3 May 2016
For those of you that could not make it to this year’s Audiograft, but would like to get a sense of what went on, here is a short run down of the goings on from Wednesday 9 to Saturday 12 March – enjoy!
Wednesday 9 March 2016
The Story Museum
Dan Fox’s Shimmer Tree situated in the courtyard of The Story Museum, seemed like it had always been there. Constructed of wrought iron and painted a delicate shade of green, the cymbals with transducers situated underneath hung from a series of connecting chains in the crown of the tree. The transducers activated different intensities and rhythms that acted upon the cymbals creating moments of ephemerality one minute and cacophony the next. A thing of phenomenological wonder it delighted the children and adults that came to stand directly underneath or around it.
John Henry Brookes Building Courtyard
Situated in the central courtyard of the Oxford Brookes Headington Road/Gypsy Lane campus, Mike Blow and Alison Ballard’s Pod sat there like colourful transmissions from the BBC sci-fi drama The Prisoner. But moving past this popular culture association these brilliantly blue balls secretly hummed and reverberated with sonic meaning that required a synthesis between ball and ear to appreciate in full.
Headington Hill Wooded Area
Suspended from a tree near to the Richard Hamilton Building on the Oxford Brookes Headington Hill campus, was Max Eastley’s Aeolian Metal. This thin sheet of brass manipulable by the elements produced shimmering effervescent periods of aeolian sound; and the bright, reflective quality of the metal added to the ephemeral nature of this installation, naturally situated.
On entering the front door at OVADA, we were met by Martin Nutt sitting at a desk officiously, and periodically tapping at his typewriter. Every so often he would rise, having filled a piece of paper, and attach it to a noticeboard just by his desk – the content of which was comprised of sonic observations.
Just before moving through to the main space, you could spend time with Mike Blow’s Aeolus Cabinet. The cabinet housed a set of wooden drawers with labels in brass plaques, that indicated a place and the country. When you opened a drawer you could be greeted by shrouds in the Canary Islands; bird calls in Ghibli, Libya; strong winds in Mistral in France, Santa Ana in California, Brickfielder in Australia, Yamakaze in Japan; wailing wind in Sharqi in Morocco; and crackling in Chinook in the USA. Open more than one drawer at once and you could begin to play with different intensities of sound.
Speeches were made thanking the Arts Council, Oxford Brookes University and OCM for their continuing and much appreciated support of the festival; and to the venues that help to host the concerts and installations. A summary of forthcoming events was given and the distribution of audioHEARth sonic bingo cards for completion during the days ahead was carried out.
Shortly afterwards Nathaniel Mann, an experimental performer and improviser, sang three folk songs pointing to the unusual performance spaces that they can be sung in that might not seem congruous to the tradition. The first was an arrangement of the Beggarman by Enoch Kent, the second was Mike Waterson’s version of Tamlin, and finally Katey Morey as sung by by Delta Hicks. The variety of song demonstrated the vocal evocation and humour possible in folk singing.
To finish Ray Lee performed his Wondrous Machine. A beautiful series of structures that each rotate a set of speakers at different speeds and play different tones as set by a small harmonium. The gradual build-up and cessation of sound was accompanied by a theremin line played by Ray Lee. The layers of sound resonated with church-like qualities throughout the main space of OVADA and some audience members moved around within their area to change and manipulate the sounds that reached them – adding to the possible versions of the piece.
Thursday 10 March 2016
OxfordHUB, Turl Street Kitchen
For the first Artist Dialogue, Ray Lee and Gordon Monahan spent time talking about Gordon Monahan’s piece Speaker Swinging and how it came into being. Gordon Monahan also discussed the work that he has been creating over the past five years using keyboard strings in different settings to create aeolian sounds, as well as transmitting midi piano music using motors attached to these keyboard strings.
At the audioHEARth Book Club the discussion covered five texts that the participants had brought with them. The first to be considered were three short poems by Rainer Marie Rilker: Evening, Solitude and Initiation; and how the use of punctuation, the sounds of the words themselves create different sonic intensities and sensitivities. The next text was Bertolt Brecht’s poem Song of the Machines, which reveals the sonic power and importance of technology, and a reflection of how the acoustic environment of technology has changed since the 1920s. The last text discussed was the third chapter from The Grapes of Wrath where John Steinbeck’s sonic language does much to describe filmically the environmental intensity and adversity of the journey of a land turtle from one side of a highway to the other.
Holywell Music Room
Philip Howard’s performance of Austin Sherlaw-Johnson’s 88 Notes for Piano was a dramatic yet measured performance of a piece that incrementally increases in content and dynamic; the sequential architecture of which demands a precise and powerful manner that Philip Howard embodied with ease.
