Located on the train journey between London St Pancras and Margate, Sonorama is a an audio work that offers sounds and voices for the otherwise silent view from the train.

The Sonorama book is published and available from Uniformbooks.

Imagining the journey itself as the ‘score’ the work is a collection of interviews, readings, original archival material and compositions which respond to the social history and present of the route. With each track relating to a different point or area along the train line, the work has been informed through a collaboration with historian David Hendy and the British Library. The tracks imagine topics as diverse as visio-centricity, Roman history, and hop-picking with a corresponding variety of contributors such as flautist Jan Hendrickse, poet Lemn Sissay, saxophonist Evan Parker, and writer Charlotte Higgins.

The Sketch of the Score for Sonorama, exhibited at Turner Contemporary, is a graphic score of my reading of the journey and underpins the thinking behind the compositions and the selection of the other materials that make up Sonorama, acting as a companion piece to experiencing the main work on the train.

In developing the Sonorama I set out to intermingle my perception of the journey with some socio-cultural memories and contemporary concerns, in a way that does not merely present these notions/viewpoints but complicates rather than simplifies the way we might conceive of the journey. Listening to Sonoramawhilst looking out of the train window in turn invites the audience to reflect on their own relationship to the journey and their experience of ‘being in the world’.

Track information

(St Pancras to Ebbsfleet)

 All Aboard for Margate

Archive recording of a popular music hall song sung by music hall star Florrie Forde in 1905.

Tunnel Waltz

Whilst building the first tunnel under the Thames Brunel wrote: “Works have been uneasy during the night, ground very tender, very threatening. Things had a terrific appearance this morning, the effluvia was so offensive that some [workers] were sick on the stage”. For the opening in 1843 there was a banquet in the tunnel accompanied by a specially commissioned waltz. Between St Pancras and Margate there are about 16 miles of tunnels. Composition includes field recording by Jay-Dea Lopez.

Reading 1 (railway)

With quotes from Charles Dickens, Paul Farley and Michael Symmons, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Wolfgang Schivelbusch and L.M. Evans

Thames Suite

“My bias tends towards the more cynical view ascribed to William Burroughs by Jack Kerouac. ‘When you start separating the people from their rivers what have you got? Bureaucracy!’ the Thames: generator of life, origin of the city, a passage between the eternal verities of deep England and the world ocean.” (Iain Sinclair)Composition includes field recording by Peter Toll.

(Ebbsfleet to Ashford)

The Crane: Quayside Dreaming

In order to enable huge amounts of goods to feed our growing consumption 100km of river bed was recently dredged to allow large vessels to enter the Thames Estuary. “For [Antonio] Negri we live in a time of the total subsumption of capital, it penetrates every aspect of our lives, including our experience of time. Thus the importance of daydreaming, of being with friends, of being creative, a kind of non-productivity in capitalist terms but precisely productive” (Simon O’Sullivan) Composition includes field recording by Lawrence Shove.

Reading 2 (journeying)

With quotes from Rebecca Solnit, Tim Ingold, Rainer Maria Rilke

Ode to the Pylon

“The present-day flâneur carries a camera and travels not so much on foot as in a car or on a train.” (Patrick Keiller) And in the case of the route from St Pancras to Ashford this journey is accompanied by hundreds of pylons running along side the trainline and motorway, following the path of the ancient Roman Road from London to the Kent coast.

Interview 1

Evan Parker in conversation with Graham McKenzie at the Turner Contemporary Gallery

Interlude 1

“Space seems to be either tamer or more inoffensive than time: we’re forever meeting people who have watches, very seldom people who have compasses.” (George Perec)

(Ashford to Canterbury)


“Why in the case of the ear, is there withdrawal and turning inward, a making resonant, but in the case of the eye, there is manifestation and display, a making evident?” (Jean-Luc Nancy) Composition includes field recording by Nigel Tucker.

Reading 3 (hop picking)

With quotes from Bradshaw, George Orwell and recordings from the Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger collection, Gwilym Davies collection and BBC

Woodland Variations, no.14

The last stanza of one of W.H.Auden’s poems reads: ‘A culture is no better than its woods.’ We are entangled with our environment more profoundly then we might expect: “Language imitates the sonority of the environment: it is attuned to its music.” (Adreana Cavarero) Composition includes field recording by Richard Margoschis and  Phill Riddett.

Interlude 2

“Every text, story or trip is a journey made rather than an object found. And although with each journey one may cover the same ground, each is nevertheless an original movement.” (Tim Ingold)

(Canterbury to Ramsgate)


George Bradshaw in his guide-book to railway travel described the Stour landscape as a miniature Rhineland. This might sound slightly out of proportion when gazing at the Stour river that runs along the train line, but then perception and its interpretation is relative. “My body is truly the navel of my world, not in the sense of the viewing point of a central perspective, but as the sole locus of reference, memory, imagination and integration.” (Juhani Pallasmaa)

Reading 4 (looking & listening)

With quotes from Jean-Luc Nancy, Steven Connor, George Perec

Bird Song

“… there is no signal without noise, birdsong represents the very principle of meaning amidst noisiness …” (Steven Connor) Composition includes field recording by Jay-Dea Lopez and Phil Riddett .

Interview 2

Conversation with Charlotte Higgins at Richborough Roman Fort 

(Ramsgate to Margate)

Muschel von Margate

A song by Kurt Weill from the play Konjunktur (Oil Boom) by Leo Lania `from 1928 that tells the story of a seaside town destroyed by the oil industry. Live English version sung by Angelina Reaux with Robert Kapilow. (this track is not available here due to copyright)

In celebration of immigration

Starting with the wonderful poem ‘Immigration RSVP’ by Lemn Sissay, this piece is based on Salisbury Plain, an English folk tune that has common ancestry with a Burgundian basse dance. Played here on flutes from India, Turkey and the Middle East by Jan Hendrickse.

Sonorama was curated and produced by Electra in partnership with Turner Contemporary and the British Library.

With funding and support from Arts Council England , Southeastern Rail, Kent County Council Arts Investment Fund, Hornby, University of Kent.