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Ray Lee: Ethometric Museum

Appearing to be artefacts from a hitherto unknown branch of science, Ethometric Instruments are curious, fascinating relics from a bygone age. Ray Lee has assembled an extraordinary collection of these obscure, yet compelling objects and in an extremely intimate performance (sign up early to make sure you don’t miss this treat!) he will activate the machines to weave a hypnotic, mesmerising spell over the audience.  The premiere of this work was produced by Oxford Contemporary Music, where it was exhibited and performed at the prestigious Museum of the History of Science in Oxford, the world’s oldest surviving purpose-built museum.  Each machine, the precise purpose of which is unknown, creates specific harmonic frequencies, and he uses these to create a sound art performance full of sonic riches. The machines, many of which are kinetic, are activated during a live performance.

Ray Lee is an artist, composer, and performer. His work investigates his fascination with the hidden world of electro-magnetic radiation and in particular how sound can be used as evidence of invisible phenomena. He is interested in the way that science and philosophy represent the universe, and his work questions the orthodoxies that emerge, and submerge, according to the currently fashionable trends. He creates spinning, whirling, and pendulous sound installations and performances that explore “circles of ether,” the invisible forces that surround us.  His large scale installation and performance ‘Siren’ was a hit at the 2007 Edinburgh Fringe winning a Herald Angel Award and receiving 5 star reviews. ‘Siren’ was featured at the 2007 Ars Electronica Festival in Austria and has gone to tour the world with performances in 12 countries including the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and several countries in Europe. His work ‘Force Field’ received an award at the 2008 Prix Ars Electronica for Digital Music.


Aleks Kolkowski: a noise of stroviols

A hanging, string quartet of historic ‘Stroh’ instruments play in ghostly communion.  Obsolete and inanimate, they are seemingly brought to life, sounding through a matrix of tubing and wires.  The quartet used in this installation is part of Kolkowski’s significant collection of hybrid, horned strings. Each instrument is connected to a concealed electronic sound-emitting device and together they play a musical score recorded on the same instruments, especially composed for this event.  Stroh violins and violas, branded Stroviols, were a mainstay of the early acoustic recording studios from 1904 until the advent of electrical recording in the mid 1920s and later in jazz and dance bands. Patented in 1899, the Stroh violin is characterised by its large aluminium horn and mechanical amplification system alike to that of a gramophone, resulting in a highly focused sound and directionality. Once at the cutting-edge of Victorian science and technology, the Stroviols went on to influence the design of electronic solid-body instruments and even loudspeaker construction.

Aleksander Kolkowski, as an improvising violinist and composer, has appeared at major festivals worldwide and on numerous record labels. Over the past twelve years he has explored the potential of historical sound recording and reproduction technology, combining horned violins, gramophones and wax cylinder phonographs, to make contemporary mechanical-acoustic music. This work has been shown across Europe and in the USA and broadcast by the BBC, WDR and others. Other large-scale works have been commissioned by MaerzMusik – Berlin, the PRSF and the BFI South Bank.  In 2002, whilst resident in Berlin, he founded Recording Angels, a project that examines our relationship to recorded sound using cylinder phonographs and acetate record cutters in performances, workshops and installations. Over the past three years, Aleks has been compiling a large-scale archive of contemporary artists, writers and musicians exclusively on the medium of the wax cylinder. Phonographies is due to be published as an online resource by Sound And Music in the spring of 2011. Other recent activities include a disc-recording booth for transforming discarded CDs into 45rpm records, multiple-horn sound installation work and AHRC-funded research into early forms of instrument amplification at Brunel University where he is currently completing a PhD.


Stephen Cornford: Extended Piano

In this incredible kinetic sculpture/sound installation, two guitar strings are attached to two bass strings of an upright piano. These are then played by mechanised bows which seemingly float mid-air, driven by motors in never-ending circles to create hypnotising vibrations which resonate sympathetically through the whole piano. The sound is entirely acoustic. A study of sympathetic resonance through the stripped down body of an upright piano.



Louis McCallum: Toy Music Machine
As a student at Queen Mary’s University of London, Louis McCallum is a roboticist, researcher and musician. His Toy Music Machine gives festival goers a chance to play a homemade machine: create your own robot music with a children’s toy collection.


Leon Michener: Pianoscope (this didn’t happen but it sounded nice!)

The glorious Pianoscope is a multimedia feast of smoke and lights, creating visual responses to the music being created. As an installation performance, it was premiered at the Kazimier, Liverpool in March 2011.  It projects Michener’s artwork onto a tank of smoke clamped atop an old upright, creating visions according to the density of the music: when multiple notes are pressed it reveals visual “chords”.  As Leon says: “A kind of steampunk homage to the early 20th century visual pioneers: Hans Richter Eggling etc”