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Category Archives: festival reviews

see more images here: Modulate in the Woods
Hear excerpts from our live set on Modulate Soundcloud
For this years Shambala Festival, Modulate created a series of unique sound and visual experiences in the woods , partially inspired our setting, being situated in the center of the beautiful Wilderness area. Here we designed a magical light tree to sit beneath, an expanded UV Totem space, a three screen  projection installation, plus we brought our quality sound system, emanating a warm and resonating space amongst the trees. Through this we played our own selection of experimental electronic sounds and AV for three nights, plus, on the Saturday we premiered an entirely new Modulate audio visual live set at around 3 in the morning-
All in all, another creative and fun time was had by us all- thanks Shambala, Des, and to all of the extended Modulate team .
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Modulate’s performance at the CoCArt Music Festival, at the Center of Contemporary Arts in Torun, Poland, was a big success. The  five members of Modulate performed a new  AV set,  created for CoCart,  to an audience of over 400 people.

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Two Youtube clips :

One Here

One Here

Review

“Last weekend, during the final of II CoCArt Music Festvial, the audience took a musical journey with Modulate – a British multimedia collective. The people, gathered in the CoCA’s underground car park were taken aboard a futuristic space frigate, speeding through the void of outer space. The accompaniment to this fascinating voyage was kept minimal, while also being rich in textures and musical figures. The whole spectacle was replenished with abstract and geometrical visualizations, digital  / laptop electronics appeared here as a fully developed rhythmical form … a space cruise of the highest degree”.
Excerpts from a review by Dariusz Brzostek ( translated from Polish)

Venue

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Other perfromances we particularly enjoyed included those by Vitor Joaquim + Hugo Olim:

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Sunao Inami:

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And of course, Hatti, co curators of the festival:

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Photos courtesy of Vitor Joaquim , Wojtek Szabelski /  freepress.pl, and Rednail

With thanks to: CoCart and Hatti for inviting us

Arts Council England for additional travel funding

…  and the lovely Polish audience

In music,  the digital revolution happened well over a decade before the much vaunted ‘digital film revolution’, with bedroom studio musicians everywhere finally getting their hands on affordable digital technology to create experimental music. Any  clubber who was around in the 90’s in Birmingham will be well aware of this, as the city was home to some of the most respected clubs in the country, including Oscillate, hosted by  Higher Intelligence Agency, which brought acts includung Orbital, Autechre, Plaidµ-ziq, Biophere, Locust, UltramarineSpacetine Continuum, Chantal PassamoteSun Electric  to perform here, and House of God  whose resident  DJ / Musicians included  Surgeon and Sir Real

Now Birmingham City Council brings us “Hello Digital”, billed as the Midlands first digital festival, which proposes to introduce the citizens of Birmingham to the wonders of everything digital, and invites them to discover the future, at millennium point next w/e.

Modulates name won’t precisely be up in lights here (well, they could be…) but some of our members  have been working away in the background on one of the interactive installations, “Field of LIght “, a project dreamed up by the PLUS team, who also devised ‘Illuminate‘, another installation which we were involved in.

Modulate’s Bobby Bird has been programmer and technical consultant for the piece, devising a way to control the lights & transfer data gathered via a website into the real-world installation, Modulate member Mark Harris has created a generative sound piece to accompany it, which will gently evolve over the 4 days of the exhibit,  while our trusty ‘ in house’  electrician, Dave Checkly, has been busy wiring everything up in such a way as to ensure the general public won’t be electrocuted.

Visit to Transmediale Berlin February 2006. A retrospective report by Scylla Magda.

With thanks to  VIVID, a media arts exhibition and production space in Birmingham who raised funding from ACE for a group of curators and artists from the West Midlands to attend this festival.

Impressions and digressions related to this trip:

The parts of this visit to Transmeidal which I enjoyed most were the partnership events,  and other interesting activities which took place on the periphery of the festival. Antenna out, connections were there to be made, past and present, leading to some particularly inspiring  spaces within which creativity was happening. 

