The first of a series about sound art and music from the Music, Technology and Innovation Research Centre of De Montfort University. Composers: James Andean, Mike Blow, Robin Parmar, Virginie Viel, Neal Spowage and John Young.
James Andean is a musician and sound artist. He is active as both a composer and a performer in a range of fields, including electroacoustic music, improvisation, sound art, and audiovisuals. He is a founding member of several groups and ensembles, including Rank Ensemble, LOS duo, and VCA. He has performed throughout Europe and North America, and his works have been presented around the world. He is a lecturer at the Music, Technology and Innovation Research Centre of De Montfort University.
Mike Blow is a UK based sound artist and academic. Mike works with sound, electricity and physical objects to create interactive installations and unique instruments. Awarded a PhD in sonic art from Oxford Brookes University and currently working with the Music Technology and Innovation Research Centre at De Montfort University.
Mikes current interests concern the idea of ‘automatic music’. This implies setting up frameworks within which musical composition can occur entirely or partly through the influence of outside forces. Examples are interactive installations which respond to (or are played by) the audience, weather-driven work, and improvised performance using systems that are partially out of control. Automatic music encapsulates ideas of generative systems, self organisation and feedback which have been of interest to me since my master’s study in artificial life in the early 2000’s.
Robin Parmar is an intermedia artist whose practice incorporates electroacoustic composition, installations, improvisation, radiophonics, sonic ecology, poetry, and photography. Works have appeared in Ireland, England, Portugal, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Canada, and elsewhere. Occasional Lecturer at DMARC, University of Limerick Treasurer for Irish, Sound, Science, and Technology Association (ISSTA)
Doctoral student at De Montfort University’s Music, Technology and Innovation Research Centre (MTI)
Virginie Viel is a composer of electroacoustic music and visual artist.
She used to practice photography, video and audiovisual installations to compose imaginary places and landscapes. She started to compose soundscapes during her Master in visual communication at L’Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Caen, France (2008). In 2008, she moved to Brussels to study acousmatic composition at the Conservatoire Royal de Mons, Belgium. She obtained a Master in acousmatic and electroacoustic composition in 2014. Since then, Virginie is interested in exploring the relationship between visual and musical domains. In 2014, she started a research at De Montfort University in Leicester (UK). Her PhD investigates the impact of visual arts practice on acousmatic composition. She is part of Séneçon, a collective of composers based in Brussels and a member of the Belgian organisation FeBeME-BeFEM. She has collaborated with various artists and composers on musical and audiovisual projects in France, Belgium and Greece. Her works have been played in Europe, America, Japan and Australia.
Neal Spowage is an artist and associate of The Dirty Electronics Ensemble in Leicester, Agony Art in London, the DAP LAB at Brunel and the SOMA project in Birmingham. He designs and builds Sculptural Electronic Musical Instruments then composes works for them using the disciplines of Dance, Video Art and Live Art. Neal’s research interests include collaborative relationships, negotiating expertise between disciplines, sound as an artefact of movement, interaction, objects as totems, junk sculpture, ritual, choreography and gender dynamics in performance. He sometimes composes sound art in the studio and he is an experienced rock musician who released a commercial CD album, SUGAR (2009), on Resurrection Records with the Screaming Banshee Aircrew.
John Young is Professor of Composition the Music, Technology and Innovation Research Centre at De Montfort University, Leicester, having previously been Director of the Electroacoustic Music Studios at the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. His output includes multi-channel electroacoustic pieces, large-scale radiophonic work, and music combining instruments and electroacoustic sounds. His music focuses on the use computer technology to transform and combine sounds in innovative ways to create sonic drama and musical development. In his work as a sound artist he composes largely with his own field recordings, using these as windows on experience and creating new, imaginative worlds by embedding them in networks of digitally realised sound design.
1/ James Andean: Déchirure, 2013. 07:35
Déchirure: a tearing, a painful separation… This piece involves a number of ‘déchirures’, both musical as well as Aigurative (personal separations: the plaintive cry of the distant train, etc…) although the only literal ‘tearing’ is saved for the Ainal phrase. It is also a reference to the sound materials: through the act of recording, these have been ripped from the world and moment which birthed them, to be reappropriated through the creative act in the creation of this piece. This work was composed for the Presque Rien 2013 project, for which sounds from Luc Ferrari’s archives were made available to composers for the composition of new works.
2/ Mike Blow: Choose Your Weapon, 2018. 04’46
A single take improvisation on a Klangorium lunetta synth, edited for length and with minor post-production. The Klangorium is a project by Elliot Williams which brings together several CMOS logic chips on a single board and allows them to be patched together in a manner similar to a modular synth. In this piece, the circuit came alive and sparred with me for half an hour. The addition of the 4015 shift register to the patch suddenly resulted in only semi-controllable swoops, crackles and swathes of noise, which would respond to my input only to then head off on their own trajectories once again. It is still not clear who won.
