Recommended Event along with Making Sound Objects Conference

Pitt Rivers Museum :: November 23 Christmas Light Night

A unique listening experience, bringing voice to the Pitt Rivers Museum’s unique sound archive. Field recordings, sound art and global soundtracks across two amazing buildings, curated in collaboration with the PRM’s composer in residence, Nathaniel Mann and DJs Rupert Gill and Noel Lobley.

Free admission, donations welcomed. Entry is on a first come first served basis.

Oxford University Museum of Natural History & Pitt Rivers Museum, Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PW.


For this year’s Christmas Winter Light Night at the Pitt Rivers Museum, Embedded Composer in Resident Nathaniel Mann has been asked to consider how to present the work of the Pitt Rivers Museum’s ‘Reel to Real’ sound archive digitalisation project. Nathaniel has been working closely with ethnomusicologist Noel Lobley and together they have designed various ways for the different sound collections to be heard and experienced within the gallery spaces and beyond. Broadcasting ethnographic sound into darkened torch-lit spaces, this event will be the first major public presentation of the archived audio collections.

Louis Sarno Collection

BayAka sounds from the rainforests of the Central African Republic will be broadcast into the darkened galleries. Visitors will hear snatches of laughter, animal and insect sounds, instruments, stories, music and song. Visitors will be provided with a torch to explore in the dark, picking their own pathway through the court and galleries, gaining a strong physical sense of how polyphonic music develops, moves and functions.

The PRM court during a torch lit trail as BayAka women sing yeyi

Father Damian Webb’s Recordings of Children’s Songs

Selections of playground stories, games and songs from Damien Webb’s collection recorded throughout Europe and East Africa will be presented in a tent on the lawn outside the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, where the Simone Dogherty from the museums’ education department will welcome and engage visitors by teaching and sharing songs and activities from the archive.

Girls playing games in a street, Egremont England

The Raymond Clausen Collection from Vanuatu, and other collections, as presented by Sound Artist Robin Alderton.

An intervention into the Pitt Rivers Museum sound archive by sound artist and performer Robin Alderton will bring the material, historical and physical aspects of the sound recordings and song collecting to the audible foreground.

Nestled amongst the cabinets of the Clore balcony on the lower gallery, to be discovered as if just another artifact in the collection, Robin will surround himself with antiquated audio technology: spinning dansettes, flailing reel to reel recorders, clicking dictaphones, overdubbed cassettes and flashing samplers. Alderton will plunder the Pitt Rivers Museum’s sound archive to craft a palette of sound from which he will create a shifting textural composition. His source sounds, however, will not be restricted to the music captured in the archives, but will draw from the incidentally recorded mechanical sounds and recording errors, microphone tests, and the voices of the song collectors themselves. His performance will resonate with ideas of sound recording technology, nostalgia, memory and place – the processes of deterioration, of forgetting, and the social and political actions and intentions behind song collecting.

Slit drums, Vanuatu

Robin Alderton Biography.

Robin Alderton is a sound artist, musician, and fine artist who draws inspiration from the biographies of explorers and from the transformative and reflective works of Simon Starling, Tacita Dean, Stefan Gec and Philip Jeck.

Robin has presented work throughout Europe, and has recently collaborated with the Britten Sinfonia for a commissioned work at Colchester Public Library.

He is best known as one third of the UK’s finest avant folk ensemble Dead Rat Orchestra, whose work includes soundtracks for BBC Scotland and Tate Modern, and extensive international touring with Godspeed You Black Emperor, Eric Chenaux and Baby Dee, amongst others.

Molepaws (Robin Alderton) performing at the Lightship, Hythe Quay, June 11th 2010


Nathaniel has liaised closely with the Pitt Rivers Museum’s Technician and visual artist Jon Eccles and together they have designed ways to present images from the archives that link closely to the audio recordings. A small selection of images from the Louis Sarno image archive will be present through out the museum. The roof of the museum will be transformed into a forest canopy.  Still images will resonate and respond to the sounds of the archive, and flashes of video footage from the BayAka forest camps and villages will appear in surprise corners of the museum.

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