Ruth Knight – ‘A Beach Near Trouville’

A Beach Near Trouville by Eugene Boudin

A beach near trouville

I was instantly drawn to this piece because of the subject matter: memories of my childhood started running through my mind, an element now sewn into my piece. On further research of the piece and the context in which it was painted, I found that the remote seaside town of Trouville was transformed into a popular seaside resort between 1850 and 1870. Contributing factors to this transformation were the construction of railways, a product of the french industrial revolution, as well as the publicity gained from writers and artists such as Monet and Boudin himself. Ironically, Boudin, an artist focused on capturing the beauty of nature, a pre-curser to the impressionist movement, played a part in the destruction of a once sparsely populated fishing village.

My piece focuses on this transformation. Representing the lone fisherwoman, the looping viol melody walks towards us from the distance, continually building and fragmenting until it all falls apart and returns to a safe place, a distant memory. Granular fragments of city field recordings swell and blend with the filtered white noise mimicking the sea, subtly adding elements of industrialisation. Memories of my past weave in and out of the texture, creating a reminiscent feeling replicating what Boudin may have felt once Trouville, the naturally beautiful place he spent so much time capturing in the medium of paint, changed into the popular seaside resort providing a break for city goers.

Compositional approach

After my first look around the gallery, I had so many ideas about how a piece for this painting might sound. Some of my initial ideas included creating the world of Boudin as he was painting and the world of the lone fisherwoman: an alternate reality with a glitchy, mechanical aesthetic. Other ideas included inserting memories of my own into the piece, creating a reminiscent quality similar to that in Jon Hopkins’ ‘Abandon Window,’.  I also toyed with the idea of creating a piece to wash over the listener, recreating all the hours I spent sitting on the beach, allowing my mind to wonder as the sounds of the sea washed over me.

My approach to the composition of this piece changed a number of times.  After researching in the barber, my focus changed significantly.  I felt that the transformation of Trouville was of great importance considering that Boudin dedicated his life to capturing it’s natural beauty.  I wanted to harshly juxtapose two contrasting worlds: one of a more natural seascape, or an environment closely mimicking the sea, the second being an industrial world combining city field recordings and mechanical rhythmic material.

As I spent more time with the painting, I noticed different details but my interest in the lone fisherwoman only grew stronger after each viewing. To me, the painting was all about the solitary of the beach and I feel that the vast sky, the unusually large canvas and the single lone fisherwoman really highlight that. I therefore wanted to create that feeling sonically.

Taking a step away from a more sound design approach and inspired by the looping melodies of Jonsi and Alex, I wanted to create a melody to represent the lone fisherwoman walking towards us and guide us through the piece. I chose to record some simple melodies on the tenor viol as I feel that the viol has a very natural and primitive quality. Once I started working on and developing the looping viol melody and the more natural world, I realised that the time needed to juxtapose and eventually combine these two worlds would be greater than what the brief allowed. I have therefore fragmented the melody and inserted granular fragments of city field recordings to add subtle hints of a more industrial world.

In my mind, my piece takes you on the journey of the lone fisherwoman walking towards us from the distance. As she walks, she recalls past memories, memories that make her feel warm and safe, memories that remind her of home. As she walks across the beach and as she walks through time, she sees Trouville fragment, change and industrialise to some extent.  With that change, some of the beauty is lost, distorting her love for it.

This piece is dedicated to Maggie, a friend who spent her life enjoying the beach.


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