As part of Get Some Chalk On Your Boots! SARU commissioned artist Duncan Whitley to complete and make available his sound archive of binaural sound recordings from the erstwhile home of Coventry City, highfield Road. Visitors to the website can search and listen online to the archive’s 141 sound recordings from Coventry City’s final season at their Highfield Road ground in 2005. The recordings capture the sounds of the crowd in the West Terrace during the games leading up to the final, emotional match at the Sky Blues’ erstwhile home, a 6-2 victory over Derby County on the 30th April 2005. The project aims to make a connection between football cultures and the burgeoning interest in sound in the contemporary arts. This is Highfield Road officially launches to the public at 3pm on Saturday 21st July.
The recordings were captured in Highfield Road’s West Terrace, using a technique known as “binaural sound” – similar to the technique used in VR and gaming to produce an effect of hyper-realistic, 360 “surround” sound when listened using headphones. Whitley has used binaural technology to transport us virtually to Block WT6 of the old West Terrace. The experience of listening to the recordings in headphones is immersive: we hear the chanting, the “banter” with the away support, the referee’s whistle on the pitch and even the conversations of the fans in the seats behind us with an uncanny sense of spatial realism.
The 141 recordings can be listened to by browsing interactive match timelines or via the advanced search page where visitors can explore the archive by searching for chants sung by the home or away fans, or even search the audio for the fans’ reactions to events on the pitch, such as goals or penalties. For the uninitiated there is extensive information about chants sung by both the home and away supporters, which visitors to the site can then search for via the advanced search mechanism. The archive playfully explores the language of football crowd sound, forming part of Whitley’s ongoing artistic research into connections between sound, place and identity.
I approached this project as an artist, a sound recordist and a football fan. I’ve been to so many exhibitions and so many concerts, and yet I’ve rarely been moved emotionally in the way I have been in a football stadium. The culture of collective sound-making in football stadia has complexity and tradition, and of course the scale is really impressive when you have tens of thousands of fans singing in unison. Politically the word “culture” has been hijacked to promote a very middle-class vision of the arts – theatre, visual art, classical music, contemporary dance etc. But culture means what we do and what we participate in, not just what we consume. Duncan Whitley
Football is a sonic spectacle; a sport that thrives on the physical, visceral, energy of sound. The actions of the players both provoke and respond to the sound from the stands as it spreads out onto the pitch in collective waves of emotion. These recordings allow the listener to think not only about the spectators but also about the players – about their responses to the crowd. What did they hear? Did it change the outcome of the match or at least some of their actions? Zinedine Zidane talks about how aware he often was of the tiny sounds that the crowd were making – even the sound of them shifting in their seats. The recordings in This is High eld Road capture that detail and give a unique insight into the soundscape in which players, coaches, referees and spectators are participants.
If you would like more information about the project please contact either Paul Whitty (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Duncan Whitley (email@example.com).