Today I set off to Lizard Point in Cornwall for a week of adventures, and a very long drive! For me this area has a particular resonance since listening to Brian Eno’s Ambient 4: On Land (1982), which remains an extraordinarily inspiring and engaging album. The album makes specific reference to geographic locations that inspired Eno, and indeed ‘Lizard Point’ is named after this exposed, southernmost tip of mainland Britain, very close to Land’s End in the South West.
I’ve not visited the area since I was a student in the early 1980s so that in itself is a thrill. I will be exploring heritage sites on the coastline in collaboration with artists Joanna Mayes and Justin Wiggan. It will culminate in a live event at Helston Museum on 7 June, sharing the results of our discoveries, using sound and data obtained through sensors, broadcast and wireless technologies.
The residency celebrates the 250-year anniversary of the observation of the Transit of Venus from the Lizard, contributing to the first successful international measurement of the size of the universe on 3 June 1769. Lizard Beacons also marks the 400-year old anniversary of the first light emanating from a lighthouse on the Lizard which reached the Pliades, 400 light years away, in 2019.
Until last month, the only award I’d ever received for my work was winning a Mars bar playing the piano aged 11 on Hastings Pier in the UK. And especially since I played the piano so badly! Amazingly this time Lost at Sea (2018) won a 2019 Scottish Award for New Music! This unique work was created for the Big Project as part of the East Neuk Festival in Fife Scotland. I joined forces with pupils of Waid Academy in Anstruther to create a memorial in sound for men of the East Neuk fishing industry lost at sea. It draws on the stories of the men out at sea, field recordings and interviews to evoke the men and their lives.
No physical memorial to these men currently exists – something that retired local fisherman, Ronnie Hughes, continues to campaign for. You can hear his stories throughout the work. His mission to secure a monument in Pittenweem inspired this piece for which ENF partnered with the Scottish Fisheries Museum and Waid Academy. Lost at Sea premiered at Waid Academy on 28 June 2018 as a live performance but an alternative version was installed at the Scottish Fisheries Museum.
In light of the award the entire work is now available online. Now with a bonus mix of the live performance, only previously heard once ever at Waid Academy in Astruther, and exclusive photos from the project and an interview speaking more about the work with Kate Molleson.
Archive Land opened at the Museum of Applied Arts in Cologne last month and runs until 2 June so you will have to hurry if you want to see it. This very special collaboration with Dutch designer and artist Erik Kessels was an absolute joy, drawing upon the materials held in the basement of the museum, rarely seen by the public.
Erik reproduced many of these photographic plates to enormous oversized playing cards and built a gigantic house of cards, which you can visit inside the museum. The public can walk in between these cards and listen as my soundtrack weaves its way through the space. The reception for the work has been extremely encouraging and I’m just sad that it’s unlikely to ever be experienced again after it closes.
We created a beautiful limited-edition release for the exhibition, a very alternative kind of catalogue. It’s a pack of cards reproducing the images from the exhibition with a music cassette of the score, in a collector’s box (200 copies, signed by Erik Kessels and myself), available at the museum box office for 30€ or extremely limited quantities online soon too. Keep an eye on Bandcamp in the next month for literally just a handful of copies available outside of the museum.
My collaboration with artist Kasia Molga continues to expand and take shape in all manner of new ways. After our digital virus with Code of Soil with the Grow Observatory, using live data from growers all over Europe, we have now developed this beautiful installation, By the Code of Soil: (de)Compositions.
This artwork considers the already existing bio-marker which indicates fertility and other conditions of soil – Earthworms, alongside man-made technology – IoT sensors, as agents monitoring the work of these pre-existing living technology. Earthworms are biosensors of soil health as well as bio-mechanisms crucial for soil fertility.
In a specially constructed container – a monolith – there are different types of soil, moist and fertile and also depleted and dry. The tiger earthworms, which occupy the “topsoil” layer of soils, work tirelessly to mix both these types of soil – reviving and fertilising while at the same time recycling the remains of organic matter. Moisture sensors, placed across soils in the container(s), are continuously monitoring the soil conditions and their transition (thanks to the work of the earthworms) whilst bespoke piezo sensors seach for activity and number of worms. These sensors influence the sound surrounding the container, which is distributed spatially across at least 4 speakers and slowly changes in time and space. Stay tuned for showings of this work in the coming year.
