For the ZENDEH Micro Award I was commissioned by a panel of young people to produce pieces of work for an event at the Literary and Philosophical Society based on the script for Zendeh’s new piece CINEMA, a personal and intimate play surrounding the tragic Cinema Rex fire in Abadan, Iran.
The event showcased installations by the artists who received the award, as well as excerpts from CINEMA, poetry readings, an Iranian tar recital and public workshops and activities also hosted by the artists.
The video above is the culmination of the workshop that I held for the ZENDEH Micro Award. I hosted a ten person workshop using small, self-contained synthesizers with speakers based on 555 timers and LM-386 op-amps and built on breadboards. These synthesizers had one potentiometer to control frequency, which simply ranged from low frequency to high freqency. Through the course of the workshop I introduced the participants to the synthesizers, and guided them through customising the frequency range to their by switching out capacitors in the circuit.
Once everyone had customised their instrument, I introduced the graphic score for the performance – a graph of the population of Abadan, Iran (the place of the Cinema Rex catastrophe). The idea was to use the graph as an inspiration for the performance – rather than a dogmatic 1:1 score which must be obeyed, there would then be a 5 minute performance with the synthesizers, inspired by the graphic score.
The workshop was designed to be simple and open, with no obligation at any point to submit to any fixed rules surrounding the performance. The result was an engaging performance which everyone enjoyed, and an incredible sound in the rich acoustic space of the James Knott room in the Lit and Phil. The synthesizers were taken home by the workshop participants, along with information about the construction of the circuit, and further modifications that were possible.
The other part of my work for the ZENDEH Micro Award was a proximity-activated four channel sound and light installation, a personal response to the script and the cinema rex fire, which responded dynamically to interaction with participants and observers, creating a personal, immersive and interactive experience. Documentation of this piece is forthcoming.
Thanks to ZENDEH for curating, commissioning and organising the event, and Matt Jamie for the video/audio documentation.
This is the video (taken by Harry Wheeler) from the TUSK Archive of the first of three performances by RE/CEPTOR at Blank studios.
RE/CEPTOR was a bespoke project for TUSK Festival comprised of long-established duo Trans/Human (with whom i’ve worked before), Contemporary dancer and movement artist Nicole Vivien Watson and myself.
The project is a multifaceted one. The three performances for TUSK festival involved myself and Nicole performing in BLANK studios, with Trans/Human performing in Marseille concurrently. The audio for Trans/Human’s performance was being streamed live to Blank Studios via NiceCast, an OSX internet radio streaming protocol, and their audio was then fed into the performance setup in Blank studios, more on this later. The performances happened on four speaker ‘surround’ sound.
The main focal point for both of the performances was Nicole and her movement, I designed a custom wireless sensor array for her to wear through the performance which tracked light, body capacitance, temperature and movement. These sensors were attached to Nicole at relevant points (hands for movement, body capacitance on fingers and so on) read by an Arduino Nano, which collected the data and fed it wirelessly via an inexpensive nrf24l01 chip to another Arduino connected to my laptop which I created a shield for to house another nrf24l01 chip. This second Arduino received the data that Nicole was creating and was read by Max 6, and this data formed a very crucial aspect of the performance as a whole.
Here are some photos of the prototyping, building and wearing of the sensor
Top to bottom: Prototyped version of the sensor array, the Arduino and radio chip, the completed array, and one of Nicole’s hands showing an accelerometer and body capacitance sensors.
Once the data was into max 6 it was used to control a number of aspects of the performance. Nicole’s movement controlled effects on the stereo feed from Marseillie – changing filter poles, adding delay and decay to the feed. This effected stereo feed was broadcasted on two of the four speakers in the room, the ones in the back two corners. The other two speakers had two granular synthesisers playing, one of which was controlled by Nicole’s movement and one which was controlled by me. Nicole’s body temperature and body capacitance was also summed to create a low frequency sinewave drone which was played on all four speakers. Nicole’s data also controlled the strobe light via DMX which was the main source of light in the space. For the first performance (the one in the video) the strobe light frequency was a summation of body temperature, light and body capacitance, however after discussion with Nicole we felt that this obfuscated the relationship between her and the strobe, and we changed the program for the other two performances so that the strobe light was directly controlled by the position of one of her hands, which was much more effective.
All of this was tied together for me by a touchOSC interface which controlled various aspects of the parameters of what Nicole was effecting (unstable parameters such as filter resonance et cetera) which did not lend themselves to control by movement, as well as giving me control of one of the granular synthesisers, to do a kind of synthesiser duet with Nicole.
The result of this was four channels of sound, two coming from Marseillie and two from the room, but all were dependent on the movements of Nicole, locking all performers to a central groove. Trans/Human could not themselves hear what was going on in Blank studios, but in Blank we were very much improvising with their material. Being able to mesh all of us in this way was perfect – Trans/Human’s tour and the audio they collected and performed, my building/patching/sound generation mediated through Nicole’s movement. The binary state between darkness and light combined with full bodied four-channel sound created an immersive experience and environment for both performers and audience, and yielded, to my mind, three distinct, varied performances.
Thanks to Lee Etherington, Harry Wheeler and Hugs Bison for organisation and documentation, and thanks to the folks at Blank studios for being immensely helpful in accommodating our audio/internet needs.
Nicole is the creative director of Surface Area Dance Theatre –
Trans/Human is Adam Denton and Luke Twyman –
Captcha is an improvising duo comprised of myself on electric guitar with preparations and electronics, and Greta Buitkute on vocals.
Described as ‘Sonny and Linda Sharrock meets Hijokaidan’ by SUBTERRANEAN Newcastle, we play improvised, pulverised song forms, with extenuated quasi-jazz, lowercase improv crackling, screeching, screaming and post derek bailey guitar angularity.
We have played shows supporting Trembling Bells, The Horse Loom, Trans/Human and other across various spots in Newcastle.
http://feltbeak.tumblr.com/post/44209110480/captcha-hyperforeignism-greta-buitkute-sean Hyperforeignism – Released on the Felt Beak label
http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Captcha/Butyraldahyde/ Butyraldahyde – Released on the Kakutopia label on Free Music Archive.
I have also performed in and recorded with several ensembles for releases on the Felt Beak label, on various instruments including Violin, Electronics, Mixed Media, Guitar and Voice
Spawn and Thot – No Skoolin’ All Foolin (with Dario Lozano-Thornton)
Agatha Christie – Murder in Mesopotamia (With jwaffer, Emily King and Gwilly Edmondez)
An Audionce with Ypsmael – The Coffin (With Norman Ypsmael, Charlie Bramley, Neil McMahon, Greta Buitkute and Dario Lozano-Thornton)
GSD – Parking (With Dan Dixon and Greta Buitkute)
My new trio, Spawn Thot and Ghast have played two dates so far this month, once at Northern Improv with the Eliot Smith Dance Company, and once at the NUCME live electronics concert.
Spawn, Thot and Ghast is composed of myself (Spawn) on amplified table, electronics and dictaphones, Thot on electronics, objects and dictaphones and Ghast on voice.
effected upon by objects, processed live using ableton controlled using a Launchpad, EMU Xboard 25 and Behringer BCR2000. The live processing can be used to create simple repetition of material, or can be used to push signal into various sampling procedures producing first, second, third, (…) generation processings of the original sound.
All of this is improvised live using the electronics setup, and is improvised with Ghast and Thot.
Performed in Newcatle University recital room on a 6-channel surround sound system.
We are performing with an updated setup on the 20th as St John’s Church as part of the #UNPITCH_Action_3 /// AEQUUS NOX event
Videography by Gustav Thomas