Four Rivers

Four Rivers (2019-20)

Tom edited a version of Four Rivers (Glasgow Edit) for submission to Radiophrenia 2020 which has been selected for broadcast during the 9th-22nd November. The Schedule will be available the first week of November. Further info here


One of the themes to have emerged out of Flow (2017) is the nature of water as an elemental force, and its effect on the landscape.

In April 2019, Tom experienced Annea Lockwood’s audio installation A Sound Map of the Housatonic River” (2010) at the Cafe Oto workspace in London, which informed the development of a new audiovisual work.

Each member of BellArtLabs lives near a river, a body or complex of water. Since 2019, three members have been recording sounds at their respective locations: Seaton Burn (Northumberland); Denver Sluice Complex on the River Great Ouse (Norfolk); the Thames Estuary from Two Tree Island near Leigh-on-Sea (Essex). With each member exploring the sonic phenomena of their local environment, the work becomes a ritual to lay on the line and be with the river, recognising its patterns, be they locked in the geological or fluid water spaces. While the rivers are approximately fixed, the sonic palette is flexible and flowing in rhythms, frequencies and intensities. These three aspects have the potential to generate visual images as animated lines, which reflect the landscape and changing river flow.

Whilst the fourth member of BellArtLabs lives near the River Cam (Cambridgeshire), the fourth river itself represents a virtual auditory river. Four Rivers encompasses notions of Deep Listening—whereby the act of recording becomes a ritual and meditative act of listening. When the recordings are processed, mixed down and played back, an auditory confluence occurs as the river becomes a vehicle of ‘flow’, containing the past and present.

The work is intended to be presented as a site-specific, multi speaker audio installation incorporating a visual representation of the rivers as digital video projections. The primary engagement would be listening. Interactive engagement would also occur via the use of motion sensors to affect the audio and visual processing of the work, and reflecting movement through the landscape.

Audiences would also be invited to record and contribute sounds of their own local river or water space into the work.

Tony Scott. Seaton Burn, Northumberland.

Seven miles long to Seaton Sluice. Noted waymarks from the rise for two miles. The water passes the disused Whitley Bay rail line followed by Holywell Dene, a natural ancient woodland butting up against the urban, before flowing gently through a water meadow, passing a 12th century glass factory, before arriving at the 1764 sluice gate, where the river convenes with the tidal, influential North Sea. There, salt pans once collected up to two tonnes a day, ceasing in 1820.

View of the Burn

Now the river is quiet; flowing through a landscape which retains historical connections to the human activities, and the surviving natural landscapes along the way. It is this aspect which the audio narratives are exploring through 17th century dialects.

Chris Mizsak. Denver Sluice complex, Norfolk.

In the 17th century, a major effort to drain the East Anglian Fens was coordinated by the Dutc engineer Cornelius Vermuyden. Amid a backdrop of local rioting and sabotage, the introduction of steam pumps in the 1820s proved a decisive success in land drainage. Laying within feet of the tidal points, protected with dykes and drains, the Denver Sluice Complex manages the Eastern water levels. Today, the Fens are an agricultural powerhouse. This work explores a landscape in sonic flux, shaped by intervention, migration and restoration.

Four Rivers: Denver Sluice Complex
Tom Scott. Thames Estuary from Two Tree Island towards Southend pier, Essex.

A three mile stretch of the Thames Estuary on the North bank containing protected marsh lands and mud flats. A dynamic riverscape dominated by the tidal reach, yearly migrations. Rhythms of the tides juxtapose against the man-made soundscape of fishing boats; the thump of container ships, the rumble of C2C trains, and jets flying overhead all contribute to an acoustic understanding of this area.

Thames & Humber Estuary’s