One presentation I enjoyed  was about a project called Moblab . This involved seven artists from Japan and Germany, who in 2005, traveled to Japan in a converted and technologically augmented public bus, to explore the use of mobile digital technology for their artistic practice.

 I had been drawn to attend this presentation, as it resonated with experiences of my own. In the early 80’s, Bobby and I used to attend the Temporary Autonomous Zone that was the  Stonehenge free festival. (until the Battle of the Beanfield put a stop to it). After immersing ourselves in this anarchic settlement for  a few weeks each year, we used to watch the convoy – the all year round travelers, setting off in their trucks and buses to wherever they could set up camp next, and we always felt a huge pull to join them. What stopped us was our involvement in music,  we were both in bands at the time,  were young and fairly ambitious, and we had the sense that joining the convoy meant dropping out and loosing touch with all that was current. We had already noticed how this could happen on our trips to Wales, where we came into contact with an older generation of hippies, who had moved out of London in the 60s. Although impressed by their idyllic living locations, it was noticeable (at least from our perspective)  that they had lost touch with musical developments

The Molab was a reminder of how much has changed since then, and that in these days of technological connectivity, living a transitory lifestyle  no longer need mean dropping out or losing connection with which ever  world wide community of artists working in similar areas, one might wish to remain connected to.

( We now in fact own a converted Dodge 50, and a bowtop caravan, handbuilt by John Snow,  and although currently living in a rather nice house in Birmingham, are seriously considering it …one day)

From this talk, I was led to the next point of interest, as at the end they announced that they would be giving a music performance later that night at a place called M12. They mentioned that it was hard to find, and sure enough,  it took me at least an hour of wandering in circles around Alexanderplatz before I eventually located it, in the unlikely setting of a shopping center reminiscent of the old Bullring in Birmingham. What had formerly been a shop had been  transformed into an AV presentation / performance space, with 45 small hi fi speakers installed around  the room, a bar and various other artistic touches in place.  

Although I arrived just as the show was ending, I was intrigued enough with the space to return the next day to find out more about who was behind it. This turned out to be artists collective Visomat inc , and I met one of their members Torsten.

He told me that, aside from having previously run Berlin’s first fully automated bar, they had  also formed a label for contemporary audio-video content. whose first DIN AV release I had bought in 2004. Naturally there was a point of connection here, and so I gave him a copy of our Modulate 5.1 DVD, which he subsequently showcased at M12  a few months later.

 The next space which I found very inspiring was the Tesla, an artists residency and project development space, occupying a grand ex (East German) government building. It looked like a fantastic place to do a residency, with around half a dozen artists having a large studio space in the big old rooms. There was also a central a cafe/ bar / meeting space which was open to the public to drop by & meet the artists in informal ‘Salons’  once a week.

As a partnership event with Transmedial, Tesla  presented an ‘open studio’ evening, and a performance of a work that had recently been developed as part of a residency project there. 

Entitled ‘ Kubic’s Cube ‘ this featured a collaboration between Spanish choreographer Pablo Ventura , Canadian robotic expert Louis Phillip Demers, and Spanish sound artist Francisco Lopez. Together they  had created a robot sculpture,  choreographed to ‘dance’ in synch with a multi-channel sound-environment,  composed by Lopez.

The robot was impressive, particularly the shadows it threw, however it was the monumental, powerful, audio which made the most impact. This was the first time I had heard of Francisco Lopez, or his music, and a couple of days later I sought out his solo performance ‘Total Darkness’ which he gave  early in the evening at the Transmedial club – it was awesome, and on returning to Birmingham I set about raising the funding to bring him over here, something I achieved in 2007.

