Kevin Leomo is a composer and a recent graduate of the MMus at the University of Glasgow.
Sound Thought has been a regular event in Glasgow since 2007, when current Lecturer in Music at the University of Glasgow, Dr. Drew Hammond, established Sound Thought as a means to promote the practice and research of music postgraduates. Since its inception, students from the University of Glasgow have endeavoured to consolidate Sound Thought as a forum for showcasing the work of postgraduates and artists in a collaborative and interdisciplinary environment, comprising a variety of music and sound research, composition, and performance.
Held in Glasgow’s foremost hub for the arts, the Centre for Contemporary Arts, Sound Thought 2017 featured the work of a record eighty delegates from fifteen countries during the three-day festival (May 10-12). This included fifteen current students and recent alumni from the University of Glasgow’s music subject area. There was an extensive array of work exhibited, including paper presentations, lecture-recitals, installations, audiovisual and electroacoustic compositions, and live performances. This year saw our most ambitious programme yet in an effort to mark the tenth anniversary of Sound Thought. The event was open and free to the public; we attracted an audience number of approximately seven hundred people over the three days.
Sessions were organised by themes pertinent to the creative process:
Collaborate: Exploring spaces and engagement – connections over time and distance
Articulate: Finding a unique voice within the creative arts – perspectives
Integrate: Formulating aesthetic strategies through technological developments
Sound Thought 2017 had several key aims. The first was to facilitate dialogue and collaboration amongst participants. We endeavoured to provide a forum for, and to raise the profile of, postgraduate work by ensuring the entirety of the event was free and open to the public. Also, we wanted to address issues relevant to contemporary arts practice and research. Our last aim was to strengthen links between Glasgow-based practitioners and the wider international arts community.
The CCA’s hosted audio, audiovisual, and interactive installations from Ben Fletcher, Lise Olsen, Freya Johnson Ross, and Timo Kahlen for the duration of the festival.
Frank Rossi’s beautifully crafted installation So viele Farben Schwarz explored the concept of self-organising tonal systems coupled with interaction from the environment, through the use of motion sensors.
Another installation, Land Echoes from Rosa Santibañez, engaged the audience through interactive visuals and sounds to bring back into practice the memory of lost native cultures, specifically the Chilean Selknam culture from Tierra del Fuego.
The festival’s first session was based on one of this year’s key themes – collaboration. Composer and acousmatic performer Leo Cicala and violinist Alessandro Cazzato presented a recital for violin and live electronics. The programme consisted of three pieces and featured a full range of the violin’s timbres, which were explored and blended with electroacoustic sounds to create dense polyphonic textures and dialogic gestures between electronics and violin.
Fiona MacKenzie presented her work Contrast: From the Alleghenies to the Hebrides, exploring the life of Margaret Fay Shaw, an American musician and folklorist who lived in the Hebrides. Fiona’s work examined how communities and connections from the past inspires the new and included live sung song, both traditional and contemporary.
The first day closed with a full-to-capacity theatre, featuring a number of electroacoustic and audiovisual works. Cellist and composer Francesca Ter-Berg’s captivating performance with live electronics showcased the musical traditions of Eastern Europe, including field recordings of Transylvania. Lina Tobler’s audiovisual composition WHAT THE? utilised collage techniques by bringing together a personal archive of photographs and videos and re-contextualised 1950s musical material coupled with self-made sound effects to bring humour to the evening.
Composer Filip Sande and visual artist Vibeke Lunel’s beautiful collaborative installation Bubbletalk was inspired by life in water; acoustic music and oil paintings were transformed through the use of Rift Labs lighting software.
Micah Nye’s interactive installation transported the audience to the Volta Region in Ghana through an effective fabricated soundscape consisting of field recordings, found sounds, and objects from his travels there.
Thursday began with a morning of audiovisual composition screenings, including Andrew Rae’s work exploring the nature of synesthesia in popular music.
The second session explored the festival’s second subtheme, integration, or how technological developments interact with and influence the formulation of aesthetic strategies. Performances and lecture-recitals thoroughly demonstrated this, including Marcin Pietruszewski’s /siv/ for syntethic sound and synthetic voice, as well as Shane Byrne’s Proprioception, where electroacoustic music was composed with the body using motion and gesture to articulate sound objects in real-time, resulting in a visceral and evocative performance.
