Call me Russ L

GDFAF #3: The Photophonic Experiment (Saturday 28/10/6)

Posted in Going Deaf For A Fortnight 2006, Music by Russ L on 29 October, 2006

I was refreshed and ready (numerous years of life have thus far failed to teach my body that ‘the afternoon’ is not the most convenient time to sleep. I’m very happy when I get the chance to do so) to go to another slightly different sort of gig: The Photophonic Experiment (made up of individuals from Pram, Project Dark and Blissbody) at the Midland Arts Centre.

The MAC is a very cool place, and one I should visit more often. It comprises a couple of theatre spaces, gallery spaces, a bar, a café, and a cinema, and it backs onto a great big park. Short of a bouncy castle, what more do you want? Their programme of onstage events seems to have taken a bit of a backseat to emphasis the cinema/film-showings of late, but there are still plenty of interesting things a-happening there.

“To bring you this Most Marvellous Display we have employed bizarre Novelties which may Constitute a Hazard to Human Life. The Machines exhibited this evening are for Experimental Use. Spectators are kindly requested to Refrain from Approaching the stage AT ALL TIMES and to treat the Devices demonstrated with Utmost Caution.” – From the programme.

A double whammy of “Cor!” was necessary upon entering the Theatre. A fantastic Victorian-style programme (as above) was handed to you as you stepped through the threshold, and then you caught sight of the stage. I doubt I’ll be the first or last person to point out that it looked like a mad scientist’s laboratory, a crazy assemblage of pipes and jars and intricate godknowswhats.

These, of course, were instruments. The purpose of the collaboration was to demonstrate the sound (and often light/image) producing effects of all these interesting knick-knacks. It was divided into two acts, the first of which centred more around “Get a load of this, you’ll love what this thing can do” and the second more based in recognisably structured music, although there was plenty of both aspects in each one.

It wasn’t all fun and it wasn’t all interesting, but most bits were at least one or the other. Highlights would include the bit with flints being struck against some kind of amplified boards (“Primitive Properties of a Struck Flint”), producing ferocious noises and pretty showers of sparks (for this and other more visual bits, ushers had to hold covers over a couple of the illuminated ‘Fire Exit” signs to reduce the light in the room. Isn’t the moment when sparks are flying about the place the moment you need fire exit signs the most, though?); the bit where remote controls were held over a theremin (“Requiem for Remote Controls”), so that the infra-red beams affected the sound in addition to the physical presence; the part when a very skilled chap managed to make a theremin sound uncannily like a real violin (“Theremin Reprise”); and the really pretty rocking “Fugue for Flash Guns” (I’m not sure it was all that much of a fugue, though).

The main thing it left me thinking was that I’m really, really glad that there are people out there willing to just have a go at stuff like this, to just mess about with things out of context. God bless those brave boys and girls.

Pete Ashton’s take on this can be read here.

~ Russ L, back to more conventional gigging tonight.

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