Hello You. Time for another visit to the MSCTY School of Sound Art, my series of irregular video tutorials of sonic experimentation for Nick Luscombe’s long-running project exploring new ways of relating to the world around us through sound and space. And I’m exploring a rather more confined space than usual in this episode, produced as it was towards the end of last year when I found myself trapped in my bedroom by a very trendy virus. With studio and equipment several miles away, I was forced to rely on wit and imagination alone in the construction of this episode, which proved decidedly unproductive until I was reminded of two crucial facts: The first being that I’d made some rather intetresting spur-of-the-moment recordings a few days before being struck down with the dreaded lurgy; and secondly that my flatmate Vanessa was in possession of an Oboe and a clean bill of health!
Lesson 4 finds our audio adventurer fighting off cabin fever after spending a week confined to his bedroom … having succumbed to a rather enduring virus that’s currently on a non-stop world tour. Not to be outdone, Robin uses this opportunity to search for inspiration within the four walls of his home, eventually stumbling across a recent recording made entirely by chance, that sets him off on a journey into the wonderful world of the ‘Happy Accident’.
As well as creating a brand new work, we’ll take a brief look at some other artists who have incorporated chance and serendipity into their own practice, plus musician and flatmate Vanessa Howells drops in [at an appropriate distance!] to help out with some improvised oboe.
Those of you interested in further exploring some of the recordings referenced in the video can read more about the Whitechapel Bell Foundry tape archive and the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage team’s discovery of the ‘Accidental Ambience’ tape on the original London’s Sound Heritage blog post from 2021. The entire collection can be accessed through London Metropolitan Archives and there are plenty more sublime recordings on offer – the only difference being the rest were made by wonderful serendipity!
You can also find Ian Rawes’ original recording of the Tower Bridge Bascule Chamber on the London Sound Survey LP Thames via the Persistence of Sound label. The vast number of recordings created by Ian under that name have now also been entrusted to the London Metropolitan Archives, but can also still be accessed by visiting SoundSurvery.org.uk. Prepare to get yourself hopelessly, wonderfully lost!
The Conet Project CD boxset seems to be very rare these days, though I occasionally come across copies surfacing online for quite eye-watering sums. Ridiculous really, when you consider the entire released can be readily downloaded from the Free Music Archive. Prepare to get equally lost, but also decidedly spooked (this Pitchfork review from 2004 sums it all up nicely). The whole thing can be found on YouTube as well, so here’s the opening ‘Swedish Rhapsody’ that we used in the video (arguably the project’s most famous recording) to get you started:
In other news, what a week it’s been! Thanks so much to everyone who came down to my various outpourings over the last few days, be it with Ken Hollings as The Howling at The Horse Hospital, Copped Hall with Catherine Smith as part of the Dark Tales and Strange Sounds team or indeed at Boundary Condition with Alaa and the ever-redoubtable Iklectik crew. While no image could ever accurately depict the sheer lunatic intensity of it all, this picture of my two favourite clowns Tears | OV at a post-show debrief probably comes closest. Their performance was as fantastic as ever, of course!
But the biggest vote of gratitude must surely go to David Harper for literally saving our (vegan) bacon on Saturday night and fixing Revox B77 Wendy’s faulty power supply at the last minute, using the toolbox and soldering iron that he apparently just carries around with him for fun. The man is a hero and a legend and I don’t care who knows it. If there was any money in tape manipulation at all I’d be putting him on staff full-time.