‘The thynge yttself…’ — Missorts launches on 20 November

Missorts is my new work, commissioned and produced by Situations, and it will be launched at St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, on 20 November 2012, at 6.30 pm. Admission is free, but booking essential. RSVP to info@situations.org.uk

Here is the blurb:

A walk to work in Bristol might never seem the same again thanks to an innovative short story collection that moves beyond the conventional audiobook into the fabric of the city via your smartphone, combining contemporary fiction, music and pioneering creative technology.

Inspired by Bristol’s radical literary heritage, from Thomas Chatterton to Angela Carter, the soundwork features stories by ten distinctive new writers voiced by rising stars in the theatre world. Memorable characters weave through the stories; the contemporary urban setting is newly populated by scenes of lost love and by confessions whispered in your ear.

Missorts will be available as a free app for iPhone and Android smartphones. Stories and music are triggered by GPS and delivered directly to your headphones…

Conceived and directed by writer and novelist Tony White and commissioned by award-­winning Bristol-based arts producers, Situations, the stories are accompanied by a striking new musical composition specially commissioned from composer Jamie Telford (former keyboard player to The Jam) for St Mary Redcliffe’s Harrison and Harrison organ in its centenary year.

Commissioned as part of the Bristol Legible City initiative, Missorts can be downloaded and accessed from 20th November 2012 from http://www.missorts.com

There is more to the project (enough I hope for the reader to get lost in for a while, including a new novella, Missorts Volume II, that is being published simultaneously), but the app itself includes ten new and interconnected short stories by Sara Bowler, Holly Corfield-Carr, Thomas Darby, Jack Ewing, Katrina Plumb, Jess Rotas, Hannah Still, Helen Thornhill, Isabel de Vasconcellos and Sacha Waldron. The stories were produced during a series of free writing workshops held at Bristol Record Office. There is so much to say about the writing process and the stories themselves — involving found manuscripts, cut-ups, a nod to the writer Ann Quinn — but I’ll talk about that in another post. There were follow-up sessions and test recordings, stories were edited and abridged and — with Jamie Telford’s music — went through many generations and iterations of testing, re-editing and testing again, in situ, before we cast and did the final vocal recordings with actors Bryony Hannah and Benjamin O’Mahoney.

Missorts is about the stories and the story being told — stories that will displace commentaries of this kind — so in many ways it is a traditional literary experience, albeit one that is inspired by some radical literary practice and by the area of Bristol in which it is experienced. Missorts is also being described as an immersive soundwork, but if that kind of language is unfamiliar to you don’t let it put you off. Other examples of this kind of storytelling, but using different technologies, include artist Janet Cardiff’s groundbreaking The Missing Voice (Case Study B) from 2001 (which was originally accessed via a portable CD player and headphones that users obtained from the then Whitechapel Library in Aldgate), and Tales from the Bridge (2012) by Martyn Ware and David Bickerstaff, an atmospheric 3D sound work installed on the Millennium Bridge over the Thames at Tate Modern earlier this year. Tales from the Bridge comprised ‘an hour-long looping immersive ambient electronic musical composition’ by Ware, with a series of texts by the poet Mario Petrucci. Two great pieces of work, as anyone who experienced them will confirm. Martyn Ware even suggests in an interview with the Independent that,

Urban soundscaping is now becoming increasingly more important. It’s like the music got stuck in a rut and this is pushing us forward […] Soundscapes in urban environments are becoming increasingly considered in new projects.

While Cardiff’s The Missing Voice required users to take the content to the area in which it was set, and Ware and Bickerstaff’s Tales from the Bridge was delivered via a 3D sound system that was physically installed on location, Missorts is an app that once loaded onto your phone uses GPS technology to trigger stories and music in more or less precisely defined locations across a specific area, with navigation and other supporting information available from a very simple, map-based interface. A crucial difference is that while Janet Cardiff and Martyn Ware present essentially linear narrative experiences — the duration of a CD, or transit across a bridge — Missorts goes further in allowing the listener or user (or perhaps the reader? the player?) to access stories and music in any order, to create their own version of the work and the story or stories at its heart as they walk around the streets of Redcliffe. I hope that the simplicity and directness of delivery will allow users to concentrate not just on the stories and the music, but also on where they are, their surroundings, and to create new ideas and connections between fiction and reality.

This year two very high profile local history apps have been published that use similar technology to Missorts. First was the Guardian newspaper’s Streetstories, then the National Trust’s Soho Stories, but as far as I’m aware this is the first time that the technology in its current advanced state has been used for a completely new fiction project.

It has been fantastic working with the writers, with composer Jamie Telford, with Situations and with Calvium our developer at Bristol’s amazing Pervasive Media Studio, and I can’t wait to launch Missorts to see what people think. I could talk about it for hours, and indeed have had to do so for much of the past year, but I am also mindful that, in the words of Thomas Chatterton, the 260th anniversary of whose birth is the reason for our launch taking place on 20 November: “The thynge yttself moste bee yttes owne defense.”


Missorts launch:

Featuring live readings, and an exclusive performance of the remixed soundwork by Beaty Heart.

St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol

Tuesday 20 November 2012

6.30pm — 8pm

RSVP to info@situations.org.uk

Preview groups:

Situations are inviting a small number of Bristol residents, specifically those who work in the Portwall or St. Mary Redcliffe area of the city, to join us in previewing Missorts between 1 – 6pm. Meeting point: St. Mary Redcliffe church.


More on Missorts shortly, including free MP3s of Jamie Telford’s amazing Portwall Preludes