continuously from one texture to another and improvising with modal scales is a repeated way of creating for me. I don’t decide the scales in advance, I improvise and work backwards to work out what mode or scale I am playing in.  During the solo cello lines, the cello and I merge together to become the voice of the canal. This is different to most of my other work and echoes back to the first time we worked together, and you were journeying around the goddess Phrike and during the process as I was improvising, instead of playing the cello to represent Phrike, me and the cello merged to become the Goddess Phrike. 

So to sum up I used your structure from the brief, then approached it in the way I usually create, then from that base, the way we have worked together in the past filtered back in naturally.  

Elinor:       That’s really interesting and I also love that you used my structure as a starting point. I also adore the way you use loops when creating your music and sounds, can you describe the process of your layering in this piece? 

Jo:        It's an experimental process for me, stemming from improvisation. I create  rhythmic or textural loop patterns,record, then search out the next layer, by playing around with texture, FX, rhythm and harmony until I find something that fits over the top of the original loop, the process is then repeated for the next layer. Sometimes it turns out well and other times, it really does not turn out well! It is  easy to keep on layering because the process is enjoyable, but then realising the result is completely over-saturated and sounds better stripped back to one or two layers!


Elinor:     Within autistic and neurodivergent art processes so many neurodivergent and autistic artists use layering in their practice. Can you describe how you layer and why you like to layer and loop? 

Jo:   I like looping and layering because it creates a whole sonic space that I just get completely absorbed in. It is hard sometimes to push through the work I need to do, when I just love to be absorbed and repeating the same sonic, expressive and physical  playing experience over and over again. 

Elinor:    You’re describing how I have always listened to music, I love to get lost into the rhythms and repeat repeat repeat (repetitive) sounds, noise. I totally get lost in your energy when you play cello, it’s so image conjuring. You describe your cello as a dragon cello, where did this come from and why?

Jo:       The Dragon Cello is a Bridge Violins Dragon Series Electric Cello, with a glistening purple surface adorned with multi coloured sparkles. 

The dragon cello came to me after I was damaged and drained from constantly fighting right wing capitalist neo recovery and inaccurate, inappropriate and flawed disability assessment from a private company making huge profits. 

It took a long time and with support from a therapist who was not tied to the system, I began to address the damage and negative messages that I had absorbed into my being from the assessment process and neo recovery. I began to embrace myself as sensitive and intense and creative and I value that. Slowly with the sounds, colour and light from the cello I connected with who I really am, I began to heal and reclaim my power through the cello. My Bridge Violins dragon series cello entwined with my soul and became my Dragon Cello. 

Elinor:     I really relate to what you’re saying re: right wing capitalist neo recovery. I feel especially after my recent illnesses and the excellent and supportive access support I’ve had this year especially on this project that I’ve been able to be really honest with my feelings that I’ve held onto for so many years. I could never understand why I didn’t fight more for the people I loved so much and so deeply and why I couldn’t just tell them how I was truly feeling, that I loved them and wanted to be with them, but I held so much shame about my disability and inability to do jobs the way people expected of me, I struggled with how society treated me, and also the expectations that I could never live up to. I felt I’d only disappoint them in the end, or that they’d see through me, and get irritated by my disability as I struggled so much with it. I feel like I’ve been drowning for so many years, meeting so many barriers, and this project has been the first time where I have felt more able to reach dry land. It’s so powerful what you said, and so important too. I am beginning to value my intensity and sensitivity too. It’s taken me almost eighteen years to do so. I feel it’s also being in the presence of you, and Dee, and R, Charles, being able to create with other neurodivergent musicians and souls with good access support. 

Elinor:    Your cello often sounds like the call of the world, the cry of the seas, the wail of the stars, how do you embody and also make space for Gaia in your work? 



Jo:      I don’t often feel connected with the earth living in London, but I think when I do connect with the natural world away from my cello, I absorb the experience and then it flows through and works itself into the sounds I am creating. It is not a conscious process for me. 

Elinor:    There is a deep calling within this piece, can you describe its message in terms of connecting to the climate crisis? 

Jo:     The cello voices the dystopia of the dirty, neglected rubbish filled canal.There is a direct parallel here between what happened to the canal and the damage being done to the earth,oceans and atmosphere. With the transformation of the canal by the people, the cello voice transforms into a  carrier of light and life, it shows environmental recovery is possible when action is taken. 

Elinor:      Why do you think society squashes disabled and neurodivergent voices?

Jo:      Primarily because society expects us to fit into its narrow capitalist values and prohibitive ways of doing things. It does not have to be like this, it could open out and evolve into a society in which disabled and neurodivergent people could genuinely thrive. We are a threat to the status quo and are branded about as bargaining chips for politicians to win votes. Both main political parties in this country promise the public they will force disabled and neurodivergent people into their rigid work agenda, in order to be popular. 

Elinor:    Thank you Jo, each time I speak with you, I feel stronger. Last question, how has making on this project been different? What have you been allowed to do in your music? 

Jo:     I have been asked to make a soundscape that tells a story, using my own cello sound palette and cello language.That to me is exciting, refreshing and different. 


After my conversation with Jo, I went away and wrote a response to the music she sent in: 

Distant rumbles churn out 

A cello’s string dangles 

A cello’s strings 

A cello’s 

The dragon cello sings 





Down under the skin of the water 

The sliding down the strings 

The sliding down the sky 

The clouds pulsating 

Across the rhythms of strokes 

Of oars 

Of oars 

And clouds 

And clouds 

Reaching into the air 

The sound of the trees rustling and the grinding of boat in canal the engine 

The engine you see the engine 

Can’t move out of the shadows 

Can’t move out of the shadows 

The slidin

g grinding gently grinding into rock into slimy green 

Into slimy green algae 

Into slip 

Slip down into green 

Into the green of the water 

I can feel it shake 

I hear the roar of the world, and the churn of the boat

Under dark bridges. 

It’s like a giant’s large hunger 

How beautiful it is to reach out and find the circling of waves of water 

How tremendous it is to feel free

Along water 

Under the glittering glittering stars. 

Text written by Ellinor Rowlands in response to what Jo contributed musically.