Apparently Newbury is famous for a few things: its bypass, the racecourse, and the controversial Greenham Common air base. Surprisingly, the latter is connected to why I was there. When the base closed, money from the sale of the land was put into a trust which funds arts activity.
I was in town for a meeting held at a cavernous warehouse complex on an industrial estate. I realise that doesn’t sound an enticing prospect, but it’s the home of 101 Outdoor Arts, a dedicated space for developing outdoor artwork, from dance to theatre, installations, sound art etc. Their facilities include rehearsal space, a huge on-site workshop with a fabrication team, meeting space, kitchen, storage, and artist accommodation in vintage caravans! So you can stay there for a few days of intensive rehearsal and development time, work on your piece, take things back into the workshop for modifications, and continue working on it. It’s free to use for carefully selected artists and companies. And they’ve just been awarded an ACE grant to develop more digital work, artist residencies and a whole new 10,000 sq ft warehouse. It was a really exciting place to kick off my participation in the Boom programme, run by Oxford Contemporary Music.
This was the first meeting of artists/producers taking part in the Boom scheme – you can find out who they are below with biogs taken from OCM’s website. Since I’m using this blog to catalogue ideas, I’ve also included my favourite thing that each person spoke about when we met. We were joined by the lovely OCM team, and Simon Chatterton, Director of 101 Outdoor Arts.
We were set some creative briefs as a group task, which led us to discuss everything from plate reverbs to sonic objects inspired by medieval instruments. It was really interesting to see how the four of us worked as a team and shared ideas when we had never met before. Characteristically I fell into the role of notetaker – I find it so much easier to think clearly when I have a visual record of what people are saying… and it was quite handy for the notes below!
Rie Nakajima – Maker
Rie Nakajima is a Japanese artist working with installations and performances that produce sound. Her works are most often composed in direct response to unique architectural spaces using a combination of kinetic devices and found objects. She has exhibited and performed widely both in the UK and overseas and has produced ‘Sculpture’ with David Toop since 2013. With Keiko Yamamoto she has a music project ‘O YAMA O’ which explores music with no genre. She is from Yokohama and currently based in London.
Rie spoke about her work with helium balloons – kinetic pieces where the balloons carry objects making sound.
Nicholas O’Brien – Musician, composer, producer and sound engineer
Nicholas O’Brien is a tri-lingual sound engineer and multi-instrumentalist musician. With a 1st Class Degree in Audio Production, he has experience recording everywhere from world-class studios to intimate venues to documentary locations, and is also a skilled sound designer for music, film and radio. He is founder of duo Bambino Dell’Oro and co-founder of the Tandem Music Festival.
Niko talked about how he finds most music museums really dull because the instruments are behind glass and make no sound. So he would love to bring the instruments to life using technology in some creative way, possibly even getting their sounds out onto the street.
Steve Urquhart – Radio producer and composer
Steve is a freelance radio producer / documentary maker, sound artist and composer. He has been producing radio for more than twenty years – creating features and podcasts for BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 3, BBC World Service, KCRW’s Unfictional, ABC’s Radiotonic / Soundproof, and In The Dark, among others. He has won several awards for his work with National Prison Radio, and he continues to specialise in community projects with a wide range of vulnerable and hard-to-reach people. As a composer and sound artist, he have created audio installations for exhibitions at the Science Museum and the Foundling Museum
Steve mentioned a documentary about the Forth road bridge where local people were asked to imitate the sound of driving over the bridge. I love the idea of getting humans to imitate familiar mechanical or unnatural sounds in a musical context – a bit like that choral version of the dial-up internet noise from the 90s.
Plus (a bonus one) OCM Associate Artist Felicity Ford, also known as Knitsonik, joined us.
She spoke about the connections between bricklaying and knitting. That’s all I wrote down but I remember that it was really interesting! (I was probably too busy listening at the time.)