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Monthly Archives: September 2013

installation by Ernie Althoff

installation by Ernie Althoff

Junk Music: redundant technology and detourned devices as instruments.

Thursday 3 October 2013, 7:30pm at West Space

Featuring: Ernie Althoff, Joanne Cannon, Rod Cooper, Bent Leather Band.

Moderated by Clinton Green.

Three of Australia’s most respected experimental instrument makers discuss the ideas, techniques and inspirations behind their use of recycled materials and redundant technologies to create new instruments and sonic situations.

From gutted laser printers to gramophones and cooking pots, the discussion promises to be a veritable trash’n’treasure of musical innovation.

Includes performances by Ernie Althoff and Bent Leather Band on music machines of their own making.


Here is Clinton and Ernie speaking about the show on ABC Classic FM’s New Music Up Late.

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The participants

Rod Cooper with instruments:

Ernie Althoff with instruments:

Joanne Cannon and the Bent Leather Band on the ABC’s New Inventors show (opens on new page).

Bent Leather Band

Bent Leather Band

Our next event on Thursday 19 September is called “Laptops, Costumes, Pedals and Projections: issues for live performance of experimental, drone and noise music” and features  Michael Pulsford, Paul Kidney, Julian Williams and the Hi-God People. I’ll post a few relevant links here …

Paul Kidney playing live:

Hi God People playing live:

Hi God People playing live-to-air

Julian Williams movement piece:

debate in ‘Experimental Melbourne’ on live performance:

Michael Pulseford teaches performance at RMIT and offered these thoughts:

“I think there’s a few things going on when experimental artists don’t want to ‘perform’ while they perform.

“On one hand, sound art etc can present a refusal to engage the eye – a refusal of visuality and theatricality. I like this when it’s a deliberate position, when it says “fuck what your eye wants, I’m offering you something else”. I think it’s one of the profoundest challenges sound practise has made to the rest of the arts. Visuality is so bound up in the arts that refusing to engage it can almost seem like refusing art, but it’s not. That refusal has been, and can be, a useful thing to do; it’s good for the eyes to remember they’re not everything.

“On another hand, sometimes I think it’s just an embarrassment about embodiment. Some performers are embarrassed to have bodies, especially in physical space where other people can see them. If they take that as far as an active refusal of embodiment, that’s interesting, but if it’s just being too timid to engage with the fact that they have a body on stage, that’s just weak and boring.

“The third thing, which I’m less hardline on, is when an embarrassment with the lame theatricality which is everywhere in music becomes an embarrassment with theatricality itself. I still think it’s often a mistake, partly because everything in life has a theatrical dimension, which doesn’t cease to exist just because we want it to. We’re either boringly theatrical or compellingly theatrical. The thing I like about theatricality is theatre people have worked out how to turn self-consciousness to their advantage, partly by accepting the fact that they are bodies in space. Most of us can learn at least something from them, because most of us are at least a bit self-conscious. Why not use it?

“The fourth thing is a hangover of something from indie and some bits of punk and maybe folk, I think, a celebration of levelling, of bands and performers who look just like their audience. That’s neat inasmuch as it’s an invitation – “You can do this shit too!” – and deadening inasmuch as it becomes an unspoken rule to not be too weird or interesting because what, you think you’re better than us?

“I think part of it is there’s multiple forces at work in live sound culture. On the one hand we like communion, being with kindred people in a shared experience, and levelling impulses can help create that sometimes, as can everything in the realm of safety and familiarity. But on the other we want a rupture from the everyday, to be taken out of the ordinary, and theatricality can better meet that desire, as can everything in the realm of danger and unfamiliarity. Where they sometimes meet well is those rare times you experience something extraordinary with kindred people.

“Traditionally the stage is set apart from ordinary space, as a place where you can temporarily be something other than the everyday. It’s a little like ceremonial space in that respect. We’re not always participating in a ritual, and we’re not always ‘performing’-performing, and there’s spaces dedicated to overt performance, spaces where we tend to give our mates some slack to act above themselves temporarily, in the interests of a good time or being transported out of boredom, getting to not know everything for a little while.

“The main thing I think laptop performers neglect is the power of the performer’s gaze. Being absorbed in a world invisible to the audience can be compelling to watch when the body is more obviously central to the performance, but in the case of laptop performances it isn’t, and it gets dull. I think these things about the gaze because I once had to assess a whole bunch of laptop performances, and the one which was best as a performance was done by someone who knew his stuff well enough that he didn’t have to look at the screen. Instead he looked at us, and it seemed to shape what he did. It was confronting, and changed everything. I started getting my students to improvise a piece where the only thing they can use is their gaze. It’s pretty interesting, and it turns out you can do all kinds of things just by looking. As people who are subject to the audience’s gaze, we forget that we have the power to exert force through our eyes as well as the receive information through them; we can perform something other than just that basic primate anxiety of working out whether the group loves us or is maybe about to turn on us and eat us.    – Michael

Paul Kidney emailed us his thoughts:

Firstly, I don’t think it is enough for musicians to hunch over laptops/effects pedals.
As a punter I find it can be really boring and unengaging.
Music and visuals is a gamble.
Sometimes they don’t work well together, yet sometimes they do.
If the music component is not as good as the visual component, then it leaves a gap which can be really distracting.
Music can you take you somewhere. Lots of music takes me nowhere at all.
Sometimes, it is interesting to hear, but I’m left wanting more.
I want an experience, to be in a zone that is fluid, unpredictable and inclusive, shaped by the audience, with an element of risk.
When music/visuals/movement work well I find they can sharpen a person’s focus and heighten their state of being.
Such a ‘zone’ can then become more visible, and  accessible.
I don’t think this detracts from the music .
Within this experience, visuals/performance/music become a seamless whole,  more than entertainment, with the  audience themselves participants.
As someone who plays improvised music, I personally like to incorporate as much sensory stuff as possible.
When an audience is inhabiting this place of experience with me, I find it is easier to let the music come through me, and it becomes  a 2 way street.
I find the biggest disruptions to such an experience and to improv itself can be selfconsiousness and a lack of connection.
Anything that sparks the journey beyond these things can be a very useful tool.

Thursday 19 September 2013 (7:30pm) – $10 entry (Book online)
Laptops, Costumes, Pedals and Projections: issues for live performance of experimental, drone and noise music.
Featuring: Michael Pulsford, Paul Kidney, Julian Williams, Hi-God People.
Moderated by Greg Wadley