7–10 March 2017

Ain Bailey is returning to Wysing to host a Study Week that will explore the role of sound in the formation of identity. Following an open call for applications, the following participants have been selected for the Study Week: Beverley Bennett, Tariq Emam, Deborah Findlater, Elizabeth Graham, Christopher Kirubi, Frances Morgan, Harriet Pittard, Adam Saad and Nathalie Wuerth.

Open Call: Study Week led by Ain Bailey

The Study Week will explore the role that sound plays in our identity formation using the term ‘sonic autobiography’, which might best be explained when compared to the format of BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs. Lauren Istvandity’s The Lifetime Soundtrack: Music as an archive for autobiographical memory (2014) provides invaluable insight into the ways in which sound and music are central to our identities, and is an exploration of the “interface” between memory and music, which permeates everyday life. The term “lifetime soundtrack” seeks to describe, “the metaphorical canon of music that accompanies personal life experience”. Songs can often be used as a communication tool when participants feel inarticulate and unable to express feelings. Lyrics can shape identity from a young age, and can help to provide an overview of episodes in one’s life through metaphor.

What are the six sounds that have a particular resonance for you? Perhaps it’s the sound of a creaking door in the house of a beloved family member; the call to prayer from a mosque in your neighbourhood; the song/piece of music that reminds you of your first love/crush/attraction or the soundtrack in a club or house party that feels like home.

The sonic collections of study week participants will be shared in listening sessions.

Each participant will be asked to consider and reflect upon their choices and then create a response in the medium of their choosing.

Istvandity notes that technology is often used to evoke memory. It is more difficult to reproduce the qualities of older listening formats. The reproduction of an older format to a new one can alter the memory of the original listening experience/memory. i.e. lack of clicks/scratches on digitised vinyl.

In offering a context for some sonic autobiographies, and in particular those of queer people of colour, Dr Gemma Romain will lead a session on an historical view of a collective sonic biography. This session will explore sources including archival government records which relate to queer and black clubs of the 1930s. Reading against and along the grain of the archive this session explores how information on lives of queer black and white interwar individuals, including individuals’ experiences of Soho music and nightlife, can be found in archival police surveillance and court records. Participants in the session will explore copies of archival documents, discuss the type of sources which can be found relating to queer black lives and how these sources highlight histories and experiences of aurality.

Study week residents will be invited and encouraged to share DJing responsibilities for a session which will seek to evoke blues parties as sites of intimacy through music. The embodiment of music, via dancing, is another key aspect of a person’s sonic autobiography. How often, where and why one danced to a particular song can create a memory soundtrack.

Each day yoga, meditation and walking will take place as a way to balance the interiority of ourselves and the possibility of deep emotional engagement during this sonic exploration.  

Reference: Istvandity, Lauren. "The lifetime soundtrack: Music as an archive for autobiographical memory." Popular Music History 9.2 (2014). 

The Study Week will take place from 7-10 March 2017 

The deadine for applying to participate in this Study Week has now passed. The successful applicants are: Beverley Bennett, Tariq Emam, Deborah Findlater, Elizabeth Graham, Christopher Kirubi, Frances Morgan, Harriet Pittard, Adam Saad and Nathalie Wuerth.


Ain Bailey is a sound artist, living and working in London, UK. Her current practice involves an exploration of architectural acoustics, live performance,  as well as collaborations with performance, visual and sonic artists. Among these is performance/visual artist Jimmy Robert, who commissioned Bailey to create a composition for his 2016 show 'Desendances du Nu' at the CAC-Synagogue de Delme, Delme, France. Bailey has exhibited and performed both nationally and internationally, and 'Oh Adelaide' her collaboration with the artist Sonia Boyce, has shown in London at Tate Britain and the Whitechapel Gallery, and The Kitchen, New York, to name but a few international art spaces. Most recently, Bailey was commissioned by Art Basel Miami Beach 2016 to compose for the Soundscape Park. Bailey is also a doctoral scholar at Birkbeck, University of London.

Dr Gemma Romain is a historian who specialises in Caribbean and Black British history, with a particular interest in Queer Black histories, Black histories and visual culture, Jewish histories in modern Britain, and modern Grenadian history. She is an Honorary Fellow of The Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish/non-Jewish Relations, University of Southampton and has recently worked at The Equiano Centre, Department of Geography, UCL on various projects relating to Black British history. Her book Race, Sexuality and Identity in Britain and Jamaica: The biography of Patrick Nelson, 1916-1963 will be published by Bloomsbury Academic in 2017.