A major feature of my work has been a responsiveness to place and to situation. In other words I tend to think of pieces more as events or occasions than “works”. This has often taken the form of site-specific work that considers the social, political or historical dimensions of the performance venue as integral to the experience of the work. In Ludus for example (commissioned by the colourscape festival in 2009), the family oriented nature of the colourscape experience led me to transform the space into a giant boardgame shared by the musicians and the audience. In other works such as Living Steam and the Kings Wood Symphony (with Matthew King) the history of the space is foregrounded in the musical material. In Triptych, made for the science museum in 2001, the performers and listeners intermingle in the exhibition space, integrating the performance into the life of the museum. Transferring pieces to other venues (such as the re-installation of Living Steam in Victoria Tower (pictured) at the 1999 Huddersfield Festival brings particular challenges of reinterpretation and often demands some revision to the work itself.
Posted on 2011-03-12 12:40:42 .
Ludus was a lot of fun. It was the 2009 Rawsthorn commission for the Colourscape festival on Clapham Common. Colourscape is an amazing structure in which visitors walk around and experience the fascinating mixtures of coloured light filtering through the canvas walls. The structure is owned by the Nettlefold Trust who run it as a music venue for contemporary music. I had been struck by the similarity of a map of the structure to the layout of board games like Ludo and decided to devise musical games that could be played by two groups of musicians by throwing dice. Four games were devised with different rules and different musical materials. The throw of dice could generate the spatial structure of the pieces by determining the moves of the players. Decisions about the way the musical materials were treated was linked both to the numbers thrown and the colours the musicians landed in. An additional technological element was added (of course) with the two team captains carrying colour sensors that fed back to a central computer using wireless MIDI. Thus the colours influenced the spatial diffusion of the sound as well as the balance of various electronic materials and effects.
The game was originally played by the Apollo Saxophone Quartet and the Navarino Saxophone Quartet. It was also performed as the finale to the Colourscape residency at the 2011 Capital of Culture in Turku, Finland with local musicians.
Posted on 2011-03-12 12:22:41 .
The Kingswood Symphony was a collaboration with my friend Matthew King with whom I had already done some work on an Opera on Brunel (it got as far as a BBC Radio 4 documentary but is still incomplete and teasing us with its potential). Matthew was commissioned to produce a piece for Kingswood in Kent which is run as an open air arts venue by Stour Valley Arts. He wanted to use electronics and approached me. The piece involved chains of Horn players calling out to each other across the space with electroacoustic transformations. Both audience and players have walking routes through the forest and come together in a valley for a grand finale. The first performance featured the most amazing thunder storm causing the event to be restaged a few months later! A second related work, the Kingswood Quintet was premiered in Wigmore Hall. Here the electronics serves to recreate the sense of depth and distance of the outdoor performance.
Posted on 2011-03-11 18:07:25 .
Triptych was commissioned in 2001 by the London Science Museum’s contemporary art programme and funded by the Wellcome trust. It consisted of a performance event held in the Who Am I gallery in the then recently opened Wellcome Wing for 3 live singers with eight channel electroacoustic sound. The brief was to explore the gallery’s theme of identity, which I tackled by using singers from different vocal traditions – Jessica Summers (classical soprano), Barbara Gaskin (popular vocalist) and Najma Akhtar (Indian vocalist). I wrote material which each interpreted according to their own traditions. The electroacoustic music merges and transforms their vocal identities while the presence of the live musicians in the space reasserted their individuality as they walked among the gallery visitors.
I am currently re-working the material as a locative iPhone app to be launched in Spring 2011. You can hear a stereo mix of the electroacoustic tape above. The image is of a repeat performance given in the 2001 Colourscape festival.
Posted on 2011-03-12 10:09:31 .
Living Steam was commissioned in 1998 by Sonic Arts Network as a site-specific installation for the Kew Bridge Steam Museum. The museum is housed in a former pumping station by the Thames and features the world’s largest collection of working Cornish beam engines including the enormous 100 inch Grand Junction engine. The piece took the form of an eight channel composition in which the live sounds of the engines were juxtaposed and combined with transormed recordings creating a kind of concerto for beam engines and electronic sound.
I have put a complete stereo mix of the tape in the player to give an impression (but you really had to be there!)
Posted on 2011-03-07 14:54:44 .
Boomtown is quite a pivotal work for me. Created in 1998 for the 150th anniversary of the borough of Oldham, it was a multichannel installation designed to accompany an exhibition about the 19th Century Radical movement and ran at the old Oldham Art Gallery for six months. Archive interviews are used alongside industrial sounds to examine the personal and social histories of some of the town’s inhabitants. It launched my personal interest in oral history and spoken word in sonic art. It also introduced a way of working with space in which the movement of the audience determines their experience. Individual stories are located in small speakers around the room allowing each audience member to focus on individual narratives while simultaneously being aware of the whole. This draws attention to the personal experiences of the speakers, while positioning their stories within a wider context of social history.This is a stereo mix of the 8 channel original.