Rhythm & Drone gigs in Romney Marsh and Venice

For the past week whilst the RCA have been exhibiting at Machines Room for London Design Week I’ve had a couple of gigs, which are the first two under the Rhythm & Drone heading.

Firstly in Ivychurch, Romney Marsh in Kent, I played a set using three analogue synths and dubplates of recordings of windfarms by Caleb Madden across a three speaker system. I’d rehearsed the set at Machines Room and also prepared some records to use in the performance.

Secondly in Venice for the opening of Symphony of Hunger: Digesting Fluxus in Four Movements, I played four sets to a new instructional score called  Holon Music. The performance(s) were very much informed by my research on the residency , and I used records modified using the machines there which will be left as part of the exhibition.

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Discussion group with Leslie Deere – Sonic Art. Lo-fi. Real Time. Digital. Analogue. Colour. Expanded cinema. Photography. Interactivity. Perspective. Immersive. Environments. Microcosms.

On Tuesday 29th September from 2-4pm, Leslie Deere will be guest for the discussion group. The group is informal and all participants will be welcome to share their thoughts and ideas. We’ll be discussing recurring themes in Leslie’s practice – Sonic Art. Lo-fi. Field Recordings. Collage. Sculpture. Time medias. Real Time. Digital. Analogue. Colour. Expanded cinema. Photography. Interactivity. Perspective. Immersive. Environments. Microcosms. – Plus new ideas from the residency and various tangential and semi-related thoughts.

Originally from Tennessee, Leslie moved to the UK to study Sonic Art, continuing from a performing arts dance back ground in NYC. Her recent eight channel sound installation for Air Space Gallery in Stoke drew on the city’s history of rave culture and industrialisation. Leslie’s live performances use analogue and digital audio equipment alongside field recordings and her lo-fi video projections, to make abstract and absorbing drone collages. Leslie has exhibited internationally with shows in Italy and Switzerland, and has a permanently installed sculpture in Geneva. Commissions include sound installations for Kew Gardens, Glasgow Centre for Contemporary Art and London Fashion Week SS15. She is represented by Galerie Analix Forever, Geneva / Paris.

Rhythm & Drone Discussion group with Leslie Deere
Machines Room: Meeting Room
Tuesday 29th September, 2pm to 4pm.
45 Vyner Street (Ground Floor), London E2 9DQ
Machines Room is located towards the end of Vyner Street in a warehouse building on the left hand side coming from Cambridge Heath.​​

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Day 12: More making + Venice records

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Lasercutting the tone arm stands – each happily fits on about an A4 of plywoodIMG_0140

A few bits needed recutting due to some measuring issues.

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The stands completed – just need to solder them up and they’ll be ready to go.


I also spent a proportion of the day scouring a few charity shops for Venice-related records for the gig there next week. I had it in my head that the soundtrack to Death in Venice would turn up, I’m sure I’ve flicked past it loads of times in the past. But unfortunately it didn’t. I found this record eventually which will work well too:

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And here’s the other venice connection Strauss’ Lagoon Waltz from A Night in Venice.” (already modified and ready to go.

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Day 11: Multiple synths and more modified records

This coming Saturday I’m performing in Romney Marsh for Dear Serge, for which I’m planning to use three analogue synths triggered with the mechanical techno set-up, alongside field recordings of the wind farms there. So today I had a test of the set up.

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Big thanks to Justin and Stuart for lending me their matching Yamahas!

I also made up some more records with vinyl stickers to blank parts out. Thinking about breaking down the bar into quarters and 16ths for the Holon Music performance the following week.

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Demonstrating the record I also tested out this brutal auto-return technique. It’s a bit too haphazard to use live but I think I’ll use it in some studio recordings further down the line.

Finally I put a few tweaks to the tone arm crane and should be able to cut the final versions tomorrow. Mainly getting the dimensions right but I also made the latch a bit more user friendly.

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Day 10: Arm latch, blanked-out record and more research.

A couple of modifications to the adjustable height tone arm. First a latch to hold it off the record when not in use. I made a couple of tests out of card first to get the dimensions right.

I also made some pointy feet, or ‘talons’ as Mark called them, to add a bit more stability.

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Finally I used the vinyl cutter to blank out some records. This is a technique I use already when ‘live sampling’ from records – it allows only a snippet of a track through per rotation of the platter. The tone arm needs to be held in place to stop it sliding straight to the centre, and to keep the loop playing.