3/ Robin Parmar: Perturbation, 2012. 09’06
Parmar’s practice is rooted in field recordings drawn from his daily life, which are then subject to various spectral and temporal transformations. Sources biotic and abiotic, artificial and otherwise, are reconfigured to emphasise our embedded situation in a network of connections and flows. “Perturbation” creates an imaginary realm of mete orological and ecological forces from a limited palette of sound sources.
4/ Virginie Viel: An Ocean on the moon, 2017. 10’21
An Ocean on the moon is an acousmatic piece that explores the maritime theme through the evolution of a soft yet shiny, joyful and destructive instrumental netting texture.
A particular emphasis is placed on the diversity of sensations that may overwhelm a viewer in front of the sea, between memories of joyful moments, lonely wander and sudden fear. This piece is an evocation of visual and kinetic experiences of the sea.
Through this project, I have studied the rich expressivity of the instrumental gesture, sometimes methodical, sometimes impulsive. I have also explored the composer’s gesture which at each stage of the creative process works on the fludity of the drawn gesture, curved, voluptuous, and sometimes extrem. This project results from a collaboration with several instrumentalists who performed musical sequences based on visual images and video clips, and with Alex Retsis, a composer who processed some of those instrumental performances.
This piece has been partly composed at the Ionian University, located in Corfu, Greece and has been completed at the Music Technology and Innovation Centre, at De Montfort University, located in Leicester, United Kingdom. I thank very much Theodoros Lotis for his warm welcome at the Ionian University, for his listening and support during the accomplishment of this project. I also thank Andreas Mniestris, Dionissis Batjakis for their help, and I thank the beautiful people and talented musicians who participate to this project : Alex Retsis, Elesa Papakosta-Smyri, Giorgos Stavridis, Rrezarta Krougia, Sevastianos Motorinos, Niki Kokkoli, Ektoras Remsak, Nafsika Karagianaki, Stelios Michas-Eglezos and Sofia Ketentzian.
5/ Niel Spowage: Crafting Anatamies, 2015 07’52
This piece was commissioned specifically to accompany an exhibit, by fashion designer Ania Sadkowska, at the ‘Crafting Anatomies’ Exhibition at Nottingham’s Bonnigton Gallery from 7th January to 4th February 2015. It was played on a loop over headphones and a section was later used in her award winning short fashion film ‘Dis-Comforting’. It was compiled from interviews, in English, that Ania recorded for her PhD. I stitched them into a sound-art work that retained their content, context and meaning on the theme of fashion and the older man.
6/ John Young: Apparitions, 2016. 17’20
Apparitions attempts to articulate a very personal response to the evocative qualities of four sounds, recorded in different locations.
• A freight train blasting its horns while passing through a small US town;
• Part of the intoned Ave Maria from a church in Florence;
• An ensemble of hunting horns from Cathédrale Saint-Étienne in Bourges and;
• An evening chorus of cicadas from near Bolzano in Italy.
In addition, an impulse response of a single hand clap recorded in Gustav Mahler’s composing hut in Dobbiaco/Toblach (also in Northern Italy) participates in much of the audio processing.
His use of field recordings stems from a desire to reflect creatively on everyday experiences of the world. By taking recognisable sounds from real events and embedding them within a network of transformations I aim to enhance their imagery and expressive power : windows on the imagination that become more evocative than the original recordings could be alone.
The attempt to amalgamate the particular sonic images in Apparitions emerged from an emotionally charged experience. In 2014 John spent one night in Bowling Green Ohio, where he was to have stayed for two weeks working on a composition project at the Bowling Green State University. Early that evening John had the devastating and disorienting news that his father had died quite suddenly and he made immediate plans to travel to his hometown in New Zealand. What sleep he had that night was broken several times by the horns of freight trains slowly moving through Bowling Green, just a short distance from his 4th floor apartment. John returned there six months later to fulfil his original planned project to find that, as before, trains would wake him with their unpredictable appearances at all hours of the night. Although inextricably linked to the trauma of that night six months earlier his response was that, rather than being a disturbance, the wailing horns of these ‘beings’ took on a curiously comforting presence : a cry marking a moment in their inevitable passage to an unknown other place … solemn, triumphant, yet insouciant. John responded with similar sentiment to the calm, resolving strength projected by the ritual recitation of the intercession ‘Santa Maria, Madre di Dio, prega per noi peccatori, adesso e nell’ora della nostra morte …’ while the intensity evoked in the rich buzz of the Armistice Day horns and the cool haze of evening cicadas seemed to complement the impression of a call receding into a deeper hyper-physical space or spiritual state. In the context of the work, fragments of these sounds become apparitions—as though torn from memory—foreshadowed, supplemented and thrown into relief by timbral colouration, hints of pitch and dynamic spatialisation. The work is in four subtitled sections : Passage (from 0’00’’); Hall of mirrors (from 6’56’’) ; Emergence (from 11’51’’) ; To the ether (from 14’59’’)
Produced for the Concertzender by Roland Kuit