Rosalind Knight reports on New Music Morning: Sound Art, Video, Graphic Scores – Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge 29 Apr 2007

Artist Visiting Cambridgeshire
The free music morning at Kettle's Yard this week had the catchy title of ‘Sound art, video, graphic scores and improv from sounds and objects and obsolete technology found in Cambridge and London.'

The first performance was built around the concept of using maps as graphical scores. The performer, Joanne Roberts, seemed to be playing a piece based around a print-out from multi-map. It was a mixture of sounds collected in Cambridge, such as traffic and wind, all played through very loud speakers. Two pieces were improvised, and the third was written, but I'm afraid I couldn't tell the difference - they sounded almost the same, apart from the odd doorbell. This mixture of noise reminded me of a psychological thriller, where someone starts to go steadily, horribly mad, and the soundtrack is used to convey their tortured psyche. The idea of using maps as scores could have been really interesting, but the theory wasn't discussed, and the accompanying notes to explain the performance were incomprehensible, which just left me feeling irritated. I don't think I'm the only one, for example, who stumbled over the phrases such as: ‘these works explore the gestural mode, drawing-like, mode of performance suggested by the use of a touchscreen and a graphical notation has been evolved for these performances which is a hybrid of a handwriting diagram and a map of the screen areas.'

The second piece was a video, played through an inadvertently tilted projector, so that the images were wonky and partly obscured by the edge of a nearby painting. Over the top of this video, Robert Chapman improvised with sounds he had recorded during walks along the Thames. I think I would have preferred an actual walk along the Thames myself, but I could understand the concept, and somehow the noises of London were less obtrusive than the previous noises of Cambridge.

Finally, Chapman played a piece by Cornelius Cardew, written with a graphic score. He showed us a few pages, which consisted of black shapes and straight lines. Robert then played the score on an electric guitar that lay flat on a table. At first he played it like a piano, running his fingers up and down the keys. Then he grasped a bulldog clip, attached it to the strings, and rubbed the strings with a nail. The performance culminated in wafting a pocket-sized, hand held electric fan above the guitar. This all proved too much for me I'm afraid. I kept wondering whether the graphic notation showed a small picture of a bulldog clip - or maybe just a bulldog.

The performances worked well as an ensemble, linked by sounds and graphic notation. However, the pieces were distinctly bizarre, and this feeling was heightened by the fact that there were only six of us in the audience. This event was therefore not for the faint-hearted or those prone to inappropriate fits of hysteria.

Writer: Rosalind Knight