I was also inspired to try and instigate the development of the small warehouse space, in which Modulate then had a studio space, into a project development and artists residency space along the lines of the Tesla. This idea began to take shape throughout 2007: Modulate hosted residencies by Solu and Damain Frey, and held a series of Sonic Culture Salons, while architechts Spacelab  (whom I knew from Oscillate days when they were students in Birmgham and came to our club), drew up some inspired plans …however we were evicted in 2008, and this particular dream evaporated Plenty more left though, and it was good while it lasted.

Outcomes – summary
Modulate dvd showcased at M12 Berlin 2006 Francisco Lopez invited to give a Total Darkness performance in Birmingham 2007
Temporary artist residency/ production space/facilitated in Birmingham 2007

Synch Festival 2006 a report by Scylla Magda
Curator – Co-ordinator Modulate / Audio Visual Arts

Modulate noticed the first Synch festival,  held in 2004, as a festival having strands in common with our own interests, and we had emailed them asking if we might contribute by  bringing an modulate octophonic sound installation / live performance but unfortunately we got no reply! 

A couple of of years later i managed to get travel funding courtesy of ACE to go to Synch 2006 to check it out myself first hand.

When I was researching the 2006 festival online prior to going,  it looked promising, and held specific areas of interest for me,  appearing to have a strand for experimental audio visual. However the website  was lacking in precise information and was hard to navigate. When I arrived this experience was replicated, with no directions to venue locations, no program times in the main festival guide and no clear indication that the venue for the second two days of the festival was 75 kilometers outside of Athens.

However, when I eventually managed find ithe Lavrio Technological and Cultural Park (formerly the first electricity production plant in the country), walking about 8 Kilometers after a local taxi driver dropped me in the middle of nowhere, the location was unique. 

Mainstream music acts and DJ’s, played on stages at the bottom of the large hillside, while other innovative and experimental  activities were were presented further up the hill, in the smaller spaces of the industrial Museums.

Here I found ‘8’ –  an octophonic speaker installation set  amongst  obsolete machinery from the early 20th century, through which a series of live performances were given by artists including John Duncan, Nikolas Valsamakis , Raphh Steinbrunchel, Coti K, Captain Miki.& J Vanzit, Ego Spastachrist. The only artist missing I felt was Modulate’s Bobby Bird, who would have been a good addition to the line up, having been experimenting with multispeaker performances and installations over a number of years.

 I tried to locate one of the a discussion panels, promisingly entitled ‘Audio and Visuals:  A New Digital Form?  However no times, locations, or even on which days the different panels would be held were to found anywhere. I asked numerous persons working for the festival, none of whom knew. Eventually I found a small sign, ‘Audio and Visuals Discussion’, above a circle of settees set outdoors around a  low table, and waited. None of the six persons listed as ltaking part in the discussion turned up, (perhaps they couldn’t find it either?), only four french people, who discussed french avaunt guard cinema, between themselves.

I was a little disappointed too, by the Moving Image section, as from the description on the website I had been anticipating a programme that included experimental audio visual and perhaps some live cinema performance. However it  turned out to be almost exclusively avaunt guard / underground films and  although this looked to be an interesting programme for film enthusiasts  it was not where my own interests lay. A lovely setting for screenings though, outdoors on a warm night, with the moon shining above.

By far the most stimulating area of the programme for me turned out to be the ‘New Media’  section, which as well as the octophonic installation/ performances, included Dutch Colony –  installations and performances by Edwin van der Heide, Roderick Hietbrink and Marnix de Nijs. I spent quite some time absorbing the textural audio from Roderick Hietbrinks sound and video piece, based on location recordings from the area, Edwin van der Heide and Roderick Hietbrink’s ‘ Spacial Sounds ‘, an interactive audio installation was awesomely scary, while Edwin’s  LSP 1, a  Laser Sound Performance was – at last! – a truely stunning audio visual exploration,  the highlight of Synch for me, and something I would love to bring to Birmingham one day. In fact all of these installations and performances re ignited  a desire to curate a sound installation and AV festival, something I first felt after being inspired by attending the Frequencies [Hz] exhibition in FrankFurt in 2002.

