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FRONT COVER On the front cover of This Is The Order, you’ll find the rhythms of six well-known musical genres: Hip Hop, Drum and Bass, Funk, Tango, Heavy Metal and Rock. Embossed ridges represent the individual beats of a kick drum (left) and a snare drum (right). Three simple 4-beat measures of each style are printed vertically, enabling you to experience musical rhythm visually, haptically (through the sense of touch) and audibly. To play, run two fingers down the cover very slowly (these three bars, if performed at the correct tempo, would last approximately seven seconds). The experience is subtle and very different from listening to a recording of these rhythms, yet the information source is identical, and variations between different styles and their unique characteristics can easily be seen and sensed: the repeated double kick in Heavy Metal, the rapid tempo of Drum and Bass, and the regular snare strike that gives Rock its accent on the 2nd and 4th beat of every bar (think of the snare in ‘We Will Rock You’). If you move your fingers over the ridges fast enough, a sound will also be produced. What you will hear are the rhythms described above at a tempo roughly 600% faster than normal. At this speed, the repeated clicks also generate a ‘pitched’ tone or note – despite the individual sounds being essentially atonal. The faster you move your fingers across them, the higher the pitch ascends. As a result, the rhythms transform themselves audibly and become tones and pulses re-synthesised by the magazine cover and by you, the player. BACK COVER Our interest in making a magazine cover that produces sound led us to explore the tonal characteristics produced by the fast repetition of a single sound. By dragging your finger rapidly across the ridges in the paper you are in fact causing minor variations in the atmospheric pressure around you. These variations are also known as ‘sound waves’. The faster you swipe across these embossed ridges, the higher the pitch becomes. The back cover therefore presents a selection of embossed textures that are capable of producing different rhythms and tones. They are based on a piece written for atonal clicks called ‘Tone Grouping’. Scrape, scratch, flick, play, make noise. Be an Artist.

Nick Ryan

Nick Ryan is a composer and sound designer. He holds top industry awards in technical and creative fields for his unique approach to sound and music for film, TV drama and documentary, interactive media and orchestral composition.


CREATIVE DIRECTORS: ROSS CAIRNS & REBECCA WRIGHT K DESIGN AND ART DIRECTion: REBECCA WRIGHT EDITOR: VINCE MEDEIROS K ASSOCIATE EDITOR: ED ANDREWS K COVER ART: NICK RYAN & REBECCA WRIGHT HEAD OF PRODUCTION: VICTORIA BARBER K ‘this is the order’ is PUBLISHED BY ERASMUS PARTNERS EDITORIAL ENQUIRIES: EDITORIAL@ERASMUSPARTNERS.COM K The articles appearing within this publication reflect the opinions and attitudes of their respective authors and not necessarily those of the publishers, editorial team or sponsors.

An unborn foetus floats in the warm plasma of its mother’s womb unable to smell, its eyes firmly shut, and its fingers not yet fully formed. Still, though, it can sense something. It can sense the steady drum of its mother’s heart: dull, low-frequency oscillations pulsing through the womb. It is sound, and for all of us, it is our first contact with a world beyond ourselves. Sound precedes consciousness; we hear it even before we are born. From that moment on, there is no escaping it. Even in ‘silence’ it remains – unseen sonic signals colouring the static hum of our everyday ambience. And then there is sound as human intervention, as music, as artistic expression, as experience, created by its greatest architects – the virtuoso musicians, composers, engineers, writers and innovators who strive to repurpose its hidden wirings, and so enrich our lives. This Is The Order: The Sound Issue is about those people, the Artists of sound. Welcome to the sonic realm. K image: mark hough K explore more @ /resonance The image is a 3-D visualisation of a sound wave created when the word ‘Relentless’ was spoken out loud and recorded. It was then plotted and twisted in one full rotation around its horizontal axis.



Ever changing and ever challenging, David Byrne has metamorphosed his way far beyond the paradigm of the Talking Heads frontman that made him a rock star of his day. Since then, he has morphed and changed and cross-pollinated across the worlds of design, dance, theatre, film, opera, ballet, politics and writing. His beautifully ambiguous approach to the banal and the obvious, with an incessant eye to pushing the cultural envelope, makes him one of the most fascinating artists of our time. To call him a Renaissance Man would be trivial. To say he’s a punk icon would be reductive. Byrne is More, he is much More. What follows is an idiosyncratic tribute from his long-time associate. By Vivien Goldman f



Knowing that I had interviewed David Byrne several times starting in the original CBGBs days, a producer asked me to contact him about a TV show. “Not that he wants to be rude,” came the response, “but right now David can only answer questions posed to him by email.” “What can he possibly be so busy with?” wondered my bemused producer. In some ways, this story answers that understandable question. After all, even The Rolling Stones only tour, record, shoot videos and do the odd gig and… well, that’s kind of it, really. But that’s where similarities end. David Byrne is the rock star who dares to voyage into areas most of his colleagues barely know exist – and makes out like a polymath gangsta, being not only credible but actually popular, as in bums on seats, in all these different disciplines. Grrr, grrrr, grrrr. How does he do it? Let’s set the download straight. To paraphrase Byrne’s recent collaboration with his old cohort, Brian Eno, Everything That Happens Will Not Happen in this article. Is this a simple puff piece? Is this a tough inquisition?

His success is the revenge of every nerdy art school geekboy scrabbling through thrift store racks for a look that shows he means business, his way. Without Byrne, where would those polished po’ boys Hedi Slimane or Thom Browne be? Along with fellow new-wave scallywag Richard Hell, who wrote BLANK on his forehead before Prince scrawled SLAVE on his own dome, David Byrne almost invented the twitchy, underfed rock poet look of the ’70s.