Patrick Farmer and David Lacey’s thirty-minute set was a combination of tape and live instrumental work that involved a variety of extended techniques including the placing by Patrick Farmer of his foot on the skin of his snare drum. Patrick and David placed themselves and their traditional instruments amongst the audience, facing the technological instruments placed on the stage. The theatrical nature of the performance was also heightened by the movement of Patrick Farmer and David Lacey in the space to start and stop certain sonic content that was situated in the aisle and on the stage.
Trio Aporia’s performance of Jean-Philippe Rameau’s Pièces de Clavecin en Concert, Paul Whitty’s exhausted by place, Paul Newland’s infrathin, Alan Edward Williams’s Advices and Queries, and Tom Armstrong’s JPR, was lively and involved. The programme formed a pleasing dialogue between the composers that were inspired by and used the work of Jean-Philippe Rameau in their writing, as well as the work of Jean-Philippe Rameau himself. The intermingling of four movements from the Pièces de Clavecin en Concert with the other pieces served to actively reflect on how style and approach has been translated; from the florid and evocative lines of Rameau, to the contained, sustained, and precise gestures and processes of the more recent works.
Friday 11 March 2016
OxfordHUB, Turl Street Kitchen
At the second Artist Dialogue hosted by Ben Gwilliam, Patrick Farmer spoke about and played some of his current work in collaboration with David Lacey. Patrick Farmer then spent time explaining how this practice had evolved from his early field recording practices. He also spoke of his concurrent pursuit of writing and how he went about (literally) writing the three books that he has published in the last four years.
At the audioHEARth Pub Quiz this year there were five rounds to test how sound your knowledge was of contemporary music and its composers as well as the artists in the festival programme. There was also a creative round where you could try out your skills at creating a two-minute composition with the objects in front of you. Everyone involved had brushed up on their sonic pub quiz credentials and the point totals were so close we called it a draw!
The Old Fire Station
The programme this evening consisted of a wide range of electroacoustic works performed using an octaphonic loudspeaker set-up. Stephen Eyre’s and Geoff Geer’s fixed pieces explored the combining of field recordings, such as natural elements and possible voices, and placing these in dialogue with one another and electronically generated sound. Paul Dibley’s piece created in collaboration with Tim Howle used the poetry of J. M. Fox to explore the acousmatic qualities of text and sound; this played between surface tensions and gesture moving into more deep and guttural sounds and shifting movement.
For the second half Darragh Morgan’s performance of five pieces for violin and electronics was a powerful and visceral demonstration of the possibilities of the violin in this particular setting. Donnacha Dennehy’s Overstrung, Linda Buckley’s Exploding Stars, Jonathan Nangle’s where distant city lights flicker on half-frozen ponds, and Zack Browning’s Sole Injection traced a lineage of contemporary Irish or Ireland-based composers writing for the violin in this mode – each paid particular attention to the evocation of landscape and scale with large or expanding soundscapes. Jonty Harrison made a special appearance to diffuse his piece Some of its Parts, which was a dynamic interplay of moving parts that operated separately, collided, and worked in unison.
The Helena Kennedy Building
The last performance of the evening was Gordon Monahan’s Speaker Swinging situated in the now empty student union gig space of the Oxford Brookes Headington Hill Campus. This was performed by Nathaniel Mann, Charlotte Heffernan, and Ryan Quarterman who stood on tables set in a triangular constellation in front of the stage, with Gordon Monahan at his control desk at the base of this triangle directly in front of the audience. The piece went through three phases of varying intensities beginning with oscillator tones that changed to a static and granular pulsing growl before moving back to oscillator tones to finish. Throughout the lighting changed dramatically: from illuminating the whole space, to being in virtual darkness, to flashing white light to accompany the static growl. Each performer held a speaker cone and light box, which was attached to a long line of cable. This they swung around their body throughout the piece at fluctuating speeds. As the audience moved freely around the large chasmic space the theatrical nature of the piece could achieve its potential as the perception of the sound shifted significantly according to where you positioned yourself.
Saturday 12 March 2016
OxfordHUB, Turl Street Kitchen
At the final Artist Dialogue, Ben Gwilliam talked to Billy Roisz about her work with film. Billy Roisz described how she made the transition from physical theatre to working within an experimental film collective in Vienna and how she has sought to incorporate the corporality of physical theatre into her performances and installations. She played a ten-minute film of a recent work that was shot in the rooms of her house and in the theatre in which the piece was shown. This made reference to her memory of being in a dark room as a child and how the imagination generates fear and excitement as a result of being in this environment. The piece also made reference to the possibility of creativity when in hypnagogia – the state between being awake and asleep when you are not in a full dream state.
