Ontogeny

A surreal, psychedelic filmic journey into the floral form, Ontogeny celebrates the familiar and the alien in the botanical world. Diffracted through light and water, bizarre flowers slowly bloom and transform, suggesting a hidden life utterly unlike our own. Juxtaposed with these seductive visuals is home movie-style footage of bunches of cut blooms that we might display in our homes or see for sale in florists’Reminding us that what we find beautiful in flowers may simply be a byproduct of how plants have evolved to appeal to their pollinators, Ontogeny questions the boundaries of the aesthetic and the evolutionary. 

Graminoids

The movement of wind through grass creates complex and constantly unfolding patterns in Lars Koens film Graminoids. Many hours of recordings were made in the summer of 2013 in Holyrood Park, Edinburgh, when the grass covering Arthur’s Seat happened to have grown particularly long – and by compressing this into mere minutes, Koens’ Graminoids turns even leisurely breezes into hurricane frantic lashings of motionWind recordings made by sound artist Pete Smith are filtered and manipulated to make an abstract, constantly changing soundtrack for the grasses dance, combining sound and vision to mesmerising effect.

Do Not Disturb || The Permane…

Below the covering of Sphagnum moss on the Flow Country lie layers upon layers of compacted vegetation, slowly being converted into peat, locking in carbon. Heather Lander’s Do Not Disturb || The Permanence of Fragility takes inspiration from this secret, silent process and brings it into the daylight. Three cubes, made up of stacks of painted Perspex, reveal the structure of the moss in painterly 3-D cross-sections. The cubes’ modular construction highlights the complexity and fragility of the blanket bog landscape, and invites us to consider the strata and processes occurring beneath an apparently inert surface.

Data Flow

Throughout the year, water levels in the Flow Country rise and fall, and as the bog expands and contracts accordingly it can be said to breathe. Scientists and environmentalists studying this process have learned that different parts of the bog breathe differently, depending on the health of the peat. In Data Flow Matthew Olden turns their research into a soundtrack to let us hear how this ‘breathing’ varies across five areas of the bog, whether waterlogged and healthy, drained and damaged, or restored. His work, played through 96 speakers, gives us fresh insight into a hidden and vital natural process. 

Originally presented at Cryptic’s Below the Blanket, part of The Peatlands Partnership’sFlows to the Future Project (with RSPB Scotland as lead partner) and supported by: The Hugh Fraser Foundation

Release

Water levels rise and fall continuously in the Flow Country. Luci Holland’s Release uses 18 months’ worth of scientific data on these minute, ceaseless variations, gathered in different areas of the peatland bog, to generate a series of restless, shifting percussive soundtracks. Tempos slow and accelerate according to the ebb and flow of water, letting us hear the kinds of changes normally too small to see. 

Originally presented at Cryptic’s Below the Blanket, part of The Peatlands Partnership’sFlows to the Future Project (with RSPB Scotland as lead partner) and supported by: The Hugh Fraser Foundation

Chirp & Drift

In Chirp & Drift, a series of accordion bellows perch like birds in the branches of a tree. As air moves through their reeds, these instruments make piping sounds that imitate and recreate the calls of the many rare bird species found in the Flow Country.

Deep Listening Soundscapes

Look carefully: among the plants and flowers on either side of the path, strangely shaped speakers have sprung up, resembling the bogbean plants that grow in peat bogs. From them come Kathy Hinde’s Deep Listening Soundscapes, compositions based around sounds recorded below the surface of the Flow Country by submerged microphones called hydrophones.

Originally presented at Cryptic’s Below the Blanket, part of The Peatlands Partnership’sFlows to the Future Project (with RSPB Scotland as lead partner) and supported by: The Hugh Fraser Foundation

Entanglement

Kian McEvoy has worked alongside conservationists in what remains of the ancient Caledonian Forest, once a flourishing woodland known as ‘Scotland’s rainforest’. McEvoy’s series of videos documents a still-vibrant ecosystem – the ‘entanglements’ of vegetation growth, insect activity and water movement continue, and the conservationists’ seedplanting keeps alive generations of trees whose ancestral past spans millennia. The footage is set to a soundtrack of field recordings that are stretched or chopped in accordance to a coded algorithm: like the workings of nature in this environment, Entanglement unfolds according to rules that we may not grasp but that are never truly random. 

Sound Horn

Like alien flowers, Dumfries and Galloway-based Katie J. Anderson’s Sound Horn is a cluster of six upturned, person-sized gramophone speakers cast in metal and placed around the gardens at Pollok House. Each of the six emits one part of a field-recorded composition that Anderson made during a Cryptic residency at Cove Park earlier in 2019: choral notes, spoken word parts, a bassline hum. The audience can listen to each element in isolation before the elements combine into one deeply resonant whole sounding from all six speakers at once. At first incongruous, these outsized sculptural objects soon direct the audience’s attention less to themselves and more to both the visual and the auditory properties of the landscape they have appeared in.

