• SITE SINGING creating voice-based sound-works for English Heritage sites Ongoing project since summer 2014

I have been visiting several lesser-known heritage sites within a bus ride of Bristol, and have worked directly with the acoustics of each space to create some initial vocal ‘sound-sketches’ of each site. I aim to eventually make downloadable sound-works dedicated to a selection of the sites, and I hope to also make live vocal ensemble and solo performances, a music release and radio work.

See the
Site Singing project blog & Site Singing on Bandcamp . Search #SiteSinging on Twitter.

Read a summary of the work created so far, and the future direction of the work, here.

Read an exclusive interview with Sound Art Text introducing the project

e-flyer Site Singing at Centrespace Gallery July 3rd-8th 2015
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Hear a selection of the sound-sketches made from field trips so far:

COLLABORATION WITH BURL (Joanna Pucci): ‘Compound’, a live noise / drone / ritual work, 2016
We toured COMPOUND, a 30 min sound/noise/drone/ritual piece, which we recorded and released:

We were noted in a review in Crack magazine:
“Shrouded in veils and clad in black, Pucci lets her vapourous productions, sometimes presented with help from the talents of vocal sound artist Ellen Southern, diffuse under the sound of live bells, rung as if by an unseen force [...] a meditative seance for increasingly dark times.”

Read the full review: Four New Acts You Need To Know - feature in Crack Magazine (August 2016)

COMPOUND live performance (short): BURL with Ellen Southern (voice) from Ellen Southern on Vimeo.

Longer version(22 mins):


I was asked to create a special 'surprise' vocal intervention on a sound walk around Cumberland Basin, so I worked under the Brunel Way flyover in advance, working directly with the acoustics vocally and collecting sonic 'textures' (from the trees, from the stones on the ground, from the concrete columns), and created a site specific spatial performance for the walkers to 'encounter.'

After the walk, Avon Stories posted via Twitter:
"I really loved @ellen_southern's voice performance under the road during the @wendy_tippett/@dangusset sound & history walk - thank you!"

About the event: The History and Sounds of Sylvia Crowe’s Cumberland Basin.
To celebrate World Listening Day 2017, the
Institute Of Acoustics (IOA) South West Branch have organised a soundwalk around the Cumberland Basin in Bristol. The walk will be led by Wendy Tippet (Andrew Kenyon Architects) and Dan Pope (Atkins/IOA SW Branch Chair).

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THE STAGE: WORKING TITLE Voice-work in progress and performance, The Arnolfini, Bristol, 2-5pm Tuesday 14th & 6-8pm Friday 17th March 2017
The Stage: Working Title is an ambitious live project which took place in a specially installed construction created by UWE Bristol Architecture MA students.

I brought my vocal field-recording based project,
Site Singing , to The Stage for its live debut with two fellow singers, Leila Gamaz and Chloé Turpin. This ‘open rehearsal’ was the testing ground of a new work in progress, where we will took vocal and acoustic elements and approaches I have developed through my solo field trips to lesser-known heritage sites in the South West, and worked directly with the space to create the beginnings of a new experimental live work.

Visitors were invited to share the space and listen in, and to discuss the work while being able to view and physically handle maps, photographs and drawings created over the course of the project so far. We presented a first rush, or scratch-style performance, of the resulting material for our second Friday session.

In this process, we explored many approaches spanning: spatial sound, atmospheric immersive voices, sonic layering, unexpected harmonies, microtones and harmonics, combinations of live and recorded voices, amplified treatments and effects, distance and proximity, interesting vocal dissonances and textures, rawness, improvisation and exploration.

Site Singing at The Stage (Working Title), The Arnolfini, Bristol, Day 1: Experimentation from Ellen Southern on Vimeo.

Site Singing at The Stage (Working Title), The Arnolfini, Bristol from Ellen Southern on Vimeo.

Follow the progress of the work at #SiteSinging @ellen_southern

The Stage: Working Title, on the Arnolfini website

Site Singing at Over Bridge w Chloe Turpin first visit
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  • OPENING OF POLYPHONY EXHIBITION: live vocal performance September 2016
This video presents a live performance for four voices and pitched glass at the opening of POLYPHONY: Experiments and Adventures in Voice 2011-16, solo exhibition at Centrespace Gallery, Bristol, 2nd-6th September 2016.

After a successful debut solo exhibition in July 2015, this autumn I returned to Centrespace Gallery to show a selection of interdisciplinary works. The opening event featured this durational site-specific vocal performance which interacted directly with the acoustics and sonic spaces of the gallery and its surrounds, as well as some roof-raising polyphonic singing with friends from Bristol Sacred Harp.

