Breathing Space
Facing the music: Breathing Space

One of the more unusual ensembles doing the rounds in East London is Breathing Space, a five-piece choral group whose site specific performances combine field recordings and soundscapes with contemporary classical elements.

Describing themselves as a “sound art performance collective”, Breathing Space formed two years ago when four East London-based friends came together to perform at Cody Dock in Canning Town for an art project.

The performance saw the singers floating on the dock inside a geodesic dome, and since then they have tried to keep their performances site-specific.

“We respond to each project as it comes along rather than spending lots of time writing lots of different material,” says composer and singer Hannah White.

A recent performance at Servants Jazz Quarters in Dalston saw four members of the group perform a piece called ‘Worm’, based on clips of speeches by well-known philosophers.

Sound artist Stephen Shiell, who makes the soundscapes and field recordings that underpin the group’s sound, used the clips to create a soundscape, which served as the basis for the composition.

“A lot of it we develop through improvisation, so with that piece, by the time we did it we had a structure but were still improvising on the night.

“We developed the vocals and lyrics using certain quotes from philosophers. The main one was from George Bataille when he talks about pleasure only starting when the worm is inside the fruit, and then there was Marcel Duchamp’s ‘I force myself to contradict myself in avoid conforming to my own taste’.

“We chose those because they resonated with us and the feelings that we had so I guess that is part of the process.”

This month, on 23 May, Breathing Space will be returning to Cody Dock, a formerly derelict dock turned bustling ‘creative quarter’ for the lower Lea, to perform a new piece as part of the opening of the Line Sculpture Trail.

Called ‘Cody Word Walks’, the piece is an hour-long improvisation using field recordings from around the dock, and poems by Breathing Space’s Melaina Barnes.

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