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. 

Membrane

As we spend ever more of our time in virtual spaces, from social media to VR gaming, Québecois artists Push 1 stop and Wiklow seek to reverse the trend, realising virtual environments in the physical world. Through a smoky, semi-opaque haze, and to a pounding techno accompaniment, the audience will see three-dimensional shapes sculpted in light appear and change, their mutations and transformations influenced in real time by the artists as they interact through rehearsed actions and improvisation. Membrane suggests an alternative to the use of pre-programmed visuals to accompany live electronica, and proposes a more responsive, dynamic visual element for performance.

Container

Shoeg is sound and visual artist Carlos Martorell, who develops his own bespoke audiovisual tools for his work. In Container he sets out to investigate the symbiosis between the human and the technological: motion sensors capture Martorell’s movements and render them as 2-D forms in video projections. These disintegrated body parts are dismantled, manipulated and rebuilt in a whirling, restless process, accompanied by washes of glitch sound that suggest the bubbling and seething of some primordial soup. Making use of his own biometric data – but keeping the outcomes as his own property – Martorell also draws attention to less scrupulous ways in which we might give away or let others use our personal details. 

ex(O)

A new audiovisual work from Paris-based electronic musician Alex Augier and Alba G. Corral, the Barcelona-based visual artist and coder, ex(O) explores ideas of transmission and broadcast. The audience surrounds a circular screen within which the artists work in silent, shadowy collaboration. As Augier’s electronica surges and sears, Corral’s floods of spiky, brilliantly colourful geometric shapes fill the screen: bringing to mind microbial organisms under magnification or geopolitics seen on timelapse, they chase, battle, overrun and devour one another around its 360 degrees in a ceaseless frenzy of vivid action. 

Completely in the Present

An experimental musician and filmmaker, sound and video artist, teacher and writer, the late Tony Conrad was revered in avant-garde circles – but remains under-appreciated in the wider artistic world. This 2016 documentary tells Conrad’s story, from his underground moviemaking days in 1960s New York and his musical collaborations with Faust, Genesis P-Orridge and Lou Reed, among many others, to the appearance at the 2011 All Tomorrow’s Parties festival that brought him to the attention of a new generation of fans. As Conrad continues to be reappraised, Completely in the Present celebrates the life and work of this uniquely influential figure.

Ibiza: The Silent Movie

Ibiza has long been synonymous with hedonism and never-ending nightlife. In this unique immersive film, director Julien Temple brings something surprising and new to depictions of the party island: silence. Inspired by the silent movies of the past, Temple’s film uses minimal titles, animation, restagings and documentary footage old and new to tell the 2,000-year story of Ibiza and those who love it, from bohemians to ravers – all set to a soundtrack compiled by musical director and Ibiza veteran Norman Cook (aka Fatboy Slim) from his own music and others’. A film phenomenon set to leave you speechless.

Tobacco Warehouse Takeover

For one night only, Sonica takes over the Tobacco Warehouse in Greenock and transforms it with sound and visuals.

Greenock’s Tobacco Warehouse has a uniquely rich history. In its time, the five-storey brick building has been not only a storehouse for whiskey and tobacco, but was also a barracks for American GIs stationed in Scotland during World War Two.

Cryptic – in collaboration with the Scottish Alternative Music Awards – is delighted to present an evening of innovative and thrilling audiovisual performances in this iconic venue. Live music comes from Luke Sutherland’s post-rock pop outfit Rev Magnetic and multi-instrumentalist Callum Easter, with accompanying live projections from VAJ.Power.

Also appearing are audiovisual artist Robbie Thomson, experimental musician SUE ZUKI and queer feminist provocateur Kleft in collaboration with Shona Spalding & Dan Aitken. With light sculptures by Jack Wrigley plus local musician, Lisa Kowalski.