Singers: Leila Gamaz, Chloe Somers, Ellen Southern, Rachel Wemyss

Selected visitors comments:
“A beautiful, haunting show. Love the combination of sound and visual material.”

“Intriguing and a different way of using audio and voice. I love the fact that its playful, haunting, and ritualistic. Thank you.”

“Really haunting and moving – loved the ‘Site Singing’ photos of Over Bridge, and the ‘Fugue’ installation.”

“An absolutely brilliant collection of interactions. Very touching, I didn’t want to leave (I came back!). The human voice in all its rich experience. If there is anywhere else to go, Ellen will take us there.”

“This is one of the most brain-tingling events I have ever witnessed. There should be more of this sort of stuff in Bristol – and elsewhere.”

“Thank you for realising things that I have been feeling around in my head for years and never had the courage to put into concrete. Brilliant!”

Exhibition overview: Centrespace Website

For updates: follow @ellen_southern & see #polyphonyexhib

POLYPHONY: Press Release

Bristol Sacred Harp on Bandcamp

Artist text: “Welcome to POLYPHONY”

Opening of POLYPHONY exhibition by Ellen Southern: live vocal performance from Ellen Southern on Vimeo.

  • WE’LL MEET AGAIN: Cities and Memory commission February 2016
This work began when Cities and Memory made an open call to create sonic re-imagining’s from a selection of their field recordings. I chose a recording made at Cardiff Castle as the basis for a voice-based sound work, as it has an interesting vocal element (echoes of a recording of Vera Lynn singing the evocative war-time song ‘We’ll Meet Again”), and as Cardiff Castle is somewhere I remember from a visit as a child growing up in Wales. This combination of voice, nostalgia, distance / removal, intrigue and acoustic atmosphere drew me to the recording.

Hear the original field recording by Cities and Memory, ‘Cardiff Castle World War Two Exhibition’:

In considering where to site my response, I quickly thought of what to me is an acoustically similar space in Bristol, where I live: the Trenchard Street multi-storey car park. It is an imposing, resonant, stark, grey, brutalist building in the city centre, which is quite surreal to wander around at night, even feeling slightly edgy to be alone in. This building seemed apt also because such buildings were often built on bomb-sites, and this particular one stands where, on the 2nd November 1940, bombs destroyed The Prince Theatre, leaving no visible trace that it ever existed on this site. This ghostly link between a lost place of popular performance and an emotive song so connected to the second world war, seemed a potent combination.

So, I went to the car park on a cold night with my field recorder and the song lyrics, and used the physical distances of the place itself to create spatial vocal effects using the acoustics of the site. I didn’t sing the consonants in the lyrics, so as to increase the ‘muffled’ and distant feel of the voice, like an old recording, or a half heard and half remembered song. I used the bleak, windswept car park platforms, and the stained, resonant stairwells to experiment with the sounds of my movement and my voice. I also captured the voices of passing party-goers, and a persistent low flying helicopter, which added quite fitting droning plane sound to the resulting work. I edited together the resulting recordings, maintaining the natural variations in distance and volume, and crafted them to transform from a lone solo voice into a dislocated chorus and crescendo.

Hear my sound-work in response: ‘We’ll Meet Again’:

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WORLD LISTENING DAY 2015: Sound Waves project Saturday 18th July 2015
I was very proud to have been selected for the
Cities and Memory Sound Waves project, which brought together field recordings and sonic re-imaginings from artists across the globe on the theme of water. The resulting Sound Map was launched online on Monday 13th July, and over the week selected contributions were crafted into a special 30 min recomposition to be launched by Stuart Fowkes on WLD itself.

Hear and read about my own contribution, a dripping tap field recording and vocal re-imagining, located in Bristol UK.

Visit the Sound Waves project page to hear the 30 min re-composition, and all the fascinating contributions from sound artists across the world.

Read more:
World Listening Day 2015: H20


  • SOUNDING SPIKE ISLAND: a voice-based sound work Bank Holiday Weekend, May 1st - 4th 2015

For Spike Island Open 2015, I performed a roving intervention, using my voice and a hand-held recording device to work directly with the acoustics and activity of the building. By overlaying and editing together the resulting recordings, I created a sonic portrait of the building at the time of the open event.

See #SoundingSpikeIsland

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Audio: work in progress

Final sonic portrait (12 mins)

NB: headphones or stereo speakers recommended are for listening to this track, as parts of it are panned left and right.

