Sonica festival takes new sounds to new places
- Alex Johnston
- 9 September 2015
This article is from 2015.
Cryptic's third biennial celebration of the intersections between music, visual art, performance and technology
Cryptic's Sonica festival returns in October, and the Glasgow-wide cross-disciplinary festival is spreading its wings further than ever. Cryptic's artistic director Cathie Boyd cheerfully outlines Sonica's central operating principle: 'There are no straight concerts in Sonica; everything is either music with a visual component or visual art with a sonic component.'
Sonica is about diversity and open-mindedness: as Boyd puts it, 'We don't do "themes".' It's as likely to present a brand new work, such as a site-specific piece written to be performed in a 19th century mausoleum, as to revive an existing work such as Olivier Ratsi's mind-blowing, immersive 2013 installation Onion Skin. This approach is also behind their relaxed attitude to premieres: Kathy Hinde's Tipping Point makes its Glasgow debut in this year's Sonica, but it was commissioned by Cryptic for Sonica in 2013, and has in the meantime appeared in festivals in the 2014 sound festival in Aberdeen, the Brighton Festival, the RVBn Festival in Bron, France and several other places. The point, for Boyd, is that as many people get to see it as possible.
Talking of things to see, you can't get much more visual than an entire movie. Belgium's Eric Sleichim and his music collective BL!NDMAN accompany William Wellman's 1927 silent movie classic Wings with a new score incorporating quotations from Xenakis, Reich, Stockhausen and others. Boyd is excited about Sonica's new partnership with the Glasgow Science Centre, which hosts a new work: Helmholtz, an installation by new music collective Wintour's Leap, features an array of LED lights that respond to whatever sounds are made in the space. To ensure that they're not always responding to the sound of visitors ambling about, there are special performances from the Maxwell Quartet playing works by Glass, Nico Muhly and Anna Meredith, and Dunedin Consort performing Palestrina motets, which should yield spectacular visual results.
Elsewhere, veteran Australian sonic explorer Robin Fox performs with Speak Percussion and with M.E.S.S., a duo with Byron Scullin, in which they've sampled some of the world's rarest synths. David Fennessy, co-creator with David Shrigley of Magnetic North's memorably daft 2011 opera Pass the Spoon, returns with a new work, Caruso (Gold is the sweat of the sun), written for multiple gramophone records and electric guitars and inspired by Werner Herzog's heroic and unhinged 1982 masterpiece Fitzcarraldo.
Govanhill Baths is the location for work by Indonesian artist Jompet Kuswidananto and also Robbie Thomson's The New Alps, a menacing kinetic installation of robots. One of the most intriguing works is 15 Seconds, written by Edinburgh-based composer, sound artist and improviser Lauren Sarah Hayes and performed in the Hamilton Mausoleum in South Lanarkshire, a giant stone cylinder with a domed roof which has the longest echo of any space in the world, an eerie 15 seconds. Rounding off the festival is Brazilian artist-in-residence Henrique Roscoe, presenting the UK premiere of Synap.sys, an 'audio-visual symphony' using a custom-built instrument. With further performances from Herman Kolgen, Mark Lyken and others, as well as musical rocking chairs being surreptitiously installed all over Glasgow, Sonica 2015 looks set to deliver another feast of cutting edge multi-media.
Sonica is at various venues in Glasgow and South Lanarkshire from Thu 29 Oct – Sun 8 Nov.