 

Colony

The Arctic tern makes the longest annual migratory journey of any bird on Earth – all the way from Arctic to Antarctic and back again. Colony, by visual artist Yulia Kovanova and sound artist Lars Koens, both celebrates the tern’s free flight over every human-imagined border on our planet, and hints at other invisible limitations that might affect such a journey, such as record breaking global temperatures and the changing borders of whole continents. The space is hung with sculpted clusters of circles, based on images of the tern in flight, and filled with a looped minimal electronic score: circles and circles, ceaselessly rounding back on themselves.

Post-Truth and Beauty

How do our interactions with one another and the world around us shape who we are? Artist and creative technologist Tim Murray-Browne has collaborated with multimedia artist Aphra Shemza to create an interactive audiovisual sculpture which invites viewers to consider (literal) perspectives other than their ownas they move through a space in which visual and musical elements are fragmented. Only by considering the work from many angles can viewers understand the whole effect. With debate online and in real life becoming ever more polarisedPost-Truth and Beauty reminds us of the dangers of retreating into silos and disregarding other points of view. 

100 Keyboards

Japanese musician and sound artist ASUNA learned in his earliest experiments in music that all cheap keyboards sound slightly different, even when playing what should be the same note. For this live performance, he has assembled an orchestra of 100 different electronic keyboards, from colourful novelty designs for young children to slightly more advanced (but still inexpensive) models, arranged in concentric rings. One by one, ASUNA sets them to emit a single note, building up a digital-choral drone in which a hundred subtle differences of tone and frequency combine and resonate, generating interference patterns and sonic illusions as the audience moves around the circle.

A Fall

Karl van Welden presents a glimpse of some almost unthinkable future, condensed into a single object. A single record, Carl Reinecke’s plaintive Elegie, plays on a turntable encased in glass, while a fine trickle of ash – like the detritus of disaster, or the harbinger of a great collapse – falls steadily down on the vinyl. Over the course of playback, the buildup of dust first gently then more insistently interferes with the music, until the quantity is so great it overwhelms the record-player’s needle and the turntable falls silent. Ostensibly simple, A Fall asks deep questions about decay, fate and our sense of purpose.

Joan Brossa didn’t make me

The Barcelona-based sound artists cabosanroque play tribute to the great Catalan writer Joan Brossa in this kinetic response to his poetry and prose works. Drawing on Brossa’s notion of a ‘performative machine’, cabosanroque have assembled something part model landscape, part vast jerry-rigged steampunk invention. Analogue machinery – a heap of typewriters, a thicket of steel tape-measures – and household objects are turned into instruments producing a thunderous percussive soundtrack, as if the miniaturised landscape is undergoing an industrial revolution. White light blazes up through the jiggling, rattling instruments; a paper structure like a cloud inflates and glows with inner light. This machine’s purpose may remain ambiguous, but its effect is powerful and unforgettable.

Aquaphoneia

Investigating sonic technologies and the transmutation of voice into matter, Navid Navab & Michael Montanaro’s Aquaphoneia is an odd alchemical assemblage capable of liquifying sounds. Thermodynamically processing people’s voice offerings, Aquaphoneia is something like a record player reverse-engineered by a people who can speak underwater. Visitors can speak into a large horn and hear their aqueous voice alchemically transformed by a series of obscure glass instruments into a burbling, underwater tongue. These sounds are fed through strange kinetic instruments activated by the drip of liquids, aquasonic devices that seem on the verge of replying in a human language construed entirely from water. In another part of the work, voices can be made out in the crackling of an unfading globe of fire, like some promethean folly, extracting ‘phonetic vapour’, ‘spectral mist’ and alchemico-sonic gold. Linguistics meets alchemy in this fantastical liquification of the ways we communicate.

 

Furniture Music

The London-based Japanese sound artist and composer Yuri Suzuki draws on the musique concrète of such composers as Brian Eno and Erik Satie, seeking to turn noises that we consider disruptive or distracting into more pleasurable sound. A series of charming lo-fi devices suggest ways to improve the sound of domestic life: an acoustic chamber table, resembling three conjoined guitars, amplifies ambient noise to make conversation easier; a music box replaces the harsh buzz of a mobile phone ringtone; and some of the most disruptively noisy domestic devices, washing machines, become instruments playing an atonal yet compelling music. In the installation Sound of the Waves, meanwhile, rainsticks revolve at rates determined by tidal data, filling an otherwise empty room with the evocative sound of the sea.

 

Primordial Waters

Two Sonica favourites come together for the first time, as visual artist Heather Lander and musician and composer Alex Smoke present Primordial Waters. Noting how advances in science and technology seem to be turning our attention ever further away from the natural world, the artists seek to remind audiences of our most fundamental history: our common origins in water. Beginning from an elevated perspective, Primordial Waters gradually draws audiences closer into its mesmerising weather-pattern swirl of mists and water, the pull of tides, the movement of water that’s sometimes calm and sometimes tempestuous. The effect is mesmerising and meditative – a reminder to slow down, remember our place in the world, and commemorate the natural laws that bind us to our planet.