OscilloScope V: All the World’s a Stage So Where Does the Audience Sit?

A quick note from last night’s event… As we are now into the 5th month that OscilloScope has been running: I am really happy to say that it is expanding into being a remarkable little event. Last night vindicated this feeling, as we had some truly outstanding performances from an international line-up, in addition to this, we ran out of chairs due to a capacity audience!

As we set up for the evening it already started to feel like it was going to be a bit special. I am usually there first, setting up mixing desk and speakers. This is usually combined with trying to tape down the few cables that I use, to make sure that if people trip over in the snake pit of cables which usually happens later, they are at least not mine.  Within about quarter of an hour, the space incrementally fill up with more and more equipment. Soon almost half of the room was festooned with cassette tapes, VJ kit, bespoke stomp boxes, an ebowed ukulele, and more mini mixers than I had the presence of mind to count.

By the time I had got enough set up, in order to feel sufficiently relaxed to put the kettle on (a third-of-an-hour before the start of things), there were members of the audience turning up.

For those of you who have not been before, this may sound like a bit of a crisis moment, however it really was not. One of the joys of these events is that they are relaxed, people are constantly swapping in and out cables, sound checking in the 5 minutes before they play, chatting and exchanging ideas. It’s not a formal concert or a set-list gig, we do ‘stuff’, we experiment: and, out of the rough and tumble of this environment, skills and concepts are honed, ideas are exchanged and some phenomenal art and music gets made.

img_7833Tonight proved to be no exception, we started with Adam Boyes, continuing his exploration of cassette and analogue processing; this time with the addition of a mini-synth and drum pads. When combined with Greg Byatt’s V.J. and lighting skills (which he continued to do throughout the evening) it created a beautifully immersive piece with some shimmering and evolving textures.

The second piece of the evening was Alex Bailey’s Dance Electronique. This received its premiere last Thursday in an octophonic version as part of a 70th birthday concert, for UK electroacoustic pioneer Denis Smalley. Like a lot of Alex’s img_7838work it blends the discipline of acousmatic composition with another genre in this case dance music. This evening he diffused a stereo reduction of the piece out to the quad speaker setup which we have at OscilloScope. Having heard it last week and this evening it is genuinely surprising how different an essentially fixed piece sounds, in a different context with slightly different spatialization. To be honest I loved both versions.

The first half was brought to a close by Andrew img_7840Hooker performing a piece for no-input-mixer, FX and shortwave radio. The juxtaposition between the purely ‘synthesized’ tones coming from the desk, the filtered vocal material and the dance between the two made for a tremendously effective piece which evoking an array of environments; both beautiful and unsettling in equal measure.

The second half was restarted by Canadian guests: Laura Kavanaugh and Ian Birse AKA Instant Spaces. Their setup comprising various small instruments (violin, ukulele and drum etc.) rigged with contact microphones, vocal headsets, a raft of midi controllers, a laptop and tablet running home-made software (Max & TouchOSC) and several bare metal (obviously bespoke built) effects units, was enough to get me intrigued. How on earth do two people reasonably control that many things well? It turns


out that it is with a great deal of skill and clearly a long time spent learning and experimenting with their setup. We were treated to some phenomenal improvisation and live processing (made all the more atmospheric thanks to Greg’s continuing visual work) over the course of a roughly 20 minute set. I was very happy to sit at the mixing desk some 5 feet away and watch the fine detail from a wonderfully privileged position, and was not inclined to move!

The final two pieces of the evening came from Phil Layton, which were two wonderfully varied AV pieces comprising projection with soundtrack. The first was a short, mesmerizing and brutal, black and white, heavily processed film, complete wonderfully with stark and angular synthesis. The second, slowly unfolded with delicate footage which gradually evolved underscored by a tranquil time-stretched bass audio track.  It was a fascinating and marvelous way to finish an outstanding event.

Thank you very much everyone!

I’m already looking forward to the next one…

Instant Spaces are in the UK thanks to the support of Canada Council for the Arts/Conseil des arts du Canada.


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