Live AV

As Lo Kindre, the Glasgow-based, Irish-born musician Daniel Magee (winner of the 2018 SAMAs Electronic Music Award) makes dubby, cavernous music with an almost palpable sense of space to it, from its deep throbbing basslines and metronomic drum machine beats to its smears of echoing noise. In this one-off collaboration, Lo Kindre will push even further into experimentation and abstraction, while live visuals are provided by Alba G. Corral, whose organic projections, bristling with radiant colour and intricate geometry generated in part from drawings she makes live, form a thrilling counterpart to the hyponotic motorik groove of Magee’s music.

 

Gourd Composition #2

In previous works, artist, filmmaker and musician Luke Fowler has made impressionistic biopics of unfairly neglected cultural figures. For this new performance, Fowler (winner of the 2008 Jarman Award and a Turner Prize nominee in 2012) celebrates not an individual but an overlooked genre of musical instrument. Inspired by learning about instruments carved from gourds, Fowler has designed and built his own hybrid versions: dried, carved gourds strung with traditional catgut and ‘found’ strings. When activated, each produces a low, quiet note, letting Fowler, who is joined by musicians Richard Youngs & Stevie Jones, build up microtonal chords he adjusts by carefully repositioning each instrument. The result is an intense and subtle deep-listening experience. 

Live AV

Swedish composer Klara Lewis performs live at Sonica, premiering brand new music. Her latest compositions are built around musical rhythms derived from such unlikely sources as the noises of food preparation and the found sounds of a Tuscan forest. From these minimal beginnings, Lewis builds up layer upon layer of ambient sound to create glittering, crystalline drone music. The human voice is never far from Lewis’s work, looping through her structural soundscapes to give them warmth and emotional texture, while projections show bands of vivid colour melting over and around her in ceaseless slow collapse as she works.

Foxconn Frequency (No.3)

Musical collective Hong Kong Exile present a unique work in which a trio of classical pianists collaborates, and sometimes competes, in a hybrid of musical composition and live-action computer gaming that redefines the notion of play. An array of supporting machinery and output devices transmits and interferes with the trio’s virtuosic performance, testing them to react in real time and improvise to its randomly generated interruptions. Poetry written by Xu Lizhi, a former employee of the infamous Taiwanese tech firm Foxconn, cuts through the performance in shocks and starts, giving a key to this frenetic, unnerving and very contemporary work. 

 

Rottinghuis

A new collaboration between Glasgow-based artist-musicians Robbie Thomson and SUE ZUKIRottinghuis is a nightmarish creature-feature, an investigation into the dark side of the web, and an unnerving depiction of disintegration. An everyday living room is swallowed up by proliferating gaps in space, as though the code of the world is unravelling; a monstrous insect is glimpsed fleetingly, in flashes of light – is it inert or alive, hovering or scuttling directly towards the viewer? The ominous industrial-techno soundtrack uses samples taken from a livestreaming chatroom whose content, like the audio the artists make from it, is as compelling as it is disturbing.  

Synspecies

Synspecies is a collaborative audiovisual venture between Spain’s Elías Merino and Slovenia’s Tadej Droljc. In this self-titled performance, the duo are inspired by dream visions, weird intuitions, sacred spaces and rites, as well as the harsh realities of nature’s workings. The distorted, almost-recognisable organic entities that occupy the beautiful monochrome world of Synspecies fight for territory, mate, mutate and reproduce – and are all the while prey to dramatic and unpredictable environmental shifts. Part science experiment, part philosophical treatise, Synspecies reminds us that viewed from far enough, our greatest struggles and triumphs may be reduced to microscopic irrelevance. 

Immortelle

Montréal’s Line Katcho makes work that addresses endurance and upheaval. At times of flux, what continuities can be maintained? Lithe, skittering, glitchy electronica, flecked with the half-heard cries of birds and chitter of insects, soundtracks a series of stunning visuals that hint at buildings left empty but intact after catastrophe, at environmental turmoil, and at the steady, indestructible truths of the earthly elements: mountains and the peaks of great waves, the flurrying of clouds, the flow of magma and dashes of lightning.