When offstage, in keeping with his pioneering of understated geek chic, the soft-spoken Byrne eschews SUVs. Low-key, almost self-effacing, he zips around Manhattan and the globe on his trusty bicycle. He enjoys being a comparatively anonymous habitue of rock‘n’roll dives, prone to hanging cool in the shadows. When I last ran into him – at the old Knitting Factory or maybe SOB’s – he seemed happy to see a face familiar from the early Talking Heads days. “I don’t understand why I never see more people from back then out at shows now,” he commented in a bemused sort of way.

not meant to be obscure or difficult.

For the ordinary is both David’s despair and his delight. Really, he relishes banality in the ‘bizarre’ encounters of his True Stories movie, his outsize suit in Jonathan Demme’s Stop Making Sense concert film, his oddly fascinating photo series of corporate street address signs and global lighting fixtures – and, indeed, in decades of his faux-naif lyrics.

It’s meant to be something that’s

In truth, this article is simply a whimsical piece of the rock-lit pie, a delectation of davidata, a bouquet of the particular qualities (those bright blooms) that have enabled David Byrne to waft past the paradigm of the pop star and cross-pollinate the worlds of design, dance, theatre, movies, massive-scale live performance, opera, ballet, civic action, record labels, literary publishing.

understand what it’s about.” f

And then, still, there’s the music. But in the beginning is the idea. And that’s where Byrne scores. The reach, the breadth – yes, Byrne has manifested many dreams.


“Most of this stuff I do, I think it’s

accessible to kind of ordinary folks. Like these bicycle racks that I did for New York City – it’s all meant to be very [easy] for everybody to

Wind him up and watch him go off in a new and intriguing direction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Hear David tick . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Thank you for purchasing this rock star robot! Inside the box you will find a fully flexible figure with photogenic features. Also included are four interchangeable wigs: the Punk, the Braids, the Number One Cut and the Dreadlocks (Bob Marley Robot only). The healthy ego in this kit can be expanded by visiting our website for a small fee. The voicebox has adjustable pitch and autotuner. The Rock Star’s Audio & Video Product is located beneath the Robot in the sealed compartment. Note: The only Rock Star Robot in the series with a larger box containing additional Product compartments is the David Byrne Rock Star Robot. In addition to the audio and video material available with the other Robots in the Rock Star series, please also find:

In the true punk tradition, there’s no rock star mystique here. Tear away those minder/PR veils! Find out all you want to know about the inmost workings of Byrne’s brain with his refreshingly frank, free-form blog on Rants include musings and minutiae on both his work and his daily round and life as D.B. lives it.

Byrne has always been an aficionado of the unexpected in music, and his individual aesthetic has found a perfect outlet in his own internet radio station, handily located on his website: a well laid out and archived voyage into his mesmerised mind.

An ardent cyclist, David always wears his helmet. (Not included. Available on website.) Yeah, well, that’ll be because most people your age have A) acquired the trappings of domesticity that require staying home, or B) simply can’t stay up that late any more, now that the drugs don’t work, or C) are so ‘been there, done that’ they’re simply OVER the live experience. Dunraving. So in this matter of raving on, white hair notwithstanding, Byrne breaks the mould yet again. But that’s what we expect of D.B.

Information’, which comes complete with DVD. (Not included in this package.)

It’s beautifully predictable . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

See David do . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . At first Byrne was famously gawky with Tourette’s style co-ordination. But after a long association with the late lamented dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp, Byrne blossomed so much that on his recent tour, revisiting his post-punk partnership with Brian Eno, he sported a tutu over trousers. Tending towards the asexual rather than androgynous, Byrne succeeded in making the tutu seem fanciful but functional rather than camp drag.

Is it worthy of a tree dying in a far-off forest? Dear reader, you decide.

The unexpected . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Who says publishing is shrinking? Not our man D.B. Here, once again, cycling oxygenates the man’s myth. His recent, muchlauded memoir/mediation/exploration, Bicycle Diaries, is the most conventional of Byrne’s literary works. Mostly Byrne books double as bijou gallery-ready artefacts, like the PowerPoint project, ‘E.E.E.I. Envisioning Emotional Epistemological

A dropout of the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design, Byrne has never stopped imagining. Once again, those beloved wheels carry him far out – New York is now dotted with cheery D.B. bike racks, oversize bent metal animal silhouettes, reminiscent of Keith Haring. Generally Byrne’s designs tend to the playfully simplistic, from his chair that resembles a winebottle opener, to the ‘Aliens’ espresso coffee set he designed for Illy. Fans of Tony Hancock’s masterpiece movie, The Rebel, will see some artistic link with Hancock’s Shapeist School of Art – every colour is a different shape.

Not only does Byrne use his wheelie habit to feed his endless enthusiasm and curiosity about the people and places he encounters, his love of bikes has engaged him in politics. Money from the auction of the bike used during Bicycle Diaries went to the London Cycling campaign.

Putting his money where his mouth is, Byrne founded the world music label Luaka Bop in 1988. Since then, of course, the whole industry has devolved into a stormy sea of post-internet anarchy. But the integrity of Luaka Bop, expressing Byrne’s eclectic taste, was a consummate lifejacket. Though no longer strictly indie, its catalogue expresses independent ideals. Arguably no individual has done more than Byrne to curate and distribute little-known aspects of the African Diaspora, notably the sounds of Afro-South America, like Peruvian singer Susana Baca. Byrne’s bent for psychedelic stylings and electronica has also coloured us outsiders’ understanding of the sounds of Brazil with individualistic artists like Tom Zé.

