Bail Out

by Christopher Collier

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Bail Out is a situational sound intervention for St Andrew's Square, which is surrounded by the headquarters of several banks, financial institutions and insurance companies, making it the major financial centre of Scotland and backing up its claim to be the richest area of its size in the whole country. The headquarters of the Royal Bank of Scotland in Dundas House stands directly opposite the square, which is dominated by the imposing statue of Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville, a wealthy aristocrat and prominent figure in obstructing the abolition of the slave trade.

The monument was erected through contributions from naval officers, seamen and marines attesting to Dundas's position as Minister for War against the nascent revolutionary French Republic, and later as First Lord of the Admiralty. Following accusations of financial mismanagement at the Admiralty, where Dundas had earlier been treasurer, he was impeached for the offences of misappropriation of public money.

Bail Out attempts to evoke these deep, synchronicitous echoes that haunt the square - the poetic connections that link Dundas's era to this one. In an age in which banks require 'bailing out' to avoid being sunk, where public funds are appropriated, wars are waged and attempted impeachments brought, the associations that haunt the space can be drawn out through ambient sound collage. Admiral Dundas the seafarer and misappropriater of public funds, and the bank now occupying the house which bears the same name, are fitting companions within such a site, and form the visual backdrop for a soundtrack that, conversely, takes centre stage.

The sound piece is an attempt to give form to such connections, a lament an an indictment for sinking ships. It is a dense sound collage, part musical, part ambient-abstract sound that mixes audio from reports of the recent financial crisis, the distress call from a sinking ship, a morse code mayday signal, hydrophone recordings of various underwater phenomena and creatures along with a central piano refrain that was composed by computer, by means of feeding the exact dimensions of a seashell into a series of algorithms to produce the pattern of a melody.

Christopher Collier

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released August 1, 2011

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