Sounds of the Projection Box | Michael Lightborne


Sounds of the Projection Box | Michael Lightborne
Gruen 177 | Vinyl (+ Digital) | Digital > [order]


These recordings, made in 2016 and 2017, document the shifting sonic texture of the cinema projection box, as it changes from 35mm to digital projection. By 2014, the majority of UK cinemas had already converted to digital, making many projectionists redundant, and quietly altering the way that cinema works, as both an industry and an experience. Very few cinemas maintain the ability to project 35mm film alongside digital, and it was in some of the remaining, tenacious boxes that I sought the persistent sounds of analogue projection.


The unique space that this album investigates is simultaneously a workshop, an engine room, and an artist’s studio. The projection box is a small room at the back of the cinema auditorium that conceals both the apparatus of the moving image, and the labour of the projectionist, ensuring that both remain invisible, and inaudible, to the cinema-goer.


This album was developed as part of The Projection Project, a research project based in the Film and Television Studies Department at the University of Warwick, which seeks to record and investigate the history of cinema projection in Britain. A special issue of the Journal of British Cinema And Television Studies (Vol 15, No 1, 2018), edited by members of The Projection Project, features a number of articles about the history of British cinema projection and the work of the projectionist in Britain, through the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It includes an article entitled ‚Sounds of the Projection Box: Liner Notes for a Phonographic Method‘, which augments this album, and elaborates upon the theoretical and methodological rationale for the use of sonic field recording as a mode of enquiry.


All of the images that accompany this record were made by Richard Nicholson. Some of them form part of a series of portraits entitled The Projectionists.


Side A


1. The thing
2. Making up the thing
3. Breaking down the thing
4. Lacing and Rolling Rear Window (error correction)


Side B


1. Hyde Park electromagnetic
2. The noise
3. Manual rewind
4. The Electric
5. The tower (death rattle)
6. Digital light


10 Tracks (43′30″)
Vinyl (500 copies)



Field Recording Series by Gruenrekorder
Germany / 2018 / Gruen 177 / LC 09488 / EAN 4050486119020





Beach Sloth
Great dollops of noise create tense, anxious track with Michael Lightborne’s “Sounds of the Projection Box”. For this work, Michael Lightborne relies heavily upon the natural rhythms that the machine creates. Layer upon layer of sound comes into the fray with such majesty and grace. Even within these noises Michael Lightborne occasionally lets something more come in, the way that little melodies flicker about in mere moments. By letting these pieces gain a level of prominence within the album the whole of the work feels so visceral.
“The Thing” introduces the album with disorienting screams across the sky. Weird tempos roll through on “Making Up The Thing”. With “Breaking Down The Thing” Michael Lightborne engages in a decomposition sort of technique, letting the piece explore tactile moments within the disassembly. Near silence opens “Lacing and Rolling Rear Window” before it bursts in a flourish of color towards the end. Easily the highlight of the album is the rolling drone and neon-hued bliss of “Hyde Park Electromagnetic”. Such intensity dominates the brutal creaks of “The Noise”. Ghostly auras rumble through the entirety of “Manual Rewind”. Various snippets of samples pierce “The Electric”. A tragic quality concludes the album with the spacious, sprawling and ambitious “Digital Light”. Heavily layered “Digital Light” presents an entire journey that embarks upon disorienting sonic details that loom ever larger.
“Sounds of the Projection Box” shows off Michael Lightborne’s ability to craft an entire narrative with a single event.


Frans de Waard | VITAL WEEKLY
[…] More mechanics of some kind can be found on the LP by Michael Lightborne. I don’t think I heard of him before and he describes himself thusly: „Michael Lightborne is an artist based in Birmingham and Cork. He works with video, sound and print, and has exhibited around the UK and internationally, in exhibitions and film festivals. His work engages with questions of landscape, popular culture, memory, and technology. He is currently exploring the viability of ‘psychetecture’, a concept used in the 1980s comic Mister X to describe the psychological effects of architecture and urban forms.“ In 2016 and 2017 he did recordings in a cinema projection box, documenting the changing from 35mm to digital projection. Very few cinemas still use 35mm, and Lightborne found one, which is what he calls „a workshop, an engine room, and an artist’s studio“, with a great picture on the cover. That one is on the first side of the record, while the other side contains a bunch of others. It ends with a digital projection recording. This is all very filmic, excuse the pun, of film flapping around and cans being opened, the motorizing of projectors and such like. It is indeed, one could say, the sound of an art slowly disappearing. It is very possible that our grandchildren will not be able to recognize any of these sounds. Lightborne records in-situ, and it is very much a documenting of the action. Getting the films on, starting the projectors and such. It is not like Büttner’s work a collage of various sounds together and presented as a composition, yet it is all most enjoyable to hear. Any sound that sounds great is a composition, perhaps (to avoid the more well-known ‚you don’t have to call it music if the term shocks you‘). Following the very lively first side, the second side gradually spirals down to the use of ‚modern‘ equipment and we hear how the world of projection changes. Ending with an electrical drone piece that is the world of digital projection. Another excellent journey, albeit of an entirely different nature. Great record!