Byrne is a top go-to dude for large-scale performance pieces, such as his nifty interactive extravaganza ‘Playing the Building’. Using a vintage organ, Byrne creates a full-on mechanical orchestra. A cat’s cradle of leads connect the organ to the various pipes and beams that make the building tick – and, when played


Byrne is a top go-to dude for large-scale performance pieces such as his nifty interactive extravaganza ‘Playing the Building’. A cat’s cradle of leads connect a vintage organ to various pipes and beams that make the building tick – and, when played by members of the audience, thump, rattle and hiss as well – in a charmingly atonal, eerily lugubrious anti-melody. f by members of the audience, thump, rattle and hiss as well – in a charmingly atonal, eerily lugubrious anti-melody. Presenting it recently at the Roundhouse, in London, D.B. noted gleefully that he played there with the Talking Heads and the Ramones when punk was just starting in 1976. It was nicely circular, returning as a museum-quality artist to the venue where he’d learned first-hand about ‘gobbing’ – and the advantages of the Ramones’ thick leather jackets.

Brian Eno. A quarter century or so after they revolutionised pop with My Life In The Bush of Ghosts, it’s quite touching that the Byrne/Eno axis is back. So kudos then, to these musical life partners for their haunting Everything That Happens Will Happen Today.

If any of the above Products are missing from this Robot, please contact us via our website and quote Catalog number T.I.T.O./RSR/D.B. A Coda: Byrne’s own musical discoveries have shaped his musical path. In the beginning, of course, he helped make punk funky with the Talking Heads. Ferociously, his jagged neuro-rock rode Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz’s rhythms, firing off lyrics with the crisp, confusing clarity of a painting by Magritte. A turning point came with 1981’s My Life In The Bush of Ghosts, when he and Eno fused ancestral African rhythms with then-futuristic wistful electronica. Now the groove globe is D.B.’s playpen as he romps freely through the Afro-Latino diaspora. It only works because his oblique, saturnine persona is so distinctive that he doesn’t drown in his mixed beats.

Slightly nasal and with occasionally eccentric pitching, Byrne’s vocals are not conventionally pretty as he’d be the first to agree. But his idiosyncrasies and oddly titillating lyrics make him a much-desired guest and collaborator. Ever inquisitive and receptive, Byrne is open to all sorts of encounters. He’s messed with dramatist Robert Wilson and choreographer Twyla Tharp. His input helps shape tastemakers like Thievery Corporation, the Brazilian Girls and N.A.S.A. As I write, according to his online journal, Byrne’s completing the recorded version of Here Lies Love, his musical knee-trembler with Fatboy Slim about Imelda Marcos. Latterly he has been working with hipster Brooklyn’s Dirty Projectors on ‘Knotty Pine’. Jams with Jay-Z and Dizzee Rascal show that D.B. appreciates a ruffer counterpoint to his urgent, tremulous alto. A personal favourite is the exquisite Last Emperor film soundtrack, on which he mingled melodies with Japanese classical futurist Ryuichi Sakamoto. But D.B.’s most sustained partnership is with uber-producer


Hey People, I’m thinking of including this answer D.B. gave us at the press conference for the Roundhouse ‘Playing The Building’ in the D.B.R.S.R. package. It makes him likeable and I think will add value to the D.B. Robot. What do you reckon? Is there a consistent thread running through your various endeavours and if so, what is it? D.B.: I’ve started thinking that there’s a kind of populist thread, I guess you could say. Most of this stuff I do, I think it’s not meant to be obscure or difficult. It’s meant to be something that’s accessible to kind of ordinary folks. Like these bicycle racks that I did for New York City – it’s all meant to be very [easy] for everybody to understand what it’s about. That doesn’t mean, for example, [that] the music I make is meant to be the lowest common denominator of popular; in the same way that this installation is not going to appeal to absolutely everybody. But it doesn’t go out of its way to push you away – it kind of welcomes you. All my stuff sort of welcomes the ordinary person in and says, “No, there’s nothing scary about this.” There’s nothing about it that says, “We’re better than you.” K photography: james day K K explore more @ /davidbyrne Vivien Goldman is Adjunct Professor of Punk and Reggae at NYU. The most recent of her five books is The Book of Exodus on Bob Marley and the Wailers’ epic record, Exodus.  Goldman’s seminal post-punk single ‘Launderette’ was recently re-issued on both Chicks on Speed’s Girl Monster and the Disco Not Disco compilations. Vivien has known David Byrne for over 30 years. Shelley Jones contributed to this feature.


The breathtaking new feature-length film from Relentless about Artists striving for fulfilment. Life is too short for pretending. K photography: tero repo K download & explore more @ /livesoftheartists



Bat For Lashes ycanthropy, shape-shifting, the power of the moon, the tidal flow of blood. These are mythologies embedded deep in the female psyche, mysteries of flesh and soul connecting even the most modern woman to her darkest, primal self. Angela Carter knew this, creating feminist transfigurations of traditional fairy tales in her volume, The Bloody Chamber, later adapted into Neil Jordan’s film The Company of Wolves. Natasha Khan knows it too. As Bat for Lashes, she weaves this dark imagery of transformation and possession into music.


