Podcast 009 : 4 mins 22 secs
Friday 24th July 2009
In December 1973 I began to hear ‘the voices’. I would get up in the middle of night and wander into the living room where my parents were watching television. They described me as having a ghostly look and my only words to them were, “It’s the voices, stop the voices”. This continued to happen over the next few months. Unannounced the voices would start to slowly build up in my head until they had completely taken over my own thoughts. Their words were intense and there were lots of them, but I could never quite unravel their meaning. It was as if I had somehow tuned into some strange radio frequency that I could not switch off. I visited a doctor but we never found out what had caused me to hear them, and eventually they stopped. Over the years I have experienced them on odd occasions, but never like they had been in 1973. Unconsciously I have been drawn to situations that mirror my experiences with the voices. During 1991 and ‘92 I spent some time secretly recording stranger’s conversations around London. I would go to bars and cafes, travel on buses and trains, listening out for people who were deep in conversation. The mics were clipped to my bag and wired up my sleeve to the recorder in my pocket. I would never look at the people I was recording. I wanted them to remain faceless and be left with only their voices in my ears. In the beginning I had no idea why I was doing this, apart from sheer pleasure. The most enjoyable part was when I returned home on an evening to listen to my recordings. I would spend hours trying to decipher the words and transcribe them into notebooks. Listening to the cassette tapes again, it is quite uncanny how much they resemble the voices. They are so layered with the interwoven noise of people talking that it is almost impossible to find a thread, but unlike the voices I was eventually able to unravel the pattern of the words and draw meaning from the dialogue.
The Voices is a recording I made almost 20 years ago, which I believe is the closest in texture to the original voices I experienced in ‘73. It was made late one night in the Slade School of Art. Everyone had left for the day and I was left with the silence of a building. At a certain point I began to hear something; a slight crackling or rapping. When I located the sound it was coming from a broken radiator in another room. I put my ear to the radiator and listened for a really long time. After a while I started to hear the voices seeping through the hiss and crackle of the broken radiator. It was as if all the babble of the world had collected in this radiator. Listening again, sometimes I hear them and sometimes I do not.