Glasgow Green, 2-3/5/98; a collaboration with Sophie J. Pragnell
The ‘maydaze’ took place at Glasgow Green on 2-3 of May 1998. It was a two day festival of dance, visual art, music and theatre, designed in part to celebrate 100 years of the People’s Palace in Glasgow, and partly as a celebration of May Day itself.
As part of ‘maydaze’ Glasgow City Council Performing Arts & Venues came up with the idea for the ArtMaze. This was a 100-foot square outdoor maze, made from Heras fencing, part-covered by a marquee. It was to be filled with artworks created by community groups throughout Glasgow; in the centre was a sculpture commissioned from George Wyllie.
John Ferry of Night & Day Productions approached Sophie about producing a musical installation for the ArtMaze, and she asked me to collaborate with her. This is what we came up with;
There were five sound locations;
We wanted something interesting & vaguely sinister to draw the public in. I produced a background wash of sub-bass drones & chords; I also dug out some recordings of laughing hyenas. Sophie researched some texts about mazes & had them recorded by actors. We then assembled a collage of all these elements using a digital editing suite.
We were looking for something busy & energetic to represent movement & choice. We layered up a drumming piece, starting in 4/4 with djembe, conga, shakers & bell, moving to 6/8, which in turn faded into thumb-pianos. Each section was punctuated by splendid clanging noises on my vacuum-gongs; four lengths of suspended aluminium vacuum-cleaner pipe, tuned to notes from the pelog scale.
The idea of this was to take a dead-end and turn it into a destination in itself. The piece was gentle, meditative & restful, using only gender slendro playing of a delay line, and occasional singing-bowl interjections.
A Maze of Wires & Waveforms
Self-contained interactive electronic musical sculpture. See next page.
In the centre of the maze was a sculpture of a bird, by George Wyllie, symbolising the coming of spring. We wanted something uplifting & positive, a fitting climax to the journey. Sophie had the idea of an ambient groove with live instruments over the top. I did the ambient groove using nothing more elaborate than a Casio GZ-50M sound module and a sequencer. (A friend put me onto a couple of interesting delays & effects hidden in the Casio.) Sophie played suling & viola over the top.
We recorded the pieces over a period of weeks using a variety of technologies from a humble four-track to a state-of-the-art digital editing suite! Each piece lasted somewhere between 8 and 15 minutes. Each was recorded onto C60 metal tapes, with varied silences in between so that the pieces would sometimes sound together & clash and at other times play on their own.
My evaluation; problems
- The ArtMaze was sited right next to a very large music stage, which mostly drowned out our music on the Sunday
- There were storytellers working in the maze (which we didn’t find out about until the day); they needed the music turned off while they were working
- The quiet corner needed much more to make it into a destination in itself, eg cushions, rugs, bells, gongs
- Most of the artwork in the maze had been produced in the community, but the music was the sole work of two professionals. This point was never addressed
The first three points could have been foreseen & dealt with by more consultation & co-operation at the planning stage. Community involvement in producing the music should have been considered.
- Clash of different musics in the space worked well
- Pieces sounded good in themselves, despite being recorded in some cases using fairly rudimentary technology
- PA system specified worked well
- The collaboration between Sophie & myself was extremely effective; I felt there was a balanced & equal input of ideas, and good communication between us as ideas were worked through
I have a funny feeling that the track referred to as ‘Centrepiece’ became the foundation for El laberinto de mi mente a few years later. I’ll have to try to dig out the cassette tapes…