Over two albums, the half-Pakistani former nursery school teacher from Hertfordshire (via Brighton) has developed the shadowy, pastoral mysticism of her debut Fur and Gold into the harsher, more direct and urban lyricism of Two Suns. Here, Natasha becomes Pearl, a debauched, coquettish, self-destructive blonde from a Diane Arbus photo or an Andy Warhol screen test. “I was interested in the garishness and the enforced feminine attributes that transvestites have,” she says. “Drag queens are amazing, but they’re just these eyes and lips and skin, and it’s quite horrific in some ways. It reminds me of Halloween.” Using facepaint, glitter, animal masks, junkshop jewels and feathers, Natasha metamorphoses into erotic, exotic and otherworldly disguises. Blink again and she’s dressed in a simple, streetwise hoodie looking like a boxer in training – a shape-shifting shaman again defying our expectations. In person, she’s girl-next-door pretty, engaging, intelligent


and softly spoken. Yet stand her in front of a camera and she’s transformed, becoming the beautiful and bewitching Bat for Lashes of legend. Musically, Natasha draws on the dark pop soundtrack of mid-eighties Britain: Siouxsie and the Banshees, Kate Bush, David Bowie and Robert Smith. “A lot of my favourite artists straddled that strange place between innovation and eccentricity,” Natasha admits. “Weird, inventive pop music, like The Cure… Arthur Baker doing dark, disco remixes and that subterranean New York feeling… and also, I chose those sounds because it reminds me of that time, and it makes me really happy. So it is kind of nostalgic, in a way.” Bat for Lashes seems rooted in that initial moment of feminine self-awareness: the time of first blood, of pubescent rites of passage, of an emergent savagery and sexuality as the body’s wrenched into a more animalistic form, sprouting dark hairs and exuding strange new scents. But the adult Natasha knows that she’ll emerge freer and more alive than before, glorying in her true beast nature as she sloughs off the dead skin of childhood. “Everybody goes through relationship break-ups, or losing their sense of home, or losing themselves,” Natasha says. “And I think the job of an artist is to be brave enough to say, ‘I feel that too. You’re not alone.’” K text: ben graham K photography: brooke nipar K explore more @ /batforlashes


Sonic Cathedrals Steeped in mystery and sheer awe, and with a sound bigger than the heavens themselves, the Baroque organ held the ability to stir the listener both aurally and spiritually. So deep yet so ethereal, it would quell any lingering doubt, in congregations throughout Christendom, about the existence of the celestial forces beyond man. By Karl Lutchmayer f ntil the second half of the 18th century and the coming of the Industrial Revolution, the proof of man’s ability to master nature lay in what were then the two most complex machines on earth: the clock and the pipe organ. With the former he took control not only of the rhythm of his life but also the navigation of the seas, whilst with the latter he mastered the cornucopia of natural sounds to enjoy and manipulate at his own pleasure. The silvery calls of cuckoos and nightingales, the wondrous beauties of the human voice, the whistling of winds and the booming of storms, even the ground-shaking power of thunder, were all tamed and put, quite literally, at the hands of one man, the organist.


Even today, standing before the 250-year-old organ console in Weingarten Abbey in southwest Germany is a dizzying experience. Taking in the raked bank of four keyboards and the dizzying array of small white knobs, adorned only with code words and numbers, one cannot help but wonder how any human mind can muster sufficient acuity to control the keyboard’s parameters and still have enough thinking time and spatial awareness to find the right notes with his feet on the pedal board. But to the layman in 1750, whose experience of everyday machinery went only as far as the lock, the carriage or the lathe, this must have seemed incomprehensible and entirely overwhelming. As blasé consumers of 21st century technology, perhaps our only way to understand this sense of awe would be to find ourselves at the controls of our own most complex machine – on the flight deck of the Space Shuttle, where surrounded by switches, readouts and acronyms, our untrained minds would swim. Imagine igniting the rocket engines with the simple flick of a switch, and the power that it would unleash. Having flown in a


plane and ridden a roller coaster, you might have some small inkling of how that would feel. But now consider the local cobbler pressing a key on our Baroque organ in 1750. Nothing in his life up till that point could possibly prepare him for the torrent of sound that would be released. Whilst a thunderclap might be louder, short of a volcano, there is almost nothing in nature comparable to the sustained volume of sound coming out of that revolutionary instrument. Plus, if he stayed a while to hear the organist at work, he would also hear an unparalleled variety of sounds, which would beguile and terrorise in equal measure. No, to our Baroque cobbler, this magical invention would have been more myth than machine, a combination of the grinding mills of God and the music of the spheres. he organ was one of the earliest recorded manufactured instruments, and is said to have been invented in the third century B.C. by an Alexandrian engineer called Ctesibius, who attached an air supply to a set of pan-pipes. (Interestingly, he is also credited with inventing the first mechanical clock!) Since that time, the basic principles of an organ have remained fairly similar: a set of bellows pumps air into a box which is attached to a set of pipes. When a note on the keyboard or pedal board is pressed, the pressurised air is released into a pipe and produces





cause of apparitions and hauntings, whilst recent studies also suggest that brief exposure to such frequencies can release endorphins that give a natural feeling of happiness and well-being. Thus the pipe organ, unbenknownst to its original designers, actually appears to stimulate psychological responses in the congregation which correspond to the heavenly and infernal teachings of the Church – the first example of subliminal advertising, perhaps.

The devil may indeed have all the best tunes, but it seems he also likes to have the best instruments, and stories abound of organ makers doing deals with him in exchange for a particular sound. f

lmost oblivious to its own greatness, this ‘King of Instruments’ (in the words of Mozart) is the only visually inanimate purveyor of music before the invention of the radio. With the organist hidden in his loft, there is no external suggestion of activity, no movement of finger or mouth to be discerned. In the days before automation, unless you were one of the bellows operators pumping furiously to keep this leviathan sated with air, the calm mystery of its thousands of levers, trackers and valves would be total. Even if we risk our neighbour’s censure and crane our heads to look behind us from the pew to the organ pipes some 40ft above, our attention is largely drawn to the frozen Baroque fantasy of gold ornamentation – at every turn a leaf, a flower, a vine, the subtle drapery showcasing the carver’s art, and, watching over this orgy of extravagance, the most elegant angels and saints. Where is the instrument itself?


