These are exciting times for the National Eisteddfod of Wales who are embracing the diverse culture of Wales, " The Eisteddfod is the natural showcase for music, dance, visual arts, literature, original perfomances and much more. Encompassing all aspects of the arts and culture in Wales, it is an inclusive and welcoming festival ." The festival is usually attended by around 150,000 people, and this year I'll be performing/playing three experimental electronic compositions. One of which, " Pen Dinas in Voice " emerged from the Ty Cerdd CODI Composer (Electronic) programme, of which I was part.
This year Marc Rees , the internationally renowned art installation, performance creator and curator is curating AGORA . His vision is to develop a space where people openly perform, discuss and explore contemporary issues. A people's pavilion, which will give voice to the vibrant, diverse culture of Wales.
Creating this sort of space is conceptually innovative, Marc has enabled 'leaders' in their field to come together to create, discuss and perform, and for people such as myself who are involved in the Arts, Research and Technology it's a chance to show the way in which new or developing technology can play a part in the creation and performance of music.
On Saturday Ed Wright and I will be performing work that we've composed and recorded ( with live electronics, and field recordings captured in Wales ) especially for this amazing performance ( see below ):
LLinell | LLinyn For one night only, Mist will be inhabited and animated by dancers who will create a movement score responding to the dynamics of the sculpture and music from a live harpist where the taught strings of the instrument and the installation become intertwined via a mesmerising duet.
The artwork Mist by Sébastien Preschoux is a large scale thread sculpture commissioned by Migrations, stretching majestically from tree to tree within the grounds of Ffin-y-Parc Gallery near Llanrwst
Choreographer: Matteo Marfoglia Dancers: Angharad Harrop , Angharad Jones Harp: Helen Wyn Pari Sound Artists: Alan Chamberlain, Ed Wright Concept: Marc Rees Creative Producer: Iwan Williams - Ffiwsar
Mist Artist: Sébastien Preschoux Curator: Karine Décorne, Migrations
21:00, Saturday 3 August, Ffin-y-Parc, Llanrwst (doors open at 20:45)
On Thursday I'll be presenting two more pieces ' Pen Dinas in Voice ' and a piece which is a work developed especially for Agora, called ' Étretat & Nanteos ', which relates to specific events in the life of George Powell of Nanteos (his collection is held at the Aberystwyth School of Ar t - and they were kind enough to spend some time with me looking through his archive, which contains curios, sculpture and writings). The piece is a work in progress and incorporates 'The Minstrel's Adieu to his Native Land' (John Thomas, Pencerdd Gwalia - 1880), and uses some novel compositional techniques using Artificial Intelligence.
Acknowledgements All of the works have used software in their creation developed by Dave De Roure (Oxford University). We acknowledge Fusing Semantic and Audio Technologies for Intelligent Music Production and Consumption EPSRC EP/L019981/1. Étretat & Nanteos also uses the Magenta AI software. Alan Chamberlain is a Senior Researcher at the Mixed Reality Lab, a Visiting Composer at the Computational Foundry (Swansea University) and a Researcher in Residence at the Digital Catapult.
I was fortunate enough to get accepted for the CODI Hack sessions that are being run by Ty Cerdd, with a group of other composers. The sessions are about starting to understand the fundamentals of digital instrument design ( and electronics ), and although I've written about this in the past and have used a whole range of midi controllers and digital instruments, I've never really had the impetus or support to build something in a day, although I have tinkered in the past.
This first session was great for a number of reasons, being able to catch-up with friends that were also CoDI composers, meet other composers and find out what they're up to and to learn new skills that are useful to anyone who used digital tools/electronics in their work.
The day flew by, the morning session focused on Max/MSP and granular synthesis, building and running some small programs. The next session looked at the Arduino platform and again there was some programming in a different language - the final session brought the the two things together and by this time we were able to build something that allowed us to control different elements of a granular synthesis 'patch' (written in Max) with a hardware controller that we were able to put together and experiment with. The future session will see us present our design and maybe do a mini performance...of sorts.
I was really pleased to be able to attend this sort of event in Wales, normally things are run in London, Amsterdam or Berlin etc., so to run something like this in Cardiff was great. Would really like to see other people extend upon this and maybe even run something up in Aberystwyth in the future.
For more info on Max/MSP look here - https://cycling74.com
For more info on the Arduino platform look here - https://www.arduino.cc
It's often the case that if you want to do something that involves music and technology you have to head out of the 'country' towards the 'city'. If you live in Wales this often means a trip to the south. As a resident of North Ceredigion I've often felt as though there is an unfortunate lack of support in the area for anyone interested in Electronic and Electro-Acoustic music. As you can imagine time, cost and lack of public transport mean that it's difficult for many people to engage in activities that are hosted miles away.
With this in mind I'd spoken to a friend at Queen Mary University, who'd developed a an ultra-low latency system called Bela to run a day's workshop in Aberystwyth. " Bela is a maker platform for creating beautiful interactions. Designed for artists, musicians, researchers and makers, Bela brings the power of ultra-low latency interactive audio to your projects ."
I'd been involved in some related projects at STEIM in Amsterdam, London and FACT in Liverpool with him and seen some amazing things being developed, so I was pleased when he said that he could support the workshop. Luckily I'd also spoken to Deborah at Ty Cerdd, and together we'd met Aberystwyth Arts Centre, who kindly offered us a space for the day.
The workshop was a real success, with people saying that they really enjoyed the experience. One thing that I didn't expect to happen was that people wanted to come to the 'country' from the 'city', to have a time to think, reflect and be creative...and hang out by the sea. I suppose when you live near the sea, surrounded by mountains, forests and in the shadow of a Celtic hillfort you forget how relaxing and yet energising the place can be. This time we'd capped numbers, but I think that next time we'll do something a little bigger - maybe even have a performance or two. I was surprised that people didn't mind travelling and felt that " getting away from it all " was part of the experience. One person even said they, "r eally missed the green ", of the countryside. We've already started to plan some more events and have been offered support by the Penparcau Community Forum, who are growing the Arts in the area. In early April we've got people coming together from Swansea, Cardiff, Penparcau, Aberystwyth, Wrexham & Nottingham to plan and think about interesting and innovative ways to work in the area. There's also support for a monthly Maker Meeting at the Hub (Penparcau, Aberystwyth). So watch this space!
For more insights into how Bela can be used check out their blog
Many thanks to all that were involved in helping us make this happen, and once again to Deborah at Ty Cerdd.
I'd like to acknowledge the following projects:
Fusing Semantic and Audio Technologies for Intelligent Music Production and Consumption - EP/L019981/1
The CHERISH-DE Centre - Challenging Human Environments and Research Impact for a Sustainable and Healthy Digital Economy - EP/M022722/1
Impact Acceleration Account - University of Nottingham 2017 - EP/R511730/1