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MxCM – Tom Richards

Tom Richards is an artist, musician, DJ, researcher and instrument designer working between sonic art, sculpture and music. Drawing from his PhD study (Goldsmiths/Science Museum) on the musical innovations of Daphne Oram, he has built his own idiosyncratic modular electronic music system, with which he creates slowly evolving and heavily textured polyrhythmic improvisations.

For Musicity x Culture Mile, Tom created a piece in response to the subterranean spaces that form part of the new Museum of London site at West Smithfield.

Here, he shares his insights:


On entering the cavernous former salt stores beneath Smithfields Market, I was greeted by the sounds of power tools and the laughing and shouting of the Crossrail workers. These sounds in turn were punctuated and drowned out by the trains running alongside the space every few minutes.

Opposite to the train line was a row of vaulted tunnels, their ends disappearing into the gloom. As I peered down into these spaces it was possible to see evidence of the older architecture underlying the more recent concrete structure of the main space – brickwork, patches of cobbled floor, old pipework.

Just audible, in the brief moments of quiet, was the sound of water dripping from ceiling to floor – multiple streams of regular drips overlapping to create a polyrhythmic micro acoustic shaped by the physical space of the vaults. These natural compositions became the starting point for my piece.

I worked with recordings of the water, synchronising sounds from synthesisers and percussion machines and layering them on top. As the work developed and I recorded different takes, the original recordings slowly disappeared, leaving behind electronic echoes of their presence.



Running Out Of Limbs’ by Tom Richards releases May 18 as part of Sound Unbound 2019.

To listen to ‘Running Out Of Limbs’, open the Musicity x Culture Mile Web App and go to the new Museum of London site at West Smithfield!


Musicity x Culture Mile is commissioned by Culture Mile in association with the Barbican.

Photo credit: Mark Allan.