a note. Each note requires at least one dedicated pipe, but to create more variety, organs use a number of different pipes for each note, some of which are entirely hollow, whilst others pass the air over vibrating reeds. The organist activates the combination of pipes he wants to use by means of a series of knobs (known as stops), which control which sets of pipes are in operation, and so the performer can blend the sound quality of the music rather like choosing colours from a paint palette. Unlike a piano, however, the keys on the organ are not touch sensitive, and so the only way to change the volume is by means of two large pedals, one of which opens and closes panels in front of the pipes, and the other, depending on its position, automatically activates louder or softer pipes. It is weird to think that, until the 20th century, all of this was quite literally done by levers, and perhaps this in itself makes the organ such a mysterious entity. It is hard to fathom how such a simple premise can result in a sound which, at full power, may reach volumes approaching 140 decibels (db). A jet engine reaches about 100db, a pneumatic drill approximately 125db, and even a gunshot is only just about 140db, but in a church, depending on the acoustics, each sound can reverberate through the building for more than a second, quite literally creating a travelling soundscape for the seated listener. As the source of that sound is frequently behind the congregation, there is often a curious sensation during an organ recital of being trapped in a vortex, a sensation further amplified by the visual experience of a Baroque church’s almost unnatural height-to-width ratio – a ratio which, unlike most dwelling places, is entirely out of proportion to the size of a man. Truly, if the Church wanted to offer a theme park experience of personal insignificance in an unfathomable world, they could do little better than this. However, there is a darker side to the sound of the organ – and I’m not just referring to the effect that wielding all of this power has upon the organist. The devil may indeed have all the best tunes, but it seems he also likes to have the best instruments, and stories abound of organ makers doing deals with him in exchange for a particular sound. Perhaps the most famous refers to Joseph Gabler who, when building the Weingarten organ, was unable to find exactly the right timbre for the vox humana (which is supposed to emulate the human voice).


Having therefore sold his soul to the devil, he proceeded to capture and kill a young virgin and use her blood to coverthe pipes. The resulting sound is certainly one of the most extraordinary features of the organ builder’s art, but in truth, to the modern ear, it actually sounds rather like the Hammond organ in Procul Harum’s ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’ (which may indeed be the most truly occult thing about it). But before you go dismissing this as just another fanciful piece of Baroque storytelling, it may be worth remembering that, by some strange coincidence, the organ at Weingarten Abbey sports 6,666 pipes… Satanic contracts aside, the pipe organ has a much deeper secret which has only recently been revealed. Whilst it is well known that some of the pipes producing the very lowest notes can actually shake the building and produce the lowest humanly audible sounds, recent studies show that they can also set up slower vibrations, known as infrasound. At such low frequencies (below 20Hz), the sound is not actually heard, nor is it usually felt as vibrations through the floor or the fabric of the building. Instead, it is the organs in the human body that can start to vibrate in sympathy, resulting in strange physical and psychological sensations. In one study, test subjects reported feeling squeezing of the chest and neck, and being held by a ‘presence’, whilst in another, listeners at a concert reported ‘an extreme sense of sorrow, coldness, anxiety, and even shivers down the spine’ when a low-frequency vibration was applied to the space. In fact, it is widely conjectured that infrasound may well be the

It is there, offering a glimpse of a few of its numerous simple ranks of plain pipes beneath the effusions of decorative distraction. All of uniform colour, symmetrically laid out in order of length, at last in this palace of fancy we find an element of control – the sturdy regulation of Enlightenment thinking underpinning the hedonism – and it is here that we find the Baroque organ’s other secret, for its visual manifestation is also a symbol of its musical aesthetic. Whilst the Baroque period in music (c.1600-1750) is inevitably associated with the highly ornate, at its heart lay a movement aiming for a greater simplicity and directness of style. In contrast to the music of the Renaissance, which was largely concerned with surface beauty, Baroque composers wrote their works from the foundations up, first creating clear and simple structures which were then ornamented. Thus, just like seeing the structured and organised pipe work surrounded by gilded embellishments, so too do we hear the grounded, inexorable harmonies of the Baroque style supporting its ingenious and colourful surface flourishes, a balance which reached its zenith in the music of JS Bach. Far less esteemed in his lifetime for his compositions, Bach was famous instead as a virtuoso organist and, in a field where many (including Handel) were manually dexterous, he was feted most particularly for his deft footwork. In Johann Sebastian Bach: his life, art and work, Johann Nikolaus Forkel notes:

‘Whenever it suited him, he could realise such astonishing, exciting, and lively chords at the organ through the use of his feet alone (whether or not he was playing anything else with his hands) that another could never quite imitate him even by playing with the hands… he ran over the pedal-keys with such agility that his feet seemed to be winged.’ It is easy to forget that organists have to choose which combinations of pipes best suit the character of the music, and that this has to change radically from instrument to instrument depending on their capabilities and the building’s acoustics. The equivalent would be a conductor needing to assign the notes of a symphony to different members of the orchestra each time he performed it with a different orchestra or in another hall. Yet here too, in his choice of sound palette, Bach was a widely acknowledged master. Forkel writes: ‘His method of registration was so unconventional, that many organists and organ builders were horrified when they saw his selection. They believed that such a combination of voices could not possibly sound well, but they marvelled when they later noticed that it was exactly in this way that the organ sounded its best.’ But even to this day, the most important part of an organist’s arsenal is his ability to improvise, and I am quite certain that if a time machine is ever created, Bach’s organ improvisations will be the first stop on the musical grand tour. In Bach’s enormous oeuvre for organ we experience the widest variety of moods and forms, from grandeur to joy and simplicity to despair, and it may well be true that all human life and emotion is represented there. Most of us will, at some time, have thrilled to the famous opening of the Toccata and Fugue in d minor which opens with such an arresting flourish that, at times, it quite literally seems like an improvisation, and then it temporarily subsides as it turns into one of the most important styles of Baroque writing – the organ fugue. Here, starting with just one melody, others quickly join in to entwine themselves around each other and form a musical edifice no less grandiose or complex than the magnificent buildings in which they are usually heard. This is extravagant music, but how much more extravagant would it be to have heard it as an improvisation at Bach’s own hands, to experience the frisson of the moment of creation itself? The true glory of the organ, whether Baroque or Romantic, picturesque or utilitarian, lies not with the instrument, the builder, the carver, nor the architect, but with the performer. The organist may well record the music of others for our convenience, but his true nature, the seat of his artistry, is as a live improviser. Go and experience it, if only once, and feel that infinite instant, where time and place cease to exist, as the organist becomes the master of the moment. K explore more @ /cathedrals