This sound work takes the listener through the following places and activities:

1, Drinking a morning coffee from Spike café on the benches outside the building.
2, Entering the building, and hearing a name being called out in the busy foyer, which form a three note melodic motif.
3, Travelling up the main stairs with the vowels and pitches from the name called out in the foyer, and singing them to test out the acoustics of the first floor corridor, which runs along the front of the building. Singing into the circle-spaces in the ceiling is especially resonant. (Two tracks overlaid to create shifting vocal harmony).
4, In the same corridor, trying to make out and sing back some half-heard music from somewhere above.
5, In the Test Space gallery, singing back the sound of photo camera clicks.
6, Singing the intonation of visitors speech in the pop-up café outside the Associates Space.
7, Vocal texture sung between the coffee machine in the above café, and Stephen Cornford's 'Migration' in the stairwell nearby, merging the two.
8, Picking out some notes from a classical melody on the radio in the pop up cafe space, and carrying them into a resonant stairwell, where Stephen Cornford's 'Migration', a multitude of transformed factory second Dictaphones, is installed.
9, Singing at the top of the stairwell coming down, with overlaid interventions from later recordings made at the bottom, where I sang up to some children mounting the stairs, who sang back to me.
10, Ping-pong being played near the UWE exhibition, ground floor, back of the building.
11, Picking up a drone-like sound from a video of a slide machine, and carrying it through the Future Ritual UWE studios to encounter a synthetic voice.
12, The same drone carried across the building, and transformed by the journey into a glissando / portamento in a bare brick fire exit on the ground floor near 'Migration'. A visitor out of sight on the stairs above seems to respond with a sound.
13, Overlaid from later in the same fire exit - singing the intonation of visitors speech reverberating down the stairwell from the floor above.
14, Vocal warm-ups to test the acoustics in a loading bay, with smiles and voices from a passing toddler. Recording device placed in the middle of the floor as I walk round and round singing scales and octave leaps.
15, Singing the intonation of visitors speech, quite jazz-like, near the print rooms, first floor.
16, Vocal textures in response to the sea's surface and depths, in the stairwell where Matt Davies and Milo Newman's 'By The Mark, The Deep' is installed at different heights, including picking out the high pitched variable feedback-like microphone hum.
17, Visitors walking down the steps into the Bristol Diving School’s installation ‘100 Year Project’.
18, The folkloric-theme in the ‘100 Year Project’ installation inspires an improvised folk-like melody. I sing it, making it up as I go, from the first floor studios all the way through Test Space, past the Associates Space, along the corridor, down the main stairs, through the foyer, and out to the street.

  • INTERVALS - a participatory performance Sunday 26th April 2015
Thanks to the audience at The Cube Microplex, Bristol, who took part in my vocal performance around microtones - the sounds in-between conventional western musical notes. Intervals was created with the audience as part of a night of music also featuring The Nervy Betters and Will Newsome, supporting Diane Cluck on her current tour for ‘Boneset’.

Hear Intervals audio excerpt here:

Hear work in progress:

Link to the event on The Cube website

cube seats - foto by ellen southern

  • SULIS - commission for Waterweek March 2015

I was commissioned for a second year to make a piece for Waterweek, being held at Herstmonceux Castle in Sussex. This is an event created by artists Clare Whistler and Charlotte Still, which brings together artists, performers, academics, authors, environmentalists, poets and activists for a week long programme on the theme of water. For more information see the event’s facebook and twitter feeds below.

Sulis is a vocal sound work created specially for Waterweek. I had recently swum in the thermal waters in Bath Spa for the first time. In the pre-Roman era, people travelled from far to consult Sulis, the goddess of the sacred waters among the mist and trees. I said her name into the water whilst submerged, and noticed I could make some evocative sounds. I later collected water from the holy source, and used it to make this vocal sound piece, which I installed at Herstmonceaux overlooking the moat. After introducing the work to the Waterweek participants, I handed round some of the Spa water I had collected for them to drink.

Waterweek Facebook page & Waterweek on Twitter

SULIS webmovie Waterweek2 Ellen Southern from Ellen Southern on Vimeo.

  • ENGAGED VOICE November 2014
Hear audio clips and see a new documentation video of a week-long site specific voice work created and exhibited at the Edwardian Cloakroom, Bristol, as part of Bristol City Council’s Creative Spaces Programme.

Selected visitors comments:

“Thank you, a whole immersive experience – really enjoyed the sound work, very specific use of space”

“Great show – thanks for opening up my mind and ears to sound” Jami

“Very enchanting and interesting concept – made hairs stand on end!” Liz, Bristol

“Interesting sound textures breathing life back into a classic building. Well done!” Matt, Bristol

“Beautiful show – atmospheric and enigmatic” S.O

NB: this 12min video contains periods of with no audio, including the first 20 secs

Engaged Voice - documentation video from Ellen Southern on Vimeo.


Read an article I wrote about my site-specific vocal residency Engaged Voice, at the Edwardian Cloakroom, November 2014. Click to download the article.

screengrab CSP guest blog

council website