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Collaboration with Dancing Brick

I am collaborating with Dancing Brick theatre company – on the music and sound design for A L I C E
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‘Alice’ is inspired by the old analogue test cards of the 1980s: the colours, the technical problems, the feeling of waking up at 6 in the morning and waiting expectantly for the TV programmes to start. It is about searching for signal and transmission, trying to pluck images out of the air.

A world exists on the other side of the colour bars: a world of VHS, of cassette tapes, of bright colours; a world counting down to the end, where a girl is looking for her lost doll through a storm of white noise. Alice is being developed at BAC for performance in 2011.

A BAC Scratch Commission.

Sonic Art Oxford 2010

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A piece of mine has been selected for the Sonic Arts Jukebox at Sonic Art Oxford 2010 that takes place this weekend. Docile Choir is one of thirty four tracks that will play on a jukebox that forms the central part of the sound installations in the Richard Hamilton Building.
Link to an online version of the jukebox here

Docile Choir – composition developed from interaction between the human voice and sympathetic resonance of piano strings

Sonic Art Oxford 2010 – Three days of Sonic Art, Electro-acoustic Music and Live Electronics hosted by the Sonic Art Research Unit at Oxford Brookes University.

More info at: http://ah.brookes.ac.uk/conference/sonicartoxford/

from press release –

An exciting and eclectic mix of contemporary and experimental music, including performances from ensembles Okeanos & [rout], pianist Catherine Laws, Dutch composer and flute virtuoso Jos Zwaanenburg, Diego Garro and improvising duo exquisite corpse. The event also features installation work from Stephen Cornford, alongside a sonic tuck shop and disfunctional disco.

Speaking Out at Tate Modern

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Speaking Out, The spoken word in artistic practice – symposium at Tate Modern on Saturday 6th Feb featured performance and presentations from Tomomi Adachi, Dani Gal, Caroline Bergvall, Nye Parry, Trevor Wishart, David Toop, Imogen Stidworthy, Brandon LaBelle, Inua ‘phaze’ Ellams and Oswaldo Macia.

Cathy Lane (of CRiSAP) presented the work of selected artists that feature in her book ‘Playing with Words, the spoken word in artistic practice’ (2009).

Tomomi Adachi performed a piece for voice and infra-red sensor shirt whereby the gesture acts as a “kind of modulator for the voice”. Sampling his own voice in real-time and modulating it via his movements within the shirt, he built up a complex and captivating cacophony. The putting on and removing of the shirt (including the resultant soundscape) formed part of a performance that, concluding with the neat folding of the shirt, provided aural humour that transcended linguistic boundaries.

Caroline Bergvall’s ‘Say Parsley’ discussed issues surrounding the 1937 linguistic ‘shibboleth’ in Haiti where the pronunciation of the Spanish word for Parsley: ‘perejil’ became a matter of life and death. Her work on ‘identity, gatekeeping, mishearing and imposed meaning’ made for an informative and thought provoking presentation.

It is said that prior to drowning, one’s life flashes before the eyes. Trevor Wishart’s ‘Globalalia’ put me in mind of how those last moments might be if the recollection was purely aural and what was flashing before the ears was every human vocal utterance ever made – a monumental piece.

Perhaps the most compelling work, Brandon La Belle’s ‘The Sound at the back of the mouth, almost’, was presented largely without sound. Questions such as ‘Where does my voice reside?’ and ‘What sounds does it make within the space of thought?’ were projected as white text on a black background and engendered an introspection that sought to ‘follow the voice in and outside the body’, aiming for the ‘inner voice as the paradoxical coupling of sound and silence’.

It struck me that contemplation of this inner voice seems prescient as the global communications network continues to grow and real aural arenas are replaced by virtual ones to which we, as a species, are (arguably) unsuited.

In Spaces speak, Are You Listening? (Blesser, B., Salter, L. MIT Press, 2007) Barry Blesser argues that humans are not designed for our current auditory environment. He quotes Robin Fox, from Conjectures and Confrontations, Science, Evolution, and Social Concern (Fox, R, New Brunswick, 1997)

“In some sense, (spaces) are human because they are human inventions. It is one of the paradoxes of an animal endowed with intelligence, foresight and language that it can become its own animal trainer: it can invent conditions for itself that it cannot handle because it was not evolved to handle them. ”

According to Blesser, “The aural architecture of our modern spaces trains those of us who occupy or inhabit them.”

Upstairs Downstairs Musical Box

Today I sampled a musical box that plays the Godfather love theme with the idea of manipulating the fragments to create a new piece for the “meta-musical box” to play.

Once I had the fragments, however, I decided to put together a version of Upstairs Downstairs as PM on Radio 4 has been playing listeners’ versions for the past few months on the Upshares Downshares slot.

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Memories of Bletchley Park

Oral History interview

Madeleine McDonald 1942
Madeleine McDonald 1942

Madeleine McDonald worked on the Bombe machines in Hut 11 at Bletchley Park between 1942 and 1945.

All those involved in the intelligence gathering and codebreaking work that took place at Bletchley Park signed the Official Secrets Act and maintained secrecy about their wartime activity for thirty years.

The work carried out at Bletchley Park is credited with shortening the war by two years. In addition, Bletchley Park is now regarded as the birthplace of the world’s first electronic computer.

Recording made on 29th October 2009 in Hadley Wood, Hertfordshire.