In Utero The hearing mechanism on a foetus is developed 20 weeks into a pregnancy, but it often takes another four or five weeks before the baby starts registering sounds. Music played to the unborn child can stimulate alpha waves in the brain, and studies show that this leads to an increase in oxygen uptake. After the child is born, she may also recognise the music played while she was in the womb.

A Cognitive Itch An earworm – a literal translation from the German word Ohrwurm – refers to sounds, songs and jingles that get stuck in people’s head on compulsory repeat. Science calls it involuntary musical imagery, whereas Daniel Jackson, the author of Sonic Branding, clarifies: “The essence of the jingle is that it is almost impossible to filter because of the way rhyme and melody are employed to creep into the audience’s head.”

AntonIO Salieri Around the turn of the 19th century, the Venetian composer and conductor was pivotal to the careers of many celebrated musicians. Salieri taught such notables as Beethoven, Czerny and Schubert, as well as penning over 40 operas and concertos. In the end, though, he was to become renowned for three things: his bitter feud with Mozart, accusations of sabotage against the Austrian’s career, and even rumours of his involvement in Mozart’s death. None of these have ever been proven true.

The Urban Funk Campaign During the Vietnam War, the US Army launched a sound harassment programme called the Urban Funk Campaign. Sonic weaponry – such as The Curdler and People Repeller – were used for crowd control, or just to keep the enemy awake at night. Audio frequency oscillators attached to helicopters drowned enemy combatants in noise ranging from 500-5,000Hz at an amplitude of 120 decibels.

Sergei Prokof iev A precocious talent, Prokofiev had composed his first opera at the age of nine and was inducted into the St. Petersburg Conservatory by 13. Brash and arrogant, his modernist work upset the establishment causing many to storm out of recitals. But his work endures with time. Though it’s been several decades since his death, Prokofiev remains the most frequently played composer of the last 100 years.

The Devil Tone The tritone, also known as ‘the devil tone’, is a music interval that spans three whole notes. It’s been the source of great controversy because of its distinctively uncomfortable, dissonant sound. The church unanimously prohibited its use in the 18th century and labelled it ‘the devil in music’. Since then, it has returned via rock and heavy metal.

Beethoven’s V Sign During the Second World War, Winston Churchill used two fingers to form a V for victory, but someone at the BBC thought there should also be an audible version of the sign. Three dots and a dash – the Morse code rhythm – were used, and this also happens to be the opening bars of Ludwig van Beethoven’s famous Fifth Symphony.

The Colour of Sound Synesthesia is a neurological phenomenon that takes place when the hearing of a sound elicits an involuntary perception of colour. Often louder tones are seen as bright colours, while the soft tones are both larger and darker than the higher ones. It’s believed that with age, the ability to ‘see’ sound decreases, but Pharrell Williams, Tori Amos and Stevie Wonder have all famously preserved their synesthetic abilities.

Grand Organ The world’s largest working organ is located at Macy’s Center City in Philadelphia. With over 28,400 pipes, the Wanamaker organ fills the store with a huge orchestral sound, with the instrument capable of reproducing everything from tuba sounds to strings. It is played twice a day, Monday to Saturday. On the seventh day, it rests.

B-Flat Black Hole Astronomers have managed to catch sound waves from supermassive black holes in the Perseus Galaxy Cluster, some 250 million light years away from Earth. Scientists have found ripples in its gas-filled cluster, which indicate the existence of sound. The ‘tone’ produced by the black hole cannot be heard by a human ear because it’s too deep, but in musical terms, it represents a B flat.

The Loudest Land Animal The howler monkey, which lives in the South American jungle, is the loudest land animal on earth. Its scream – described as a piercing air raid signal – can clearly be heard three miles away, even through dense rainforest. Only the male monkey screams, either to attract females or to sonically mark its territory. It achieves this through an enlarged hyoid bone in its throat that amplifies the sound.

The Human Echo Daniel Kish is blind but can still ride a bike. By using echolocation, Kish sees with his ears. The system is similar to ultrasound sonar used by bats to navigate. Unlike the sound waves used by bats, Kish makes loud clicks with his tongue and lets them bounce off cars, people, trees or other big objects in his surroundings.


Volcanic Volume In 1883, the mountain of Krakatoa on the island of Java, Indonesia, erupted. The explosion was so loud that it shattered the eardrums of sailors on nearby ships, travelling as far as Rodriguez Island, more than 4,563 kilometres away in the Indian Ocean. The eruption also set off a 40-metre-high tsunami.

Kerouac and the Sea As well as being influenced by jazz, the author of On the Road also liked the sound of the sea. On a trip to Big Sur, in California, Kerouac went down to the ocean to get inspiration from the sound of crashing waves: “One night I got scared anyway so sat on top of a 10-foot cliff and the waves are going, ‘Rare, he rammed the gate rare’ – ‘Raw roo roar’ – ‘Crowsh.’”

