Audio Obscura is a new sound work by award-winning poet and novelist Lavinia Greenlaw, that you can experience for free at St Pancras International.
In case you’re tempted to pick up a pair of headphones when you have a train to catch, be warned - it takes a while to come out of the Audio Obscura state of mind. It’s a kind of hypersensitive trance, induced by a sonic montage of interior monologue, atmospheric sound and minimalist score. A sort of cross between a radio drama, an audio book and ambient music - Under Milk Wood meets Phillip Glass, or thereabouts. The 30-minute composition seemingly endows you with powers of telepathy and invisibility that you almost believe haven’t quite left you, even as you relinquish the noise-cancelling cans.
Given free rein to roam about the grand, glittering interior of St. Pancras International raises the stakes for the fictional characters’ inner lives on which we are invited to eavesdrop - arrivals, departures, time keeping, waiting. The setting broadens the possibilities for the listener-wanderer to conjure their own associations between what they hear and what they see. All human life really is here- if you look for it, even between Europe’s largest champagne bar and Le Pain Quotidien, but we’re usually just too fixated on getting from A to B to notice. Audio Obscura imperceptibly turns your attention outward, and is at its most effective when you project your empathy, as well the audio reality, on to the scene you're witnessing. In this way Greenlaw believes ‘we give ourselves away;’ an especially valuable experience in an urban environment where self-preservation can be so insulating, so alienating.
With its confessional mutterings and revelatory whispers, this is far from Betjeman territory train travel, whose verses made ample room for the mundane between humour and homage. Unashamedly intense, it's high drama being piped into your ear, theatre played off-stage, radio caught off-mike, secrets told strictly off the record.
By Kirsty McQuire
Find Audio Obscura on the lower concourse, St Pancras International Station until 23rd October. Open daily 12 noon - 8pm, 30 minutes long. Entry is FREE, no booking required (credit / debit card or mobile phone required as deposit).