So it’s currently 17 degrees Celsius, pouring with rain with heavy grey skies, so it must officially be summer and perfect weather for a music festival.
Indeed, I’m sitting in a tiny family hotel in Norberg in Sweden as I write this, having just performed at the 18th edition of the Norberg Festival. It all takes place in the most extraordinary location, Mimerlaven, a defunct ore mine extraction site located in the centre of town. I was honoured to play as part of a special evening presentation of Pomperipossa Records, an experimental record label owned by composer Anna von Hausswolff. The space itself has a staggering reverb of more than seven seconds so you can only imagine how sound spirals through the space and I played a deeply emotive and immersive set in the early hours of morning. The entire evening was professionally recorded too so here’s hoping for a release of some of this material one day soon.
The day before I departed to Swden I launched my new installation, The Dreamer is Still Asleep, at Little Morton Hall in Cheshire. The work features sound and smell exploring
the ‘golden age’ of sleep in in Tudor England. Like many homes of the time, Little Moreton Hall was a space of social engagement where many came to visit, and, with hustle and bustle all around and irregular patterns of life for guests and household alike, a sound night’s sleep was an impossibility for many.
The Dreamer is Still Asleep is a sound and aromatic installation that explores the transcendent state between sleeping and waking with sounds that would once have filled the hall. Visitors can expect a sonic experience of blurry dreamfulness, where voices, music, footsteps and glasses clinking together merge with a musical ambience to create an atmospheric and cinematic experience. Visitors sit on a bench outside the building itself and experience the work, whilst smelling lavender on a free postcard they pick up on entering.
The work continues until the end of October 2017 so hope that some of you have the opportunity to experience it in full at some point. More details can be found here.
Last month ToGather premiered at the Manchester International Festival 2017, a new work in collaboration with artist Susan Hefuna, dancers from Studio Wayne McGregor and local performers from the community, with no experience of dancing or performance. It turned out to be a profoundly moving work live and for those of you who could not see the shows there’s now a website which offers up an alternative exploration of the ideas, with my new score. You find find it here.
New work of mine is also featured as part of the on-going Acoustic Camera project. Here the team invites composers and sound artists to annex the real-time flow of webcams located in various places around the world. So I chose this extraordinary robotic system that moves books around in a library in the USA and delivered a gentle ambient score that echoes the repetition and machine-like quality of the webcam. Since it’s set in the USA it’s best to watch during daylight hours when it’s more active, but of course you can listen to the sound at any point in time. Listen here.
This month also saw the release of Flames and Fire, a new limited edition art film, produced at the Rauschenberg Residency in Captiva Floria, exploring the movements of flamenco dance.
Flames and Fire is an exploration of the complex rhythms of flamenco and its passionate and vigorous movements. Fascinated with the sheer force and physicality of the stamping and hand gestures of this form of Spanish folk dance, Scanner focusses on the movement of the feet of a dancer, Zarina Rimbaud-Kadirbaks, wearing vivid red shoes and net stockings.
In Flames and Fires, the dancer’s steps are slowed down to a mnemonic pattern and accompanied by a hovering harmonic texture. The sound of the shoes tapping on the floor fluctuate in pitch creating a dramatic and sensual work that explores the textured beauty of flamenco, revealing the clean elegance underpinning this flamboyant dance. The film itself loops in a hypnotic fashion and I encourage you to pick up a copy whilst the price remains accessible!! The edition price increases for every few copies sold, so don't miss out here.
In the light of the recent death of French composer Pierre Henry (9 December 1927 – 5 July 2017), I found out this live recording from Berlin in 2003 when I was invited to create a kind of live mixtape using my own materials combined with recordings of Henry, entitled Nomadic Concrete. I processed, stretched, treated, and reworked original recordings and created this live fluid mix in the theatre.
I once travelled with Henry across Belgium, to a tiny ancient chapel, where we played a concert together. He slept almost the entire car journey. At the show that evening he performed an elegant and engaging tape piece, and when I took the stage I was quite nervous, clearly keen to impress this legendary figure. As I looked up I saw him sitting there in the audience, contentedly deep asleep again. Let's hope he's sleeping happily wherever he is now too. Download the work in full here.
You can now pre-order my very special limited edition new album on CD and digital. The Great Crater comes out on September 2017 on Glacial Movements. Especially commissioned by the label, inspired by the tale of strange circles appearing in Antarctica, this is a dark, cinematic and organic album, available directly from the label in September.
I had read about the tale of strange circles appearing in Antarctica. Flying overhead in 2014 a group of scientists spotted a circular formation of 2km diameter. For a time it was thought that it could be the scar left by a crashing meteorite but in fact it was quite another story. Investigating the circle on foot in January 2016 scientists found a 3metre deep depression, with vertical well-like shafts in the middle. Drilling into the ice they found multiple lakes beneath the surface, as part of a 'hot spot' or melting ice sheet. There is growing concern that it could lead to further disintegration. The album explores an immersive, fragile and moving exploration of themes inspired by this simple tale. At moments the ice moves and a sonic scar if formed, at others the chill wind blows across the exposed water.
The Great Crater offers up a musical response to this tale. You can listen to excepts from the entire album here.
I tend to celebrate minor musical moments in the studio online these days, via Soundcloud and YouTube. After a day of failed explorations this little piece suddenly emerged so I share it with you as a modest creative moment. Remember, when all else fails…watch here.
Vex House in London was recently finished. It is a new building designed by Chance de Silva and inspired by the work of composer Erik Satie and his composition Vexations. I was commissioned to create a permanent sound installation as part of the project which is installed within the house itself, and was released in edited form on CD late last year.
Returning to the house a few weeks ago I was listening to the sound of the building itself and tried an experiment. Inspired by American composer Alvin Lucier's work I Am Sitting in a Room which features Lucier recording himself narrating a text, and then playing the tape recording back into the room, re-recording it. This new recording is then played back and re-recorded, and this process is repeated. Since all rooms have characteristic resonance or formant frequencies (e.g. different between a large hall and a small room), the effect is that certain frequencies are emphasized as they resonate in the room, until eventually the words become unintelligible, replaced by the pure resonant harmonies and tones of the room itself.
So what you hear here is a 12 minute work with every minute registering another recording played back into the room, until after just eleven replays the original source material has been almost entirely devoured by the room itself, leaving this rather eerie deep dark tone remaining. Listen and download it for free here.
August is a busy month in the studio, whilst also mentoring students at Leeds College of Music, which is always rewarding. On Saturday 19th August I play a very special show in the city too, at Belgrave Music Hall for a Modular Meets event, which is free to everyone. I’m honoured to be performing on the same bill as Chris Carter from Throbbing Gristle too, and then enjoying conversations about modular synths for many hours!
So, until next month
::: listen :::
Colin Stetson: All This I Do For Glory (52 Hz)
Xordox: Neospection (Editions Mego)
Aphex Twin: Field Day (Warp)
Gordon Mumma: Electronic Music Of Theater And Public Activity (NWR)
::: read :::
Gordon Mumma: Cybersonic Arts (Illinois Press)
David Weigh: The Show That Never Ends (Norton)
Lindsay Reade: Mr Manchester and the Factory Girl (Plexus)
Cabinet 62: Milk
The Autopsy of Jane Doe: Andreé Øvredal, UK/USA
Suntan: Argyris Papadimitropoulos, Greece
John Cage Journeys in SoundL Allan Miller, USA
Sound Waves-The Symphony of Physics (BBC)
The Dreamer is Still Asleep
Little Moreton Hall
29 July – 29 October
The Dreamer is Still Asleep is a sound and aromatic installation that explores the transcendent state between sleeping and waking with sounds that would once have filled this grand National Trust building.
Open Space 2017: Re-envisioning the Future
Between the Bullet and the Hole
ICC Tokyo Japan
27 May 2017 - 11 March 2018
A group show, featuring Between the Bullet and the Hole, a film by artist Aura Satz that I designed all the sound for, which examines the role of women in ballistic research, early computing and pattern perception in warfare.