Ghost Frequencies It’s been recently discovered that the 19Hz sound frequency may be responsible for many ghost sightings. After witnessing a suspiciously high number of ‘ghosts’, a professor from Coventry discovered that a nearby extraction fan was emitting a sound frequency very close to the resonant frequency of the eye. These vibrations would result in ghostly visual illusions in the listener. The Art of Noises Italian futurist painter and composer Luigi Russolo was one of the first people to recognise the creative potential of the Industrial Revolution’s unrelenting roar. Such was his enthusiasm for harnessing the musical potential of man-made noise that he designed a machine in an attempt to explore the boundaries of noise. He also published T he Art of Noises in 1913, which introduced a new musical notation that is still used by electronic musicians today.


Hyperscore Music Dan Ellsey was born with cerebral palsy and is unable to walk or talk. But thanks to the Hyperscore computer programme, developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dan can write his own music. Ellsey composes melodies using a head-mounted interface that responds to his movements. The Hyperscore software then turns the movements into musical notes. Ellsey controls the melody through coloured graphs that represent the different instruments used.

The Chirp of Quetzal At the ancient Mayan Temple of Kukulcan, Mexico, the staircases are built out of a certain highly resonant stone. When hands are clapped, the chirped echoes resemble the primary calls of the Quetzal, a Mayan sacred bird. Technically, the echoes are periodic reflections from the steps, but legend has it that the bird represents the spirit of the Maya Indians speaking in echoes.

Singing Stars Using stellar seismology, astronomers can listen to ‘singing’ stars. The sounds the stars make reveal their inner workings, with noise differing due to age, size and chemical composition. These are picked up in light signals and then transformed into sounds. Curiously enough, the music they produce bears a striking resemblance to the synthesizer tones of sci-fi films. Greek Theatre Acoustics The famous Epidaurus theatre, built in the 4th century BC, can hold 14,000 people in its 55 rows. Despite its scale and even when packed, audience members at the back can still hear a normal conversation taking place during the play. The secret is the limestone seats that filter out the low-frequency noise and highlight the high-frequency sound coming from the stage.

Inaudible Sound Infrasound is an extremely low sonic frequency, far below the audible range of the human ear. It’s the product of strong oscillations that can have an incredibly powerful physical presence. Orcas are known to stun and even completely kill their prey with inaudible sound blasts, and earthquakes usually release an infrasound warning right before an eruption that most animals can hear but humans cannot.

Sonic Illusion It turns out that the recipe for silence requires noise. Noise-cancelling headphones, for example, have a sensor that reads and instantly reproduces a mirror image of outside frequencies. The mirrored sound waves counteract each other and create the illusion of silence.

Sonic Boom Humanity exceeded the speed of sound far before it had any concept of it. The bullwhip is perhaps the first human invention to move faster than the speed of sound, pre-dating the Concorde, the F-104 Starfighter and the Space Shuttle. The efficient design of the bullwhip allows it to produce the sonic equivalent of a jet fighter breaking the sound barrier.

Soul and Sound Sound carries a great spiritual significance for some cultures. The tradition of vocal and mental repetition, often known as mantras, originated in India. These mantras were considered to possess the power of spiritual transformation. Buddhist monks believed mantras were one step closer to a divine consciousness because they detracted the unnecessary and fully occupied the being.

Waxing Muzak From the 1940s onwards, employers started taking a scientific approach to Muzak. It was played in factories to increase the morale, productivity and even attendance of workers. Companies also introduced the idea of stimulus progression, which meant that the music’s intensity would be altered depending on the time of the day. The method is still used today by corporations and businesses around the world.

The Anechoic Chamber Echoes don’t exist in an anechoic chamber giving near total silence. Every possible surface is covered in long foam protrusions to prevent sound from being reflected. Once inside, a person is instantly more aware of the sounds of their own body. There is no ambient noise at all, making the smallest hum – breathing, heartbeats and blood surging through the veins – seem astonishingly loud.


White Noise Machine White noise machines provide an aid to eliminate or reduce it, not by drowning this sound but by incorporating it. The machine, which can look similar to a clock radio or fire alarm, recreates the pleasant sound of wind blowing through trees or rushing waterfalls, leaving any other noise to get lost in this carpet of white. Most machines operate at 60 decibels, which is the volume for a normal conversation.

Foley Sounds Traditionally, the job of a Foley artist is to recreate the plethora of everyday sounds of a film in the most convincing manner possible, which often means dispensing with computers and modern technology. Legend has it that the sound of sliding doors in Star Wars was created by pulling a piece of paper from an envelope, while in Star Trek the squeak of a sneaker was responsible for the sound of flare guns.

Auditory Hallucinations The human brain’s audio cortex has its own method of dealing with enforced silence. Hallucinations are not psychotic but neurological. The auditory part of the brain can start to generate its own spontaneous activity. The composer Schumann experienced musical hallucinations most of his life. He often harnessed them creatively, but they eventually degenerated into dissonant music and finally into one single note, played ceaselessly and with unbearable intensity.

The Sound of Silence In composer John Cage’s famous 4’33” piece, a pianist sits silent in front of a piano for four minutes and 33 seconds. On record it means very little, but its true nature is best experienced live. Silence allows the audience’s attention to be diverted to the sounds of the environment – chairs creaking, the shuffling of feet and the air conditioning, bringing the least prominent elements of a live performance to the foreground.

Mozart’s Aide Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17 in G major K.453 was written with a bit of help from his pet starling. History has it that while he was deliberating over the final notes of the piece, the bird picked up the melody and repeated it, and finished it off with a different, sharper note, which Mozart found to be very pleasing and duly credited the feathered contributor.

Standing Waves Quite often deemed the culprit in many historical bridge collapses, the standing wave phenomenon is created by two identical waves traversing in opposite directions. As traffic travels in opposite directions on a road, it creates vibrations that self-polarise and can lead to incredibly destructive outcomes, as witnessed in the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse in 1940.