He Did What?

A ribald, genre-busting new work from Belfast production company, Dumbworld (Composer Brian Irvine & Director John McIlduff), He Did What? mashes together the unlikely combination of street art and opera to punchy, uncompromising and comic effect. Both a riff on Belfast’s notorious past and an indictment of the politics of its present, He Did What? tells the story of a would-be revenge attack among octogenarians, and takes opera off the stage and out on the streets to play its story out as wall projections in public spaces, with the soundtrack playing through wireless headphones. Challenging our perceptions of what opera is for, Dumbworld employ new technologies, humour and a strong political vision in their unique take on the form. 

Night Voyager

Journey into the unknown with a new work from Glasgow-based Polish singer and composer Ela Orleans. Set to soaring music that recalls the Cocteau Twins and classic science-fiction movie soundtracks, footage of the 1969 Apollo moon mission is repurposed to retell the narrative of Night Thoughts, a nine-poem cycle written by Edward Young in the 1740s. Orleans’ Night Voyager marries the footage of fearful but optimistic astronauts captured in the archive material with Young’s meditation on death – and speaks, too, of the possibility of cultural forgetting, as in Young’s poem, now scarcely remembered but called in its time ‘the grandest and richest poetry that human genius has ever produced’ 

HANNAH

For three decades, Oslo-based collective Verdensteatret have worked to integrate new technology into their performances. Following appearances at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and festivals throughout Europe, they bring HANNAH, their remarkable hybrid of music, installation art, theatre and documentary film, to Sonica for their first ever UK performances. HANNAH was inspired by two trips along the Mekong River, taken a decade apart, and explores processes that are normally so gradual and long-term that they are effectively invisible. HANNAH’s set at first suggests a stylised depiction of the Mekong, with poles that resemble fishing rods or boats’ masts standing upright in a tinfoil water surface. Over the course of the performance, Verdensteatret activate, modify, break up and rebuild this set, while electronic feedback generates constant visual and sonic patterns to accompany the metamorphosis. 

Money Desk

Argentina-based composer Nicolás Varchausky explores an illusion we all agree to accept: the symbolic value of banknotes. Two money-counters face each other at banks of instruments; provided with the artist’s appearance fee in cash, the duo (including one local performer, Ceylan Hay) use specially adapted versions of the counting, scanning and verification instruments of their trade to generate an intense fusillade of sound. The cacophony at once brings alive the otherwise silent way in which money – especially digital currency – moves around our world, and suggests all the other ‘currencies’ that a banknote could possess beyond the monetary value printed on it.

Trip

Warm, burbling, playful electronica meets by glitchy, geometric computer-generated visuals in Sabina Covarrubias’s Trip, which takes inspiration from science-fiction’s depiction of voyages into space and the way our bodies age – an everyday yet almost unnoticeable journey into the unknown future. Covarrubias describes her work as visual-music: the animated projections she generates and manipulates live are developed according to musical composition techniques (crescendos, counterpoint, leitmotifs) and balanced by music that builds on the spectralist technique of composing music by reinterpreting visual and mathematical data. Covarrubias invites her audience to join her in contemplating journeys both real and fantastical, into outer space and deep into ourselves. 

Twittering Machines

The word ‘tweet’ is perhaps starting to be more associated with technological communication than the natural association with birdsong: its meaning may be under threat, just as the habitats of birds are threatened by humans. Kathy Hinde responds to this double dilemma with Twittering Machines, which renders John Keats’s Ode to a Nightingale in Morse code, then uses multiple output devices to interfere with the transmission, simultaneously redoubling it and struggling to translate the bleeps back into recognisable language. Meanwhile, recordings of birdsong are treated to generate further distortions and interference. The effect is of a swirling, chattering dawn chorus of birdsong, real and artificial – a reminder of how technology can overrun the natural, and of what we stand to lose if it does.