Off The Page Bergen 2017:
Visceral Music: The Corporeal Roots of Electronic Sound
Saturday 28 January
Sound historian Sarah Angliss explores some surprising affinities between music making today and in the pre-electric age.
Delving into some lesser-known histories of sound technology, Sarah Angliss explores the tension between our desire and fear when we encounter sound that’s taken flight from its source. She considers some of the surprising, fleshy precursors of electronic sound technology, revealing how musicians have always been consummate cyborgs, enmeshing their bodies with machines and animal parts to augment their physical capabilities. She considers the esoteric, geological voyages of visionary electronic composer Daphne Oram whose own electronic music was inspired by her notions of resonances in the body and the English landscape.
Centuries before vocal plug-ins, musicians were seeking otherworldly voices by going under the surgeon’s knife. And before the phonograph or iPod, trained birds were used to bring music on demand into the home. In music, any concerns about the dehumanising influence of technology have always been mixed with a degree of machine envy. When human sound first took flight from the body, with the advent of the telephone and phonograph, some listeners found the effect disturbing. Today, in the era of transmitted audio and disembodied music downloads, it’s the physical, sometimes fleshy, precursors of our electronic sound technology which can seem uncanny.
Sarah Angliss is a composer, automatist and historian of sound, known for her singularly embodied performance which mixes theremin and live electronics with the automata she’s designed and built to work with her on stage. She’s been commissioned by the National Theatre, the British Film Institute, BBC radio and many others and has been a guest on Ghost Box and Gecophonic records.
Angliss is currently on residency at the Pervasive Media Studio, Bristol, exploring human motion capture in inanimate objects. Her other research topics include the use of trained birds as primordial, feathered sound recorders; the reputed psychological effects of infrasound; early attitudes to drum machines, samplers and The Talkies (Smithsonian Scholarly Press, 2013) and clog dancing from Lancashire, UK, as 19th century techno (with Caroline Radcliffe, 2008).