Mark Blay reports on New Music Morning: The Joy of Toy – Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, 6 May 2007

Artist Visiting Cambridgeshire

1. Richard Hoadley - Telephony
2. Jono Gilmurray - Thus spake and spelled the noble casio, who hath here passed through the round window.
3. Paul Jones - Controlling synthesis in real time with balls
4. Nick Alexander - Handmade drum machine
5. Jack Ashley - Newton's cradle
6. Chris Hipgrave - Homemade Instruments

The Joy of Toy is part of the Kettle's Yard New Music Mornings that are being held every Sunday. This being the first one I'd been to I didn't really know what to expect, but was intrigued when a blind man walked in, who was clearly a regular at these events, and commented to the man on the door, ‘I always come here to be surprised'.

On walking in, a feast of electronics lay in front of me as I took my place in a cosy wooden seat in the corner, and enjoyed what sounded like an electronic seashell playing through the speakers. Then the event started with Richard Hoadley, the curator of the event, explaining that what we were about to see is commonly referred to as circuit-bending or coding, which basically involves playing with battery operated toy's circuitry till they make noises. What then followed was more than just a group of boy's and their toys, but was an interesting array of ways to make sounds.

Whilst some of the pieces were plagued with technical difficulties, which is what you have to expect if your playing with the circuitry, the collection of pieces offered an interesting insight into new forms of musical creation. A special mention must go to the hand-made drum machine, which like so many of the pieces as well as being interesting on the ear offered a visual enjoyment which I'm sure the audience would have been happy to watch forever. The saying has always gone ‘the best things in life are free' and whilst it may not be aimed exactly at this concert, I couldn't think of a better way to spend a lazy Sunday morning. The whole event set against the backdrop of the incredible Kettle's Yard was verging on magical, and there wasn't a tin monkey with cymbals in sight.

Writer/photographer: Mark Blay