Music 286R Listening, Creativity, and Imagination

Mind The Gap

Mind The Gap

by Sophie Westbrooke

November 2021


I started this project as Home Secretary Priti Patel started to outline more and more aggressive tactics to stop asylum seekers entering the UK. Each week I saw in the news headlines about border forces risking lives by physically pushing boats back to shore, or the government considering sending asylum seekers to Ascension Island. A complex cocktail of nationalist policies such as Theresa May's Hostile Environment policy, brexit, and Covid-19 had made safer routes into the UK unviable, and journeys made by unsafe boats in the busiest shipping lane in the world between Calais and Dover were rapidly increasing. It felt like cowardly and callous political rhetoric was going to kill people who had already fled unimaginable hardship. Last week, at least 27 people drowned attempting to make this crossing. Amongst them were children, a pregnant woman and a 24-year-old attempting to reunite with her fiancé.


This has become a noisy political debate between the UK and French governments, and between opposing politicians in Westminster and the devolved nations. Watching this ugly debate unfold reminded me of Amanda Weidman's writing on voice, as I began to tune out the repetitive rhetorical gestures and experience them as material sound. I thought able how often this is the case in Western responses to non-Western humanitarian crises; to the people who are most affected, this voice may as well be the sound of a wave or a passing ship - it makes no material difference to their lives. And their own voices, through differences of language, of accent, of race, of economic power, are interpreted in the same way - as noise. Thus debate rages like a storm over the channel, and like voices in a storm meaning from both sides is somehow lost in the middle. This had a particular poignancy to me both in terms of its musical implications, and the ironic visual metaphors it conjured up for me of futile shouting across the channel. I felt that this could produce a musically compelling and evocatively imagistic electroacoustic composition.



Gandy, M., Nilsen, B., & Nilsen, BJ. (2014) The acoustic city

Barry Truax, Acoustic Communication

Neil Verma, Theatre of the Mind

Alice Bloch and Sonia McKay (2016), Living on the Margins: Undocumented Migrants in a Global City

Ines Hasselberg (2016) Enduring Uncertainty: Deportation, Punishment and Everyday Life

Spivak, G. L. 'Can the Subaltern Speak?'

Weidman, A. (2015) 'Voice' in Novak, D. and Sakakeeny, M. (ed.) Keywords in Sound



Music / Sound Compositions

Ake Hodell, Mr Smith Goes to Rhodesia 

Jaqueline George, Same Sun

Yvette Jackson, Invisible People

Hans Tutchku, High Pressure


Jamie Holton and Jessica Stone, Refugees' Stories Podcast

File on 4: UK Asylum: A Systems Failure?

Sound Archives

Ian Rawes, London Sound Survey

The British Library, Sounds of our Shores


Video References

BBC News (2021, Sep 22) Migrant's year-long attempt to cross the English Channel - BBC News. Youtube.

BBC News (2021, Nov 2021) 31 people die after migrant boat sinks in Channel - BBC Newsnight. Youtube.

BBC News (2018, Dec 3) Why are migrants risking death to cross the English Channel? - BBC News. Youtube.

BBC Newsnight (2020, Sept 15) UK Border tensions: Anti-immigration protests on the rise - BBC Newsnight. Youtube.

Channel 4 News (2021, Jun 16) What life is like for migrants who arrive on UK shores. Youtube.

Channel 4 News (2021, Nov 24) At least 31 dead after boat heading for UK sinks in English Channel. Youtube.

Daily Mail (2020, Aug 24) EXCLUSIVE: MailOnline talks to refugees in Calais trying to cross the channel into England. Youtube.

LBC (2020, May 21) Nigel Farage witnesses illegal migrants entering British waters. Youtube.

LBC (2020, Sept 29) Priti Patel speaks to LBC on policing, migrants and Brexit.

Novara Media (2018, Apr 27) What is the Hostile Environment? Youtube.

PolicyExchangeUK (2021, Dec 12) Theresa May Keynote Immigration Speech. Youtube.

Political TV (2021, Nov 19) Question Time - 18th November 2021. Youtube.

Sky News (2021, Nov 25) Migrant tragedy: Deaths 'no deterrent' to those wishing to cross Channel. Youtube.

The Telegraph (2021, Oct 5) Watch again: Priti Patel to tackle crime in Conservative Party conference speech. Youtube.

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