At the audioHEARth Fresh Ears workshop for children this year there were several station points where: you could compose with items such as a cereal box, an apple, a small megaphone, and small metal pots; you could wear sunglasses to create characters and performing focus; you could draw sounds and ideas to act out or play.
Denis Arnold Hall
One of OCM’s composers in residence, David Somló, had his piece Mandala played by and to an intimate audience. Each audience member that performed was given a set of instructions prior to the performance before being let into the performance space itself. Once inside each performer went to their allocated shape, picked up the portable speaker and waited for the signal to turn on their mp3 player. Once started, each performer experimented with walking at different paces taking care to avoid their neighbours – occasionally creating clusters of sound and at others some distinct sweeping gestures. A soft, barely perceptible change in light levels took place throughout before the sound faded and each performer came to a standstill.
The Old Fire Station
The last concert at The Old Fire Station was a tale of two halves. In the first John Macedo’s and Anne F Jacques’ performances were quiet, contained and attentive. John Macedo had a series of small speakers placed on a séance-like table to which he then applied small metal objects, rice and mugs, cups and drinking glasses in different ways to create delicate changes to the sonic environment. This contained sound world was invited to move beyond the table at certain points when John Macedo handed the loudspeakers to the members of the audience who were situated close to the table. Anne F Jacques used home-made motors on which she placed items that she has accumulated for their sonic interest and positioned thin strips of plastic attached to small metal stands against the surfaces of these objects in order to transmit their sonic phenomena. This was a gradual increase and cessation of different timbral grooves rich in character; a delicate exploration of the wonderment that can be achieved through the surface qualities of objects and their associated sonic potential.
The second half was a celebration of loudness. Arnaud Riviere’s collection of sonic tools included some thin metal plate objects, coils and springs, conducting rods, LP records, guitar loop pedals, small mixers with some bicycle spokes placed in the inputs, and a 45 record player. With these Arnaud Riviere created anarchic periods of reverb, feedback interspersed with sharp interventions that were at once humorous and satisfying to hear and to watch. To finish the evening Billy Roisz’s captivating performance of her Bass and TV Dining set took place in the dark, save for the images emitted from three CRT-TVs of varying sizes stacked on top of one another at one end of the table. The performance involved manipulation of several electronic devices to influence the sonic feedback and the visual representation of this activity on the three television sets. The territories that were explored here were set in dialogue with gestures on an electric bass placed flat at the other end of the table and the introduction of samples of popular European House music.
OxfordHUB, Turl Street Kitchen
The after-party! Here we all got a chance to relax and chat with one another. And, more importantly, for Stavroula Kounadea – who deals with all things audioHEARth – to hand out the prizes for the best Sonic Bingo cards completed. These cards were handed out at the launch night on the Wednesday for people to complete over a four-day period. Fourth prize went to Sam Kidel, third to Gordon Monahan and Ryoko Akama, second to Steve Larkin, and first to Dan Fox and Jo (surname unknown!).
4 March 2016
In anticipation of audiograft starting next week on Tuesday 8 March, here are some multimedia musings for you to mull over that some of our performers have mustered concerning performance approaches:
‘oops, i did it again’
24 February 2016
An interactive part of the audiograft festival that organises social activities with the express purpose of taking delight in sound is audioHEARth. As the name implies audioHEARth acts like a home, or a gathering place: an informal space in which to relax and hang out; a space to act as a meeting point for artists and audiences; and a social place where you get a chance to have a drink and a chat. It also acts as a space for fun and laid-back events and activities everyday throughout the audiograft festival, which will include Sonic Bingo, Book Club – Sounds & Literature, Sound Art Pub Quiz, and Fresh Ears – Family Friendly Activities. These give you a chance to make some sound observations in a chilled atmosphere. For instance, what do you do when you hear a fog horn? How would you draw the sound of a fog horn? What sounds would you expect to hear in Oxford? What sounds might define Oxford as a city? What sources are rich with sonic material? What gives a sound its meaning? Avenues and in-roads (perhaps a cul-de-sac or two) into these amusing or defining experiences and more are explored at the audioHEARth events from 9 – 12 March at the Oxford HUB’s Living Room space situated above the Turl Street Kitchen, 16 Turl Street, OX1 3DH. Check out photos of the space on the TSK website: http://www.turlstreetkitchen.co.uk/about/gallery and http://www.audiograft.co.uk/programme-2016/audiohearth/ for more information about the audioHEARth events themselves.