Oxford Contemporary Music’s summer commission brings 7 of the UK’s most exciting sound artists together to create a landscape of wind-driven instruments and installations. Co-produced with Oxford Brookes University’s Sonic Art Research Unit, Audible Forces presents sonic lawns, a flock of pigeon whistles, and towering wind harps amongst its collection of otherworldly sounds. The artists involved are Max Eastley, Mark Anderson, Jony Easterby, Kathy Hinde, Dan Fox, Nathaniel Mann and Mike Blow. Audible Forces is co-commissioned by Brighton Festival and Without Walls and received its premiere in May 2013 on the seafront at Brighton Festival.
From the epic to the intricate, Audible Forces is a tour de force of instruments that harness nature’s unseen force, the wind. Each installation in the show is a different imagining of what an Aeolian instrument can be.
Max Eastley’s towering structure is a variation on the classic Aeolian Harp, taking the form of a set of bow shaped instruments. Reaching high above the ground to transmit the wind from above our heads, it creates a haunting voice for the wind.
Mark Anderson’s twenty one Wind Synthesisers form his “Phantom Field”. Using an Atari Punk Synthesiser (built and modified by Graham Calvert) and computer fan, the Wind Synthesisers transform the slightest breath of wind into an adjustable audio signal. Anderson adjusts and plays his Phantom Field to create swirling harmonics and gale force sirens.
Kathy Hinde’s “Sonic Reed Beds” were inspired by the movement of reeds in the wind. This ensemble of sound sculptures re-imagines the natural reed using sprung steel topped with metal or stone. As they move in the breeze, the tops collide creating random compositions of varying densities, from the quiet, gentle collisions of beach pebbles to overlapping bell-like chimes of metal domes.
Dan Fox has created “Howling Wire”. An imposing installation made from recycled military and orchestral hardware, it stands at twelve metre high. This electro-acoustic wind harp uses weathervane whistlers and sirens to create its howling sounds.
Nathaniel Mann releases a ‘kit’ (flock) of Birmingham Roller Pigeons, each carrying a hand crafted whistle, to create a moment of music shaped by the natural lilt of the birds in flight, their movement audibly traced out against the sky. Listeners on the ground are left to imagine their continued chorus as it drifts away, hovering in the near-distance.
Jony Easterby has two creations within Audible Forces. “Rol mo wind horse” uses goose feathers to create the perfect sail to catch the wind. Each revolution triggers the bronze and brass cymbals to crash together sending good fortune into the world. “Stress and Stone” is a cluster of delicate but imposing ten meter fibre glass poles that are put under tension by rounded river stones. The tension of the bow, set against the mass of the stone creates the pitch. Feather vanes blown in the wind create a random pulse.
Mike Blow has created “Arpeggi”, an installation of two large anemometers, each playing a series of notes and creating interfering sound patterns as they revolve in the wind.
Alan James, Creative Producer, OCM, said, “OCM is proud to be working with a team of established and emerging artists who will design and build musical instruments and sculptures to capture and make audible the sound of the wind. We hope you will come and join us in this sonic playground.”
Andrew Comben, CEO, Brighton Festival, said, “ We are delighted to have co-commissioned Audible Forces with the Without Walls Consortium and we welcome its world premiere at one of the city’s most iconic vistas as part of the opening weekend of Brighton Festival.”
Audible Forces will tour to:
Brighton Festival, 4th – 6th May 12pm – 6pm
Norfolk & Norwich Festival, 17th – 19th May
Ageas Salisbury International Arts Festival, 25th – 26th May Greenwich + Docklands International Festival, 21st June – 23rd June Stockton International Riverside Festival, 2nd – 4th Aug
Lakes Alive, 10th – 12th Aug
OCM’s previous work includes Ray Lee’s Siren and Ethometric Museum (for which Lee won British Composer of the Year for Sonic Art 2012); Power Plant, which has gone on to be an international hit under Simon Chatterton Productions; and Mira Calix’s Nothing Is Set In Stone, which was part of the Mayor of London’s Secrets programme and London 2012 Festival. OCM has joined up with the Sonic Art Research Unit at Oxford Brookes University to produce Audible Forces. SARU provides a forum for dialogue between the fields of Composition and Sound Art and has been proud to have Max Eastley as a Research Fellow for the last two years. OCM and
SARU also work together annually for Audiograft, an annual festival of contemporary experimental music and sound art, that SARU curates and produces, and OCM co-promotes.
Audible Forces is produced by OCM and Oxford Brookes University Sonic Art Research Unit. It is co- commissioned by Brighton Festival and Without Walls. The participation of Max Eastley in Audible Forces has been supported by AHRC. Nathaniel Robin Mann is a Sound and Music Embedded artist in residence with Pitt Rivers Museum and OCM. Embedded is supported by Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.
OCM is supported using public funding by Arts Council England. OCM gratefully acknowledges financial support from PRS for Music Foundation.