Sonic Acts X11 – A report by Scylla Magda
Curator – Co-ordinator Modulate / Audio Visual Arts

This years Sonic Acts X11 in Amsterdam,’The Cinematic Experience’ was a beautifully put together combination of  live music and audio visual performances, exhibitions, talks, and film screenings. 

For me, a reoccurring theme throughout Sonic Acts X11, was silence. Being a mother of an extremely talkative five year old, the first thing I was looking forward to was the opportunity to spend five days in my own, with the time/space /quietness to reflect, experience and absorb – a rare opportunity, and one made possible by  STEIM  who let me stay in their artist accommodation for the duration of the festival.

On Thursdays pre opening night of the festival I attended the screening of Stan Brakhage‘s, ‘Dog Star Man’ , it felt immensely refreshing to be seated in a quiet movie theatre, for over an hour, watching a silent film. On the way out , i overheard two people talking about how, for them, it had been an excruciating endurance test!

Afterwards I went to the The Drone People at the Paradiso, a four hour concert featuring BJ Nilsen, Joachim Nordwall, C.Spenser Yeh Hildur Gudnadottir, Carl Michael von Hausswollf and  Mika Vainio – whose releases such as Metri (Sahko), and the first Panasonic album Vakio, I found particularly cathartic in the mid nineties. The effect of the continuous drone performances, set in the wonderfully apt venue, through a great sound system, was physical as well as aural, at times a sonic pummeling, at times a gentler textural immersion. Coming straight from a purely visual silent movie experience to a pure sound experience was an interesting contrast , and illustrated well the point Ken Jacobs made couple of days later where he argued the case for being selective about which sense to focus on at one time, in particular not adding sound to image unnecessarily, (& visa versa), except in the rare occurrence of a true audio visual artwork. 

“Its about intensity of experience, letting things come through instead of confusing what’s there with an overlay of another expression’…the 3-ring circus was a terrible idea, a scattering of attention and a perfect example of more is less.”

He showed examples of silent film, ruined by the overlay of sound, and talked about how the effect of music added to a scene was to dictate how to feel about it, not letting the viewer have the space /silence to arrive at their own thoughts. He showed us some of his own silent films, Orchard Street and Window, and also gave a magic lantern performance later in the festival.

I missed the first conference keynote talk ‘the Diamora Revisited’ by Erkki Huhtao , which I heard was excellent, (I was too busy enjoying a lie in) but made it to ‘The Defeat of Time’ a discussion on Drone by Carl Michael von Hausswollf and Joachim Nordwall. Hausswollf described how as a boy growing up in the Swedish countryside, he would put on his snow shoes, go deep into the snow filled forest,  and stand still, experiencing a profound silence. He said that Drone music was perhaps his way of getting back to that experience /feeling, in a similar way that other people might use meditation. Joachim Nordwall said that for him it was a way of recreating a particular time /place/feeling, in his case, of a room where aged 15 he first experimented with drugs, drones and analog synths.

Over the next couple of days there were many more artists, writers and theoreticians who spoke about, or demonstrated their own experiments in inducing / experiencing enhanced sensory perception/reaching an inner silence through immersion in sound / image , or blurring  boundaries between the individual sense of self and the outer world.

Media artist Ulf Langheinrich talked about projects of his aimed at achieving a direct sensory impact through the use of flicker, and on ‘effecting interference movements between the perceptive and processing potential of the eye-brain-apparatus’.

Tez gave a realtime performance using flicker video and surround sound binaural beats,  ‘producing and audio visual stimulus which allows moving visual patters to emerge directly in the brain of the viewer/listener ‘ – a contemporary dream machine.

Kurt Hentschlager told of how his Feed’ performance, also using flicker, was designed to induce sensory overload. This has, on occasion caused a number of people to black out.

