Marcus Leadley
Sound Research

Current research

I am working on the outline for a paper entitled Sound Agendas: Creating a Reciprocity between Academic Research and Public Art.

This paper uses the documentation of two independent public art projects, Coast to Coast: Sounding Shore and the Woodside Link, to explore the interstices between academic practice-led research and artist-led community engagement strategies. It explores the way in which each may inform the other to generate both enhanced research outcomes and ‘real world’ interventions that open up the contemporary debates found in Soundscape Studies and Acoustic Ecology to a wider audience. Themes to be discussed include: the perception of quality/dysfunction in the sound environment; the role of “favourite sounds’ in forming notions of place and generating community cohesion; ambience; the sonic and emotional impact of major infrastructural change on environments and stakeholders; performance as a point of environmental/community engagement; and the role of consultancy for, and collaboration with, public bodies and local authorities to deliver coherent outcomes.

Sounding Shore: Coast to Coast was a one day festival of live sound art which I organised on the beach at Whitstable in Kent on the 4th June 2016 as part of the Whitstable Biennale Satellite programme.

The performers’ audio was transmitted using FM to an audience provided with wireless headphones. Performers responded to the location and coastal themes in their work.

The public art aspect of the Woodside Link road construction project in Bedfordshire has evolved as a collaboration with the visual artist Bettina Furnee and Central Bedfordshire Council. Having initially been brought in to consult on how sound might be made an integral part of the project, the role has expanded to encompass my delivery of workshops in the community and lectures at Dunstable college for A Level and BTEC students. Local residents have contributed field recordings made on mobile phones for an online archive and for use in three compositions. I have written an anthem (contemporary popular music style) to celebrate the opening of road in spring 2017 and two soundscape compositions that will be installed as site-specific artworks, one in a local park and the other on a pedestrian walkway. As well as raising public awareness of the sound environment the project has served to energize both the council’s communications and planning departments and highlight the importance of the acoustic environment. The project will be entered for a local authorities’ planning award in 2017.


PhD Thesis

Title: In Situ Listening: Soundscape, Site and Transphonia.


This enquiry represents an exploration of environmental sound and artistic practice from the perspectives of in situ listening and transphonia. The initial term, in situ listening, has been coined by the author in order to constellate a group of intellectual trajectories and artists’ practices that engage with transphonic sound and share a common theme: that the listening context, the relationship between mediated sound and site, is an integral part of the engagement process. Heikki Uimonen (2005, p.63) defines transphonia as the, “mechanical, electroacoustical or digital recording, reproduction and relocating of sounds.” The term applies to sound that is relocated from one location to another, or sound that is recorded at a site and then mixed with the sound of the prevailing environment. The experience of the latter, which is a key concern for this thesis, may be encountered during the field recording process when one ‘listens back’ to recordings while on site or during the presentation of site-specific sound art work.

Twelve sound installations, each based on field recordings, were produced in order to progress the investigation. Installations were created using a personally devised approach that was rigorous, informed, and iterative. Each installation explored a different environment. These installations, and their related environmental studies, form the core content of this enquiry.

In the first part of this thesis the installations are used to explore observations of transphonic audio content in relation to a number of subjective, surprising and intangible phenomena: disorientation, uncanny sensations or even the awareness of coincidence. These observations are supported and contextualised in relation to a wide range of historic and contemporary sources. Works in the second part of the thesis are used to motivate a meditation on the relationship between soundscape, site and time, which was proposed by the initial phase of the research.

Audiolab 12.01 Language of Place Symposium

2 to 4 March, 2012.  Sound installation and presentation of work at Kingcombe Environmental Projects Centre, Dorset.


World Forum For Acoustic Ecology conference, Corfu
October 3 – 7, 2011
Headphone installation in the Garden of the People, Palaia Anaktora. All field recordings made on and around the site. Participant experience sampled using questionnaires.


SPR Phonography Colloquium, Goldsmiths College, University of London
July 5 – 7 2011
Headphone installation for College Green. All field recordings made on and around the site. Participant experience sampled using questionnaires.


AudioLab 11.1: The Language of Place 2011 symposium
March 3 – 6 2011
Headphone installation using site-specific field recordings recorded in West Bay, Dorset. I also gave a presentation on the artistic content and research direction of my work.  

Sounding Out 5
September 8 - 10 2010
Installation and conference paper
Visit Sounding Out website

Space: the Real and the Abstract
July 5, 6 2010
Presentation of installation audio (De Montfort and Whitstable) in non-site specific context during conference at the University of Wolverhampton. Audience experience of mediated soundscapes was sampled using questionnaires.

Installation, Whitstable Biennale
June 2010
I ran another iteration of the headphone installation, this time focused on the sounds of the coast, on the beach at Whitstable during the biennale’s opening weekend. This time the target audience was the general public and questionnaires were again used for data collection.
Further information

AudioLab10.01: The Language of Place
June 2010
I coordinated and chairing a second Language of Place symposium as part of the Whitstable Biennale programme. This was a condensed one-day event with sound walks and discussion in the morning and artist/academic talks in the afternoon. Peter Cusack, Jennie Savage, Duncan Whitely and I presented.
Download poster
Download programme
Visit PVA AudioLab web pages

Installation, De Montfort University, Leicester
June 2010
I coordinated a version of my headphone installation – focussing on the sound of the urban environment – for the Sound, Site, Space and Play conference. Using the conference environment ensured a target audience of approximately 40 PhD students and academics. The experience of a range of mediated soundscapes – interventions into the sound of the site as well as sounds transplanted from other location – were sampled using questionnaires.

AudioLab10: The Language of Place 2010 symposium
March 2010
A two day event coordinated as a joint venture with Labculture Limited/PVA MediaLab, an Arts Council RFO based in Bridport in Dorset.
Further information

Workshop and installation trial, Walsall Campus, University of Wolverhampton
February 2010
A group of students took part in a sound observation, collection and processing exercise, which led to an informal trial of installation protocols in the sport hall on Walsall campus. This enabled me to demonstrate a primary aspect of research methodology and ‘road test’ the Max/MSP patches and wireless headphone system I have been developing. The results were encouraging, with much positive student feedback and technical comments that have fed back into the development of my process.

Conference attendance:

Additional Workshops

Research Publications