And so here we are, at the end of the year, and time to evaluate what’s past and what’s to come. Don’t worry though, this isn’t a semi-nostalgic post about the past year, picking out my highlights, but a simple appraisal of where I am and what to expect in the future.
I was honoured to play my last UK show of 2019 in Manchester, one of my favourite cities, where I presented new work at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation. The Foundation was established in 2003 to encourage and support public and scholarly interest in all aspects of the life and works of Burgess, a writer, composer, poet, linguist, translator and critic. He is best known for his novel A Clockwork Orange which many of you might be more familiar with by way of the Stanley Kubrick cinematic interpretation.
The event previewed a new double-LP of rare archival material and exclusive remixes, curated by artist Alan Dunn in collaboration with Guy-Marc Hinant, focusing on the 1000+ cassettes that sit in the Foundation Archive. You can read more and listen to excerpts at the Sub Rosa website here.
For me it was fascinating to have this personal insight and entry into Burgess’ life, via these recordings of domestic life, answer machine messages, tapes of birdsong and piano playing. Given that I’ve got a personal archive of recordings going back as far as 1975, where I recorded Spiderman off TV, our family having dinner, school trips on the bus, and so on, it holds a particular resonance.
The night in Manchester featured a wonderfully amusing surreal sermon from the The Reverend Max Ripple, and bizarre balloon manipulations from David Birchall, and my own, far more serious, 30 minute live modular synth deconstruction of the original tapes. Everything was filmed and recorded so stay tuned for when this is likely to make an appearance online soon. It was also a joy to chat with Sian Roberts about this project on the radio and offer my thoughts on Burgess and archives. You can listen back to the entire interview here.
I am actually writing this newsletter returning from Paris where I just performed a show at Nouveau Théâtre de Montreuil, celebrating the life and work of French composer Luc Ferrari (1929-2005). Stereo Spasms #2 featured performances from his widow Brunhild Meyer-Ferrari, Helene Breschand, and ErikM and myself performing together his Archives sauvées des eaux – Exploitation des concepts n°1 (2000), a wildly energetic work that we’d previously performed at Café Oto earlier this year. It was such a splendid night and a joy to see a capacity crowd appreciating such challenging music, and a real pleasure to meet the extended Ferrari family too!
Now, when I moved home just over four years ago, abandoning the familiarity of a city that I was born and raised in, London, to live in a former textile factory built in 1875 in the East Midlands of the UK, a key reason was access to space. In cities space is a premium and we all live with a level of compromise, led mostly by economics. I had already reached a point, not even at an old age, where I could not buy another book, another record, another object, without wondering where it might actually sit within the apartment. Packing up boxes and boxes (and boxes and more boxes) of books, carefully numbering each and every box to ensure they remained in order, was an utterly exhausting task but also a weighty one, quite literally. A total of one tonne of books in hundreds of boxes summed up my life, and that’s not counting the vinyl and CDs. Now, as these short years have passed, the acquisition of new books doesn’t decline and of course there aren’t enough hours in the day to read everything! I just wrote a little piece about buying and collecting books and how the desire for art books in the 1980s even left me physically sick! Read more here.
For many years I’ve had the joy of scoring and sound-designing work by Slovenian artist Ursula Berlot, and our latest work is currently on show at Gallery Equrna in Ljubljana. See photos of the show here, and watch Observatory Nanotubes and Inverse Space here.
Footfalls is finally out in the shops and online and being received exceptionally positively which is encouraging. It’s available in a special edition of just 300 copies on orange vinyl, with metallic pantone spot colour artwork. And, of course, includes a download code. You can pick it up here at Bandcamp, but don’t delay, it seems to be selling very fast! You can listen to the entire release via the Bandcamp link or simply immerse yourself in the graphics over at YouTube.
And speaking of limited editions one release has already disappeared since last month’s newsletter! Archive Land opened at the Museum of Applied Arts in Cologne in May 2019, as part of the Artist Meets Archive series for the Photoszene Festival. Like many museums the MAKK holds a wealth of materials that are hidden away in a dark basement and rarely see the light of day. So, for this special project Dutch artist Erik Kessels was given access to this unique collection and chose images from their photo collection. Reproducing these photographic plates to enormously oversized playing cards he built a huge house of cards, which you could visit inside the museum.
To accompany this, Erik invited me to create a sound installation to translate the archive into sound. I began by thinking about the photos themselves and what music might have been listened to at the time when they were taken. I settled on the work of Beethoven and replayed a very famous sonata of his on the piano, extremely slowly. To this I added all the sounds that might emanate from the photographs themselves, so the ticking of clocks, footsteps, horses, someone coughing, a crowd in the street, church bells, birdsong and more. All of this was then filtered through a kind of sonic lens so that the sounds appear and disappear, as does the music, suggesting a dreamlike quality to the room, moving the past to the present.
The installation resembled an archetypal dilapidated historical building. Just like an archive, these structures are often hidden away and difficult to access – relics from bygone times. Walking through these motifs ranging from the Middle Ages to the 19th century and letting the mind wander encouraged visitors to perceive these usually hidden visual worlds in a new way.
A special collector’s box, featuring a set of playing cards that duplicate images in the exhibition, and a music cassette, in an edition of only 200 copies, signed by Erik Kessels and myself, was available for a very brief period online at Bandcamp. This sold out completely within 12 hours. Fortunately, the digital release is still available and can be picked up here. Watch documentation of the museum installation here too.
And whilst speaking of limited editions stay tuned to this site, The Dark Outside, next week, as there will be a very special item indeed available in just 100 copies on tape, and no further sales. It’s an unreleased soundtrack work from 1998 and 1999 relating to the film director Jean Luc Godard. You will discover everything by tuning in to the website. Releases there tend to sell out within just a few hours so please don’t miss out!
And with that, it’s time to offer you my finest greetings for this forthcoming festive period and fresh new year! Here’s hoping that 2020 brings you all the joy and reward that you each deserve. As for me at present I have many projects bubbling under for 2020, and intend to focus on studio work for the time being and working through my archive. There are over 600 hours of unreleased material so it might soon be time to share some of this with the world at large!
::: listen :::