Interview with Neil Rose

Producer Hannah Jones speaks with Neil Rose, sound designer for The Mother’s Bones to find out more about his involvement in the project and practice as a sonic artist.

Could you tell me how you came to be working on The Mother’s Bones and why you were you keen to be involved in this project?
I've worked with Abigail before and admire the work she makes, I guess most notably on the Double Brass performances that I recorded (sound) at Kestle Barton. Trying to record the full St Keverne Band trooping a figure of eight around a large field and not get in shot was seriously no joke! While recording Double Brass I met Gareth Churcher (and really liked the music he writes) and the band, who are really skilled players of all ages, so when Abigail approached me to record this new work I jumped at the chance.

What is special/unusual/challenging about this project for you? 
I am interested in the natural sound quality that Dean Quarry has, it is an amazing visually imposing location that behaves, acoustically, like nowhere I have experienced. I felt it was a privilege to be given the opportunity to record that uniqueness. It feels like the audio phenomena created by the quarrying won’t be there forever, either because the quarry will become active again and the space will change through this activity, or the walls will fall down/erode, so I also felt responsible for documenting it.

The walls of the quarry create an incredible slap back echo (like the delay that you find in Dub music) and the atrium of the main wall that has been carved out by the stone workers focuses these reflections to particular points. We spent a while there with one trumpet and a tuba to try and locate the best place to record from and so I could work out how to go about recording it. 

You often collaborate with artists (see:, how has the creative process for The Mother’s Bones differed to the other projects you have worked on?
I don't know if it has to be honest. I think me and Abigail speak the same language, so I was able to understand her intention and early ideas in making the film. I'm also really happy to spend time with Gareth and discuss his ideas around the composition. Maybe the difference is the need to stay true to Gareth's intention within the composition whilst ensuring that the recordings (and subsequent post production and sound design) match Abigail's intention. Luckily this is quite easy as I am pretty certain we are all on the same page. I also think  Abigail and Gareth feel the same about feeling responsible for documenting the sound character of the quarry.

Can you tell me a bit about your career and practice as a sound artist? 
I studied Sonic Arts at Middlesex University and specialised in Electroacoustic, Acousmatic, composition and called myself a composer. Whilst there, I really started to diversify the types of work I was making and got really into making sound for film, as well as gallery contexts and live sound performances for both clubs and galleries. That was around 12-15 years ago. I call myself a sonic artist now, as in an artist who works with sound, rather than a designer, as I am not a technician and I am not a musician.

I often work collaboratively with artists, mainly from the live art and performance world and I am currently working on a project with Tom Marshman for his Move Over Darling performance works that I feel really proud to be a part of. Tom interviews people over the age of 60 from LGBT communities in a particular area and the ‘site specific’ shows are made all over the country. I create soundscapes and edits for him to use during the live show. 

I am really interested in listening, I think I got that from studying early concrète and acousmatic music, composers like Pierre Schaeffer and the Groupe de Recherches Musicales, I am also very moved by John Cage and his contribution to how we make and think about music. I love listening to music all the time (my headphones have got bigger over the years) and I also love listening to natural sounds as I go about my life. I am influenced by everything that I find exciting to hear, whether that is the sound of the rain in a particular drain, the sound the dishwasher makes when there is a baking tray in it, electronic music (particularly break beat musics), traditional musics from around the world and sound tracks from films - everything influences me as long as it is interesting and exciting to listen to.

Can you give me a favourite moment or anecdote about working on this film?
Maybe my favourite moments are when I walked every surface I could find in the quarry, so to ensure that I had recorded footsteps for every occasion and sitting alone looking out to sea capturing the sound of the waves and how they lap against the shore. There was also a buoy that I waited for ages to make a noise, whilst trying to avoid talking to people who were out walking their dogs. 

My job is always to be as close to the shot as I can possibly be while being out of the wind and out of the shot, but also to document every aspect so it can be used later during the edit. I essentially record everything that makes a noise based on my discussions with the director. Unlike Lee and the film crew, who continuously work out how to make the shot, I have to understand how the space the shot occupies sounds in relation to how Abigail wants to represent it and collect enough sounds to ensure we can achieve that specific audio image.

You can find out more about Neil’s work at: