Hologram in the EIM app, © Everything Is Music, courtesy of Everything Is Music
Everything Is Music: the digital museum telling the musical history of Bristol and Bath
In the summer months of 2021, Everything Is Music invited artists, prominent characters, labels, clubs, venues, record stores and festivals that form the fabric of Bristol and Bath’s musical landscape – past and present – to bring to life their stories. Visualising the sights and sounds of these two cities via photographs, video, audio, music and experiences, the project has attracted over 10.000 visitors so far, a source of inspiration to many: empowering archives with mobile technology; supporting and promoting local artist’s work; and adding an extra layer of music history for those visiting the cities to experience with their phone, in a new and engaging way.
From cutting-edge technology and fan knowledge to the importance of cultural geography, we discussed the project with lead manager, Ben Price.
How did the EIM project come into being?
One of my colleagues came up with the idea in December 2019 and I have been managing it since inception. Most of the work was done during the pandemic, developed by us [Crack Magazine] and the tech company Landmrk, which works with location-based technology.
It’s like a musical treasure hunt, getting people to move around the city and unlock content in specific locations. There was a funding opportunity coming up at a funding body called Bristol+Bath Creative R&D and they had a specific theme called “digital placemaking,” so we pitched the idea of creating a platform where you could tell Bristol and Bath’s musical history in a different way than has been told so far.
Bristol’s music scene has been told many times through galleries, films, books and videos. We wanted it to be told in a more permanent way to the city, so that people who are here or visiting can access it anytime, making sure it can be updated, because Bristol and Bath’s music heritage is also very much in the here and now; always evolving. We wanted people to be able to see how that musical history is affecting the musicians that are coming through now and to hopefully inspire future musicians too!
Sarah Records flyer, courtesy of Everything Is Music John Stapelton archive, courtesy of Everything Is Music John Stapelton archive, courtesy of Everything Is Music 2 Kings Studio, Zetland Road, courtesy of Everything Is Music
Where does all the archival material come from?
We contacted the artists directly whenever possible. We wanted the project to be personal, so we approached the artists and asked them to pick a place and tell us why that location is meaningful to them. We didn’t go through public archives mainly because we had quite a small budget and we wanted the project to be more about artists’ archival material. We also went straight to the source with people who owned record stores and labels, asking them to dig up their photos, mixes, old posters and more material that would work well for the project.
It sounds like lots of bands are collecting their old material and keeping some sort of archives already? Who held the biggest or most interesting archives?
Yes! I think a lot of them hold onto memorabilia. In Bristol there is a lot of music that came out in the 70s and 80s, many people collected that kind of stuff because there were so many tangible things you could have: fanzines, posters, records…we were really lucky, because most of the people we approached were confident they had something they could give. When they didn’t, we created some new work, like podcasts, videos and AR experiences.
John Stapelton had the most insane archive with posters, photos and stories. He’s a Bristol musician who used to run Friday nights at a Bristol club called the Resident Stars Domino. There are about ten pins associated to him on the map.
He collected and scanned them all just because he really likes having all these memories and he’s happy if people want to use them to track parts of the history of the city. We also reached out to bands who didn’t have a lot of archival material, like Portishead and made a 30-minute video interview with them about their first ever album Dummy. That’s now a piece of archive that we’ve created. You can go to the location where the album has been recorded, unlock the content and listen to that piece of podcast.
The recording of Dummy – as told by Portishead, © Everything Is Music, courtesy of Everything Is Music
Since the EIM project is geo-based in Bath or Bristol, you have to physically be there and explore the cities to enjoy this content. Is there a way that fans abroad can enjoy at least part of this content?
We are dividing some of it now, so if you are not in Bristol and Bath you can have a teaser piece of content. Regardless, the project is meant to make you aware of the fact that you have to be in Bristol or Bath since the idea is location-based, and it was meant to ideally push tourism and the local economy. You must go to these places. We didn’t want it to be another online archive on a map. We wanted people to move around cities and places where they may have not been before, especially in the city centres where – in the UK – there have been quite a lot of problems lately related to gentrification. We were and are very much focused on supporting the musicians and the ecosystem of Bristol and Bath; that is what this project is about. Anyways, we might develop a desktop version in the future to make at least part of the content accessible to those who can’t make it to the physical location.
There’s a number of different technological experiences within the project: 4D reactive visualisers, photogrammetry scans, AR of archival materials; what was the thinking behind choosing a specific digital format and tailoring it to a specific piece of archival content?
We assigned different tech to different kinds of content depending on what they were. The 4D reactive visualiser was something that we wanted to do with younger artists because lots of them obviously do not have that depth of archival material about themselves, and we wanted to give them something that was really cool, interesting and still augmented for the user. When you pick a location you can go and see it, the reactive visualisers move to their music. Among the young artists involved there are the indie band Squid, the Tara Clerkin Trio, the producer Sir Hiss and the upcoming ambient artist Kayla Painter.
For the photogrammetry scans we teamed up with a facility in Bath called Camera who’s specialised in motion capture and photogrammetry scans, and we created 3D versions of some of the sound systems from the St Paul’s Carnival, one from each decade that St Paul’s has been going on for. You can go to where these sound systems would be at St Paul’s and walk around the 3D scans of them.
We also did ten holograms: four with Big Jeff, four with DJ Krust – who was a pivotal drum & bass DJ in the city, and two of the spoken-word artists who spoke on the day that the Colston Statue fell, which can be found on the empty plinth as holograms talking about that experience.
Big Jeffrey Jones hologram, © Everything Is Music, courtesy of Everything Is Music
What are the outcomes of this first EIM experience?
To us it was a success, and there are lots of things we learned through the way: about the different ways people move around the city or about the kind of content they engage the most with. Our AR content, for instance, was particularly appreciated by the public.
I believe that the more stuff like this happens – like trails for music or heritage – or even just playful apps like Pokémon Go, the more people get used to moving around cities and getting more adventurous in doing these sorts of things. I suppose that in the next five or ten years it will become more of a thing that people will be using their phones to go out doing stuff like this, especially with the metaverse and all these things to become part of our life. We hope to do more so watch this space!