Writer and theoretician Arjen Mulders  talked about  ‘extramedial’ , ‘the filmic’ in movies , as a ‘feeling of silence and stillness at the heart of the event ‘…’movement may be the essence of film, but its effect on the viewer is unfathomable silence. ..you cannot capture the extramedial but you can cause it too appear. 

He said that for him the ‘extramedial’ was an antidote to the media theory that he is constantly engaged in, which made me think that a way to reach an inner silence away from all that living in the head , might be particularly useful for the more theoretical artists & academics. Although using flicker as a way to alter the visual cortex would seem quite an extreme way to try to achieve this.

His talk provoked the most controversy amongst musicians in the audience, as he appeared to be saying that the extramedial could only be reached by the visual. A number of people said that what he called the ‘filmic’ moment could and often was, be produced by sound, not image, another commented that sound seemed to be a ‘black spot’ throughout the media conference, some one else pointed out that recent research was challenging the primacy of the visual. 

However I think he was really only talking about his own experience of extramedial, which happened to be visual. Throughout the talks I attended everyone seemed pretty much to be talking about their attempts to reach or create similar experiences, only using different medium and method to get there.

For myself, nothings beats the live improvised performance of abstract electronic music to create a feeling of ‘being in the moment’ – as a live performance is itself. Even though I appreciated all of the exhibition installations, the films and the talks that I made it to, the highlight of the festival for me was performances by Signal, and Ryoichi Kurokawa. 

Although the music of Signal the (Raster- Noton) ‘supergroup’ comprising Carsten Nicolai  Frank Bretschneider, and  Olaf Bender and can definitely be appreciated independently of visual in a recorded medium, in a live setting their performance was a powerful audio visual synergy.  I often close my eyes to better focus on the music, but somehow, even with the massive projection screen behind them, this wasn’t necessary, the visuals being abstract enough that instead of being a distraction they became a part of the overall experience, without really needing to ‘watch them. I confess though that I did stop being in the moment for long enough to imagine an alternative setting for a performance of theirs, perhaps a warehouse space filled with people dancing. At the Paradiso it was largely seated, and a more ‘in the body’ sensual response such as dancing  would seem an appropriate audience reaction to the creative energies being put out by Signal. 

This was the second time I have experienced a Ryoichi Kurokawa performance and it was just as beautiful, both visually and sonically as the first. I felt that this was something that could justifiably be described as ‘Live Cinema’  (not that Ryoichi uses this term himself) and wondered whether Douglas Kahn, another  speaker saw it & if so what he thought of it. In his talk he seemed quite put out by the appropriation of the term ‘Live Cinema’ by some of todays artists engaged in the performance of live generated audio visual, since examples that he had witnessed had struck him as only relatively unsophisticated ‘VJ’ing’ , which was  certainly not the case with Ryoichi Kurokawa, a consummate artist.

On the Sunday I experienced some of the Acousmonium, a sound diffusion system, or ‘speaker orchestra’ designed in Paris in 1974 consisting of 80 speakers of all different shapes and sizes, placed across a stage at varying hight and distances according to their range, power, quality and directional characteristics. This had a real charm to it visually, lit with ultra violet lighting, and an immersive sonic quality ‘ it puts you inside the sound. Its like the interior of a sound universe ‘ said Francoiuse Bale after designing it. I didn’t catch all the performances but I particularly enjoyed the Hans-Joachim Rodedelius piece.

Finally, my own ‘silent moment’ occurred just before the festival  began. After arriving on the wednesday night, traveling by tram from the main train station, towards where i was staying, my brain was hyperactive, many of my thoughts were nostalgic, having lived in Holland many years previously with my partner, and I also felt slightly anxious, as I get lost very easily. Looking out of the tram window I saw an enormous full moon over Amsterdam, and the image itself, combined with an awareness (rather than a thought) of the moon shining simultaneously over Birmingham, produced a shift that gave me a feeling of calmness. 

 

 

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