8.30 am: I’d been looking forward to today – the inception of the NoiseProjection series (organised by Dr Roberts on this occasion), entitled Listen to the Voice of Fire: Alchemy in Sound Art, and held at the National Library of Wales. This is the first event that I’ve attended in a long time when I’m neither organising nor contributing to it. Feet up. Ears open. While I’d no particular interest in alchemy, I was fully engaged and willing to learn from the processes and technologies used by those who were.
9.30 am: Conferences enable one to not only acquire an overview of what has been done/is being done in the field but also, thereby, of what is yet done. I found myself interrogating the deliveries: What can I learn from this that would improve my own composition and ‘performance’? Although, I’m rarely in a position to perform, and not entirely comfortable with the experience. What is a performance in respect to non-musical sound work? How can one perform without both being the centre of attention and appearing pompous? This guy could, effortlessly:
Listening to others lecture as an audient is always instructive. How much am I taking in? How much will I remember? How does the presentation’s content extend my perception of things? How did the presenter engage me? I was struck by a creative (and rather idiosyncratic) text produced by one composer, and how they’d used to interpret their music from within. Perhaps there’s a possible application of the principle to the textual dimension of the PhD Fine Art:
One presenter lurched towards stand-up comedy. Wonderful! A parody of academic practice. A topic like alchemy should throw up both profundities and lunacy. Some contributors had an informality and garrulousness that warmed their audience to difficult ideas and sound-art works.
1.00 pm: The Library’s café served a more than acceptable fish and chips. Getting everyone to observe the timing of events and breaks is perhaps the conference convenor’s most stressful responsibility during the day. One needs to have a militaristic attitude – an iron grip. Concerns about the reliability of the technology come a close second. But, in the end, time and timing are not the most important considerations. Never cut short an astonishing moment. They’re too rare at conferences. But there were several throughout today.
2.00 pm: How long does a sound illustration need to last in order to serve its purpose? Unlike projected images, over which one can talk, sound requires both time and no distraction. Ideally, the presenter ought to be mildly paranoid about bringing in a paper on time. Verbatim scripts are a must for short deliveries, in my opinion. The relationship of some papers to the conference topic was more evident and considered by some presenters than by others. (I suspect that’s always the case.) It’s so difficult to encapsulate one’s own work; it’s too easy to get too embroiled in the specifics. Because, in the process creation, it’s all about specifics.
Hearing about what others do in the domain of sound art, helped me to define what I do . It’s important to know one’s patch. One should be challenged to justify a continued participation in a discipline. I was interested most in work that was least like my own. The sound performances were the most articulate expressions of the conference theme: practice as the embodiment of knowledge. Sometimes words really do fail us:
5.00 pm: The end of the afternoon. 6.00 pm: Nibbles at the Reception, and an opportunity to network. This activity is a must. Due to a technical hitch, the concert’s start was delayed. 7.30 pm: The ‘off’! The performers had their instruments strewn over the table top, coupled together with cables, and plugged into mixers, effectors, synthesisers, and amplifiers:
This was experimental noise-music: the howl of Frankenstein, the sounds of the universe, and the shriek of suffering electronics. There’s a great pleasure to be had in listening to others create in a manner that I don’t. For this type of ‘music’, one must retrain the ears, and revise expectations:
9.00 pm: Home.