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[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XCLd7OY5kwg]

I also updated the blog this morning with some of the reading I’ve been doing around Rhythm & Drone
John Stephens on rhythm as a fundamental element of music
Christoph Cox – Being as Time in the Sonic Arts “The real distinction is between two kinds of time”
The drone in Indian ragas – Derek Bailey and Bill Viola

The drone in Indian ragas – Derek Bailey and Bill Viola

By coincidence two books I dipped into the other evening had particularly relevant sections talking about the use of the drone in Indian traditional music.

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First, Derek Bailey’s book Improvisation: Its nature and Practice in Music, which opens with two chapters in Indian Music. Bailey explains the way a Raga is structured and how improvisation is used to create each piece.

A svara is selected and used as a centre around which melodic activity can take place. Most of this activity is in srutis acting as satellites of the svara. The whole of the activity can take place over a continuous drone or fundamental. If a singer is taking part in the perormance, the drone, or shadja, is chosen by the singer and all the instruments tune to that. (p3)

I’ve been thinking about the two first Rhythm & Drone performances and how to structure them. The first, in Romney Marsh, I’m planning to loosely base on the structure of a raga. (The second one is based on my new fluxus-style score Holon Music.)

… The raga is also the framework within which the musician improvises it is divided into two halves. The first, the alapa, forms an out-of tempo slow introduction. The second, the gat, is played over the tala, the rhythmic cycle, and the characteristic material of the raga is treated in various standard ways. (p5)

While Bill Viola is best known as a video artist, his background is in experimental and electronic music, having worked with David Tudor amongst others. Reasons for Knocking at an Empty House is a collection of writing and notes from the artist’s archive. In it he mentions twice his analogy between video as a medium and Indian traditional music.

Musically speaking, the physics of a broadcast is a type of drone. The video image perpetually repeats itself without rest at the same set of frequencies. This new common condition of the drone represents a significant shift in our culturally derived thought patterns. It can be evidenced by contrasting another drone-based system, traditional  Indian music, with our own European classical music.

Western music builds things up, piling notes on top of notes, forms on top of forms, in the way one would construct a building, until at last the piece is complete. It is additive: its base is silence, all musical sounds proceed from this point. Indian music, on the other hand, begins from sound. It is subtractive. All the notes and possible notes to be played are present before the main musicians even start playing, started by the presence and function of the tambura. A tambura is a drone instrument, usually of four or five strings, that, due to the particular construction of its bridge, amplifies the overtone or harmonic series of the individual notes in each tuned string. It is most distinclty heard at the start of the performance, but is continually present throughout. The series of overtones describes the scale of the music to be played. Therefore, when the primary musicians play, they are considered to be pulling notes out of an ongoing soundfield, the drone. (p160-161)

Here’s some music to put these quotes into context, played by Ravi Shankar.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-DFv3gWex4]

Discussion group with Tom Mudd – on evolving, continuous systems, and the relationship between technologies and Rhythm & Drone.

On Friday 18th September from 2-4pm, Tom Mudd will be guest for the discussion group. The group is informal and all participants will be welcome to share their thoughts and ideas. We’ll be discussing recurring themes in Tom’s practice,  evolving, continuous systems, and the relationship between technologies and musical areas like Rhythm and Drone. Plus new ideas from the residency and various tangential and semi-related thoughts.

Tom Mudd is a musician and programmer interested in relationships between software, composition and improvisation. His current work explores new synthesis methods through the use of Duffing oscillators coupled with banks of resonant filters. The resultant systems have many properties in common with acoustic systems found in reed or bowed instruments. Tom’s other works include Nonlinear Dynamical Systems – a research project investigating the use of nonlinear dynamical systems in digital musical interfaces; Porcelain Music – An ongoing project exploring the sounds of Walther Stürmer’s porcelain sculptures. With Tobias Stürmer and Akāshamitra; and Haptic Interfaces – a research project investigating haptic interfaces for new musical instruments stemming from a STEIM residency.

Rhythm & Drone Discussion group with Tom Mudd
Machines Room: Meeting Room
Friday 18th September, 2pm to 4pm.
45 Vyner Street (Ground Floor), London E2 9DQ
Machines Room is located towards the end of Vyner Street in a warehouse building on the left hand side coming from Cambridge Heath.​​

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Artist residency research and documentation blog by Graham Dunning