So, I’m safely returned from travelling, this time around the UK which is quite unusual for me. Cornwall was a genuine adventure, more so with the location itself. There was the daily challenge of driving down single lane roads built for two-way traffic, often in torrential rain, with low visibility. And yes, of course, on one of those days I got a flat tyre in the car, with traffic wishing to pass-by on a single lane, with no phone reception, and had to drag along at a snail’s pace until I could find a place to park to call for emergency help. And then spent five hours waiting for a replacement tyre. ‘This happens all the time down here’ said the AA support to me. At least I didn’t feel quite so alone.
Creatively the 400 Light Years project in Lizard Point Cornwall turned out to be a very thought-provoking experience indeed. With only a vague structure to begin the week with, days were spent exploring the most incredible locations. One day I was inside the tiny wooden hut out on the peninsula, where Guglielmo Marconi undertook his ground-breaking experiments into radio transmission, paving the way for much of what we take for granted today in terms of instant communication.
Another day I found myself at the Lizard Lighthouse which marks the most southerly point of mainland Britain, and given the densely foggy weather could enjoy the deep tones of the warning siren sent out over the water. And on yet another day I visited Goonhilly Earth Station, which opened in 1962, with its first satellite affectionately named Arthur. Nowadays it feels rather abandoned, with a vast landscape dotted by these huge white discs on concrete bases, like a scene from a dystopian sci-fi movie. Interestingly Arthur brought the first broadcasts of the lunar landing in 1969 to Europe, as well as Live Aid in 1985.
These research trips offered up inspiration and sounds to use in the presentation at Helston Museum at the end of the week, where artists Joanna Mayes and Justin Wiggan joined me in a performance that combined our material towards an interactive work in sound and image. Check out this page for more detail regarding the week, whilst much of the character of the week was perfectly captured in this blog post by Dutch Girl in London. At the same time in Helston I also had a wonderful opportunity to catch up with an old creative pen-pal of mine from the 1980s, Nigel Ayers of the band Nocturnal Emissions, so that was a genuine pleasure. Some of our conversation was recorded and you can read this online here.
Undercurrent has its world premiere next week in London, a new sound walk through Greenwich Peninsula, literally on the doorstep of the gigantic 02 venue. Marketed as London’s new flashy residential neighbourhood and cultural hub, Greenwich Peninsula promises to become the new hot destination for art, design and architecture, and to launch this initiative the Turning Tides festival is taking place, which runs over the first two weekends in July.
Undercurrent will accompany the 9-metre-high elevated walkway The Tide, flowing through native trees, providing a unique landscaped route for running, walking and meditation. It was designed by Diller and Scofidio, the very same architects who created New York City’s The Highline if you’ve ever have the chance to visit this amazing location. Over several months I collected recordings from beneath your very feet, capturing the sounds that we never hear. From earthworms burrowing their way through the soil, to fish in the Thames, to the electrical hum of machinery deep beneath the surface, Undercurrent celebrates a world invisible to the eye but ever active. Collaging these into a cinematic work for the ears, the listener is encouraged to traverse the walkway and tune into this unique world of sonic exploration, where even in the seeming silence there is a magical sound world. The work is entirely free, running throughout the entire festival. Wireless headphones will be available for free from a local kiosk. Just bring some ID for security so they don’t think you are going to steal the headphones!
On Saturday 6 July I’ll be in a public conversation with my long-time friend David Toop, writer and musician, at 15.00, so come along to have a listen and ask questions if you wish. The festival itself looks like it’s going to be a glorious affair too with former Supergrass singer Gaz Coombes, British singer Laura Mvula, Grammy award-winning Oumou Sangare, music programming curators Village Underground, iconic drag show performances by Sink the Pink, and the participatory Wish Trees art installation from Yoko Ono.
In a few ‘spare’ moments in the last weeks I’ve had a chance for a little playtime in the studio, this time focusing on this gorgeous AJH Synth system. AJH Synth are a British synth company run by Allan J Hall, who have released a wealth of synth modules over recent years. In conversation recently Allan kindly suggested loaning me a system to play with, to see what I might discover. This first video is a direct recording made in two hours with the system, recorded into Ableton Live, with percussion and drums added afterwards. Perhaps because I was listening to old Autechre tapes from the late 1980s and early 1990s broadcast for Warp Records 30th anniversary, the piece took on the character of classic IDM, glued together by the fat warm sounds of the AJH Synth system. Enjoy the music here.
A second, slightly more quirky and unusual sounding live performance can be heard here, as I pushed the synths to their limits in some ways. And whilst playing there was of course some accidental easy listening.
I’ve always been fascinated by interfaces and design, drawn to admiring photographs of control rooms for industrial power stations and ancient computer rooms, so this extraordinary looking Folktek Mescaline instrument had an immediate appeal to me. Thankfully not only does it look beautiful but it sounds quite otherworldly. I’ve just finished up a new album to be released on Touched Music, which will be released in a very unique box set in 2020. It’s a completely ambient album at their request so the Mescaline has taken a key part in the shape of this release. Here’s a piece that isn’t on the release but will emerge somewhere else I’m sure in some other fashion.
My work can also be heard in some more unusual places this month. My collaboration with choregrapher Lucy Guerin, Split, continues to travel the globe and can be seen at the Grec Festival in Spain from 5-7 July and at Theaterhaus T3 in Stuttgart Germany, and I absolutely encourage you to go along and see this work if you can. It features an original one hour score with the most unforgettable performances. Then Fingers in the Air, my work with choreographer Juanjo Arques, has its British debut at the Linbury Theatre at the Royal Opera House London on 5 & 6 July and I’ll be there for the opening night to enjoy it and answer questions too. It’s very interactive dance work with the audience too 🙂
If you happen to be in New York City my work can also be heard broadcast in a unique location inside the Charlie Morrow Sound Cube at the New York Electronic Festival at Harvestworks (31 July – 01 August 2019). This immersive 8:1 sound system will also present exclusive works by Stephen Vitiello, Olivia Block, Phill Niblock, Charlie Morrow, Martyn Ware, Pamela Z, and many more.
Now, back to the studio for more deadlines and creative adventures! So, until next month, thanks for your support.
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