Back in 2007 I had the opportunity to create Faultline with choreographer Shobana Jeyasingh, the award-winning choreographer, who has been creating her fearless and enigmatic dance works for the last thirty years. Her work is deeply rooted in her vision of how culture and society affect us and I was honoured to create Faultline with her. The work itself is now actually taught on the GCSE dance syllabus in British schools and has remained a firm favourite of mine. Amusingly my bank manager once told me that his twin daughters were in fact studying the work at school and they had some questions for me at the time.
I recently had an opportunity to speak about this work in depth with Sanjoy Roy, dance critic of The Guardian newspaper, in episode 2 of Surface Tension. In this podcast Roy recollects his memories of the piece, the style, aesthetic and evocative atmosphere. The anxiety, the coolness and the swagger of what it meant to be young, British and Asian at that time. Shobana talks about the various creative collaborations that all knitted together in the final piece; the film which acted as the prologue, the initial introduction of the dancers, characters and music. I also speak about how the music evolved and created characters and mood, long before the physical movement had even begun. Please tune in and have a listen, and also to the first episode with composer Michael Nyman speaking about his early collaboration with Shobana.
Now over to some ‘pop’ music for a brief interlude. Back in 2012 I was invited to contribute a cover version of any tune I chose from the Australian band Severed Heads for a tribute on the Clan Analogue label. I’d actually seen Severed Heads play one of their earliest shows at the ICA in London back in 1984 and followed their music since that time, so it was a real honour to work on this. Interestingly later on I discovered that my friend Paul Hartnoll of the popular beat combo Orbital had also been at this very same show, so that was a nice bonding experience!
So, I chose to cover their rather poppy song Adolf A Karrot? And since for some inexplicable reason it’s not available online I thought it might interesting for people to hear a style of mine I rarely return to, namely vocals and optimistic uptempo beats.
I’m working at the moment on a very unique project that connects architecture with sound that will premiere at the Tide Festival at Greenwich Peninsula in London. Over two weekends, 5-7 and 12-14 July you will be experience for free an original new work of mine that runs for twenty minutes.
The Tide is London’s first riverside linear park co-created by the architects behind New York’s High Line which will have public art and landscaped trails for running, walking and meditation. Alongside my work there will be live music, art, film, holistic wellness activities and shoreline feasts, all overlooking the River Thames. Some of the other acts will be Yoko Ono, Mulatu Astatke, Gaz Coombes, Morning Gloryville and many more. More on this next month when I can reveal more!!
Tickets for GRIMM go on sale on 3rd June. After the phenomenal success of the sold-out tour of The Netherlands last year the show returns in April 2020. It’s a world where ballet meets hip hop in a unique collaboration between dancers of Dutch National Ballet and ISH Dance Collective. We previously teamed up in 2015 to create the hugely successful Narnia: the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and GRIMM reunites the two companies, with ballerinas and hip-hoppers challenging and surprising each other and along the way forging a new dance style all their own.
A co-creation by Ernst Meisner and Marco Gerris, GRIMM fuses the stories of Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel into one big adventure in which all the characters dance ‘happily ever after’. Meanwhile you can listen to the entire score online here.
So, back onto the road and to the most southerly point of the UK.
Until next month, thanks for your support.
::: listen :::
Amon Tobin: Fear in a Handful of Dust (Nomark)
Andrew Poppy: Hoarse Songs (Field Radio)
Iain Chambers: The Eccentric Press (Persistence of Sound)
Blue Gene Tyranny and Peter Gordon: Trust in Rock (Unseen Worlds)
::: read :::
Arthur C Clarke: Lost Worlds of 2001 (Sidgwick & Jackson)
Matthew Barney: Redoubt (Yale)
The Boulez-Cage Correspondence (Cambridge Uni Press)
Butthole Surfers: What Does Regret Mean (Melodic Virtue)
::: watch :::
Cargo: Yolanda Ramke
Dead Set: Charlie Brooker
Escape at Dannemora: Ben Stiller
2001 A Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick