Here in Aldeburgh, the first couple of days of setup have been arduous but fun. Thanks to herculean efforts, we’ve now got speaker trenches dug, circuitous cable runs laid, an operational weather station, an ad hoc surround-sound mixing room with iOS remote controls, a networked outhouse via festooned CAT-5, some lightboxed signage and — imminently — a beautifully-printed artists book to mark and document the installation.
To integrate Variable 4 seamlessly into the landscape, we've opted for the route of embedding the speakers into the ground with individual chambers. This has meant some heavy excavation into some very dry ground. Many thanks to Dave, Louis and Tom for some major earth shifting.
The first complete ground-embedded speaker chamber.
Dave and Louis wade through the mire of speaker cabling.
No network access is available in the Dovecote studio. Thanks to some heroics from Faster Than Sound's Tom, however, we're now the proud operators of an airborne CAT5 network.
Our composition space in the Dovecote.
Wiring up the weather station in heavy gales.
More circuitous cabling, here deploying the weather station's data cable across a reed field.
We’re departing early tomorrow morning to spend a week’s residency at Aldeburgh, to install, develop and fine-tune the piece in situ. To assemble the requisite vanload of materials and equipment without losing the remnants of our sanity, we’ve created the longest kit list known to humankind. Behold.
With its exposed location and amplified speakers, Variable 4 is reliant on having a nearby source of power and shelter. We’re fortunate enough to have both of these things provided for us by RNLI Dungeness, who have been endlessly generous with their time and resources in the development of the project. It’s no exaggeration to say that the installation would not be possible without them in anything like its current form.
The station guards the busy Dover Strait between Folkestone and Rye Bay, in the latest of many incarnations since its inception in 1826. Founded just 2 years after the formation of the RNLI itself, the station’s history is documented in an e-book available on their website: The History of the Dungeness Lifeboats.
Anybody joining us at the weekend will undoubtedly meet several of the crew; they will also be on hand with tea and coffee, providing another vital public service!
Chris Ubee, the Lifeboat Operations Manager (LOM), is the first point of contact for Dungeness RNLI and in charge of its day-to-day operation.
Keith is the webmaster of the recently relaunched Dungeness Lifeboat website, incorporating many of Shirley's excellent photos of the crew in action.
The boathouse also acts as an archive of the station's historical activities, dating back to its inception in 1826.
IMPORTANT! For those intending to come down via public transport, please note that we have just corrected our travel information. Turns out that some previous details were out of date; many thanks to Liz Tucker for alerting us.
The recommended route from London is now the National Rail service to Ashford International (38 mins), followed by the 11 bus (timetable, PDF) to the Pilot Inn, which is a couple of minutes’ walk from the site. Do be aware before travelling that buses are relatively infrequent.
And don’t forget that we are also operating direct coaches from London Victoria, departing at 11am and returning at 6pm.
A constructive Sunday on the coast, meeting the team from RNLI Dungeness – who are supporting Variable 4 with infrastructure and local know-how – and making some speculative field recordings.
Blue skies above the Royal National Lifeboat Institution's station, one of 238 around the UK, and operated entirely by volunteers.
Meeting the crew of RNLI Dungeness.
Amongst many other kind pledges of support, RNLI Dungeness have granted us access to this outbuilding for the duration of the installation - invaluable for keeping our hardware dry!
Our first trials of outdoor playback, with extremely promising results - an extraordinarily clean sound, despite the blustering wind. Here, we are recording a blast of white noise played into the air, which will allow us to gauge the filtering effects of the environment. Unfortunately, this led to the sad demise of this poor 40w speaker's tweeter.
Accompanying us on this trip was Giles, who is generously assisting us with field recordings.
The 11:00 departure on the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway. We were later told the tale of a Luftwaffe pilot who, after sighting a diminutive RHD train from above, returned to France reporting that his altimeter was surely faulty.
Having only visited Dungeness outside of the summer months, it was a pleasure to see a blue sky.
Marking the central point of the installation, approximately 120 metres from the RNLI outhouse.