Alice Boyd is a London and Bristol based composer and sound artist working across music, podcast, radio, film and theatre. Her work uses the voice, everyday sounds and electronic textures to tell stories about the world around us. Much of her work explores our relationship with the natural world.
In 2020, Alice was selected for Sound and Music’s New Voices programme and was additionally granted the Dimensions Award. As part of this, Alice carried out an artist residency and performance at the Eden Project, Cornwall – the world’s largest indoor rainforest. In 2022, she received PRS Foundation’s Women Make Music grant to produce her debut EP, From The Understory, inspired by the plants in the Rainforest Biome.
She used hand-made Arduino technology to capture electrical data that measures changes in conductivity in plants as they photosynthesise. This information is then converted from fluctuations and conductivity into pitch, frequency and ultimately melody.
Alice utilised the New Voices artist development programme to explore and develop ambitious and thematically rich work, in ways that were unexpected and delightful. We caught up with her to find out what it was like to take part in New Voices.
How would you describe your experience of New Voices?
It was transformational! Over the course of my time on New Voices, I wrote and produced my debut EP, completed an artist residency at the Eden Project and performed in their Rainforest Biome.
I applied to New Voices in October of 2020, so we had just been through the first six months of the pandemic. Before this, I had primarily been working in theatre. As the lockdowns made live performance impossible, my career was fundamentally changed. I wasn’t sure what I would do, if I’d hang on in there or leave the arts.
New Voices came at the perfect time because with Sound and Music’s sustained support over 18 months I could spend dedicated time developing my practice. Lao, my Creative Project Leader, met me one or two times a month, providing advice and accountability that can be so rare in freelance life. Sound and Music also provided financial support and mentorship from industry experts, both of which were invaluable to my project.
Over the course of the programme, I was able to secure Arts Council England DYCP funding, an artist residency at the Eden Project and a performance in the Eden Project’s Rainforest Biome, supported by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. This goes above and beyond my expectations of what I could achieve on the programme and has given me the confidence to approach bigger venues and partners in the future.
I also explored new skills through Sound and Music’s Dimensions Award. Through this, I was given some extra funding to create the Isle of Arden interactive mini-game, which invites audiences to restore a virtual forest to health by creating a balanced ecosystem. The grant allowed me to collaborate with game developer-extraordinaire Tom Halliwell and try sound design for games.
Did the programme help you think about how you develop and produce new work? Have you changed anything as a result?
New Voices encouraged me to take my time over my self-led work. As a freelancer, I had been used to working to briefs on tight deadlines. However, the programme allowed me to explore each stage of the creative process, from research, to creation, to producing and performance.
I started small with site visits to the Eden Project and exploring basic electronics and soldering to make my own plant conductivity sonification device. After my artist residency at the Eden Project, I began composing the music and rehearsing the singers in preparation for our performance in the Rainforest Biome. Now I’m in a new chapter of the project, focussing on my EP release, live performances and introducing new audiences to my work, for example through my eco-mix vinyl. As an independent artist, there are so many steps to consider, but it has been satisfying seeing the project grow.
Going forwards, I am excited to think about how I can continue the momentum of this project, as well as to start planting seeds for my next EP or album. My time on New Voices has also shown me how much I enjoy collaboration and bringing together artists of different forms. From Studio Gruff, who created an epic hand-drawn animation for my first single’s music video, to writer Natasha Kaeda, who has written beautiful interludes for the live show, to my great band who have helped me transform my music for the stage – it has been amazing to work with such fantastic people.
What did you get out of the coaching and mentoring aspects of New Voices and the support of the Creative Project Leaders?
The coaching element of New Voices helped me in the moments when freelance life felt more difficult. My coach Nicole supported me through the post-project blues towards the end of my time on New Voices. She reminded me of the importance of rest after a significant chapter in your career and that motivation will come back soon enough.
Over the course of my time on New Voices, I worked with two mentors: Petia Tzanova and Hanna Tuulikki. Petia is a facilitator, coach, project manager and consultant with over 15 years of experience working in arts and culture, the non-profit and social enterprise sectors. She helped guide me with the production of the project, prompting me with helpful questions regarding the direction of my work and how I could maximise its reach. Hanna is a multi-disciplinary artist who works with performance, voice and movement to explore environments and ecologies. She provided advice about running rehearsal rooms and preparing for live performances, which was helpful after working remotely for so long during the pandemic.
What are your plans for current and future work?
I am in the process of releasing From The Understory and now have a couple of singles out there in the world. I’m excited to share the full EP on 21st April and am celebrating the release with a launch gig at Avalon Café on Thursday 20th April. As well as a performance of my EP, the gig will feature a really exciting line up, including some of the other singers, my EP and a DJ or two. I also have a number of other gigs coming up, including at the Barbican Conservatory, St. George’s Bristol and more. People can keep up to date by following my newsletter.
Over this year, I am also working with Ffern, a Somerset-based natural perfume maker, on their podcast ‘As The Season Turns’, hosted by nature writer Lia Leendertz. Each month I travel to a different place in the UK to record the sounds of the landscape. From snow melting, to the sounds of aquatic ponds photosynthesising, you can watch the behind the scenes here. I’ve also recently worked with poet Amina Atiq to create a sound piece exploring pond species migration in the context of the climate crisis. You can listen here.
And then onto the next piece of music… watch this space!
Follow Alice on social media: @aliceboydmusic
Alice’s journey is made possible with the generous support of individuals like you. There are many ways to get involved and every donation really does make a difference.
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