The afternoon session saw a number of thought-provoking presentations. Iain Findlay-Walsh’s paper on Tracing the liminal sought to bring attention to autoethnographic strategies in field recording and soundscape practices in order to ‘document, interrogate, and re-present the listener’s changing relationship with sound and environment.’ Christoffer Schunk’s memorable piece, ‘Work Until No Longer Effective’, challenged listeners to disassociate the sonic outcome of flatulence from the act itself and questioned the difference between ‘highbrow’ and ‘lowbrow’ art. Manoli Moriaty presented his research on establish a framework for collaboration between practitioners of distinct disciplines, informed by the biological phenomenon of symbiosis, touching on one of the key threads of the festival.
Thursday’s evening concert featured a mixture of electroacoustic and audiovisual works, including live performances. An improvised audiovisual performance from Laurence Chan explored synchronous analog glitch audio and video feedback, resulting in an immersive experience featuring an extreme range of patterns and noise. Una Lee’s solo music theatre piece brought a different aspect to the concert, focusing on narrative and the use of voice to explore texture, rhythm, and patterns in a highly effective effort to manipulate the perception of time. Following individual presentations at Sound Thought 2016, Seth Rozanoff and Paul Nataraj returned this year to perform Dialogic Transparencies for laptop, synthesizer, and turntables. The work explored Pauls’ collection of vinyl records and their personal and social connotations, resulting in sculptural objects and vocal samples utilised in a process of sharing music, narrative, and space.
Thursday saw a wealth of quality work from current postgraduates including Andrew Rae, Hannah McGrath, Hannah Newham, Richy Carey, and Seth Rozanoff.
The Back of the Day, an audiovisual installation by Hannan Jones and Murray Collier, brought together film footage of Australia and Glasgow united by a single shared soundtrack.
The theatre hosted another concert which explored the theme of integrate, featuring a number of electroacoustic and audiovisual works, as well as papers and lecture-recitals exploring spatial music and composition. Hana Do and Kiwon Jeon’s audiovisual work, The Taxidermied Water was eerily haunting and effective.
The final session in the cinema saw an interesting and varied mix of presentations. Peter Self presented his research into the valuing of music monetarily, as well as aesthetically and as entertainment. His ‘Live versus recorded’ investigations engaged with perceptions of audio quality and how people interact with internet-based music technologies. Wenxin Cui’s audiovisual work Tai Kong featured imaginative visual effects coupled with spatial music.
The festival concluded with a concert of live performances, including a live electronic improvisation from Gaspar Peralta, exploring timbral manipulations and convulsing, immersive textures. Alison Beattie’s composition The Lunatics Have Taken Over Our Asylum featured a fascinating, fully immersive electroacoustic soundscape generated from the live sampling of an acoustic instrumental trio, engaging the audience with the piece’s title and political theme. A standout improvised performance from Russell Wimbish was a masterclass for extended instrumental techniques for acoustic bass. Mixed Modes / Clear Signals sought to balance the composer/performer’s introverted nature with the extroversion required for performance and communication with the audience.
There was a vast wealth of practice and research presented, as well as musical discussion, at Sound Thought 2017. The occasion of the tenth anniversary of the festival demonstrates the necessity for such an event.
It is vital for postgraduate work to be showcased outwith the university context; Sound Thought provides this platform. Once again, the festival has demonstrated the very high standard of music and sound research and practice taking place in Glasgow and throughout the UK and further afield. We hope that delegates were able to create new networks and relationships which could lead to future collaborations.
This year we partnered with GUSTv, who documented the festival, and eSharp, who will publish some select papers in their upcoming issue Rise and Fall. We are currently working in conjunction with eSharp to create a special Sound Thought edition to showcase the practice and research presented during the festival. In addition, eSharp and the Kelvingrove Review are having a launch event on June 2, where select Sound Thought delegates will re-present their work, including Richy Carey and Ollie Hawker from the School of Culture and Creative Arts. Further information can be found here.
Hope to see you at Sound Thought 2018!