Cardiff to Ceredigion - Here are a few words about the visit of our 'Buddy' from our perspective. I don’t think that anyone would say that Penparcau is the kind of place that you’d expect there to be an interest in experimental electronic music. It’s a small village in rural Ceredigion on the outskirts of Aberystwyth nestling up against the ‘Celtic’ Hillfort Pen Dinas, an area which was classed as a Communities First area. However, there is a growing interest in the Arts and what might be seen as a small underground movement with an interest in taking a more avant-garde approach to composition and performance, thanks to the support of Ty Cerdd!
While taking part in the CoDI Electronic Composers programme I’d met @Richard McReynolds and become aware of his work. I’d also been able to discuss different approaches to composing, notation and ways of performing with him, a shared interest that we have.
We were aware of some of the performance systems and software that Richard had built and were keen to get him to come and work with us. ‘Electronic’ performances can sometimes be more enjoyable for the performer than the audience, and can consist of a person sitting on stage looking at a laptop pushing buttons and twisting knobs, which isn’t particularly interesting for the audience, and it’s something that we wanted to get away from, and we knew that this is something that Richard had tried to avoid in his practice. We saw the call for “Buddies” and were lucky enough to be able to get funding from Ty Cerdd (via the CoDI Buddy scheme) for Richard to work with our group (now called) The Ensemble Electronic (Cymru) as part of the Penparcau Community Forum Arts and Music Group.
We’d had various email exchanges with Richard, I’d met with him in Cardiff and I was slightly worried about using up too much of his time, all of this adds up! So we decided to do a focused workshop and we’d have a drop-in style approach so that people come and take part throughout the day – this works much better than a couple of hours here and there for us, and travelling between Cardiff and Ceredigion several times is time consuming.
“You find the sound with your body” (talking about using Richard's software)
During the first part of the day we were introduced to different sorts of ‘digital instruments’, such as the Microsoft Kinect controller and the GameTrak, we were familiar with this from our work with Jenn and Simon of the Swansea Laptop Orchestra. Richard also introduced us to Max/MSP a visual programming language. We were able to spend some time using the programs that he had developed and getting used to the feel and flexibility of using these sorts of set-ups to compose. This exploration was a great way to introduce people to this sort of technology. After a short while we were able to suggest ways in which we’d like to develop this set up and the sorts of sounds, compositions and themes that we’d like to address.
Later in the day, equipped with recording gear, hydrophones, shotgun mics and stereo mics we went out and explored the local harbour and beach, listening to, making and collecting all manner of interesting sounds from the site, which we could take back and use to start bringing together our ideas. We sat down and quickly went through our sonic collections, listening, editing and mixing. We then imported them into the system. This allowed us to manipulate the sound and develop a sense and feel for what we could accomplish – and to think about the shape of a future work.
At one point the MP for Ceredigion (Ben Lake) came in and was fascinated by what we had been doing, he was really supportive of the collaboration and interested in the ways that we were performing our developing work. As the day went on time flew by and we’d been able to draft something together that we’d like to develop further. Before the end of the day we’d made some plans and it was time to head off, with our heads full of ideas and a whole day’s worth of sonic explorations, but what next?
Site Specific Sound - A Future Focus
There’s no doubt that we’d definitely like to work with Richard again, and have been developing a small project that we’d like to co-compose, score and record in an innovative way. We’d like to develop some of Richard’s software and work with him to perform and record a set of short pieces.
Our concept is based around the notion of a Sonic Triptych - Three pieces that can be listened to individually, or together as a single piece.
We will develop the piece/s with Richard using his software to explore a range of approaches, from field recording to developing synthesized sounds and vocal experimentation (in Welsh & English). We will perform and record the pieces, and we will then create a site-specific way of allowing people to engage with the compositions in different locations via their phone. Anyone will be able to go to 4 specific locations, open a piece of software using their phone and hear a performance that is related to that specific place – 3 individual pieces and 1 combined mix of the pieces. Each location will add to the experience of the listener.
Our theme is “The Wild & the Sea”.
Having a downloadable experience means that more people will be able to engage with the work and experience it – we’d like to think that we can break down barriers to taking part in musical experiences.
Reflecting and Thanks Everyone enjoyed the time that we spent working with Richard and the opportunities, ideas and imaginings that this has enabled us to have. It has also given us the confidence and enthusiasm to really think about how we can develop as a group and musically. The way that Ty Cerdd have been able to ‘seed-fund’ different projects is leading to new and exciting musical collaborations and ways of understanding, performing and sharing music in Wales, and that’s important for our small community and Wales as a whole.