In the ultimate theatre of physical performance, where actors go beyond the sensations of sight and sound into a new realm ruled only by vision, noise and feeling, there is Alastair Seeley. Bombarded by the guttural roar of internal combustion, he conquers and awes the hippodromes of our day. And when the tireless whine of the engines finally goes silent, Seeley emerges victorious. By Ed Andrews f


t may very well seem that you cannot judge art, merely critique it. After all, is not all demonstration of artistry something only to be rationalised in the minds of the witness and brought to its own subjective conclusion? But in the world of motorsport racing, there is a great barometer, an arbiter of ability that cannot be disputed. Being that artist who crosses the finish line first is a universal truth that speaks for itself. Taking the chequered flag is something that Alastair Seeley excels at. The 29-year-old British superbike rider nicknamed the Wee Wizard has simply become unbeatable. He has just been crowned winner of the 2009 BSB Superstock Championships after winning the first nine races of the 12-race season. “The buzz you get from winning is what every rider dreams of,” says Alastair with an air of wistful satisfaction in his calm Irish accent. “That feeling of crossing the finish line to a chequered flag, you never want it to end.” It seems that this was almost pre-written into Alastair’s destiny. His father Joe was a regular competitor in road and circuit motorbike racing in Ireland and, from an early age, Alastair would charge dirt bikes around the fields near his hometown of Carrickfergus in Northern Ireland. In his early


teens, he started racing motocross with a childhood friend and, by his own admission, “was quite good at it”. He went on to become the Ulster School Boys Motocross Champion. But along with adolescence comes several rites of passage and Alastair’s passion for motocross soon fell by the wayside.

core strength and stamina for the physical demands of racing. “When you are in great shape, you don’t have to worry about running out of steam during a race,” says Alastair with all the confidence of a prize-fighter. “All you then have to worry about are your lines and the riders around you.”

After a few years in this intoxicating exile, it was his father who suggested he get back on the bike, but this time on tarmac. Together, they bought a cheap 1994 Honda 125 in July 2000, and Alastair returned to the fold, claiming his first win in October 2001 at Aghadowey in the Irish Clubman’s 125 Championship. From there, he steadily climbed up the ranks, upgrading to a Suzuki 600 bike along the way. He debuted on the BSB Superstock Series in 2007, finishing a very respectable 10th. Just two years later, he would claim the title before the season was even over.

Being at the top of his game physically, Seeley has been able to concentrate solely on the mental aspects of racing, which are just as important. Choosing positions, hitting perfect racing lines and pushing the engineering of the bike all demand Machiavellian manoeuvring. When done at over 180mph, it demands the utmost of cerebral calculations. Alastair speaks with the knowing contentment of a true master, from a place where passion has been relinquished to pure control: “I’ve been told I have a great racing brain. It comes from motocross – always having someone else right next to you to battle. I deal with that well. You’ve got to watch the rider in front of you, see what they do and decide where you are better. That’s if they are in front of you, though.”

But such an ascent is not for the faint- or half-hearted – it demands the passion and commitment of a true artist. With this in mind, Alastair’s personal trainer, Alaster McClintock (himself a former Irish motocross champion), took him to indulge in the most honest and noble of arts: boxing. In November 2008, Alastair began a gruelling training programme at the Monkstown Boxing Club, resulting in him losing half a stone and fine-tuning his

Superbike racing is far from a serene sport. Each bike creates its own wasp-like noise, resulting in an incessant, menacing roar from start to finish. But, as Alastair knows, amid the

din lies secret sounds that can be used to his advantage. “A lot of riders wear earplugs but I don’t,” he says. “I like to be able to hear the revs of the engines and use them.” This may be finding the ideal spot to change gear or gauging the revs of his opponents. Such is its importance, he recently upgraded his Arai helmet to reduce wind turbulence, allowing him to listen to his opponents with greater clarity. It’s precisely this unflinching commitment and attention to detail that dictates a rider’s place on the podium, their true unflinching artistry indelibly sealed in lap times and chequered flags. But along with this comes sacrifices, something Alastair knows all too well. “It’s a very selfish sport – you always put yourself first before anything else,” he says regretfully, mindful of his young son and the additional time that racing demands of him now that he reigns at the top of his game. “But I have trained so hard over the last eight years… I know I have a talent and now I have to put it to good use. Blood, sweat and glory, as they say in boxing. It’s about finding that confidence in your own ability to become number one.” K text: ed andrews K explore more @ /seeley


For thousands of years, we have been fighting a civilisational war against silence, filling our ears with the clamour of life itself. But is there something more to be discovered in the seeming absence of noise – an enlightenment, a clarity, a vision that has so far been obscured by the din of our own existence? By Matt Bochenski f


n the beginning was the Word. And the Word was made flesh. Given voice. A silence was shattered, and the dawn of creation broke over the long, dark night. A susurration moved the void – the first sound carrying the stirrings of life; the exhalation of a cosmic breath. The death of silence is the birth of creation. Perhaps it’s like the Bible says: God spoke, and the words that rang out were the Heavens and the Earth, and the life of Men was the light inside Him. Perhaps it’s like the scientists say: two particles sprang into existence and collided, and the Big Bang they created was an ear-splitting echo of life reverberating through dark matter. Science and Religion are united: sound is life; silence is death. This is the meta-narrative of the human condition. We emerge from the quiet cradle of the womb, from the barren wastes of stellar dust, before returning once again to the fearful finality of a silent grave. And so we fill that short space between with every species of sound: noise, babble, discordance, cacophony, hubbub, racket, uproar, tumult, commotion and din. We yell and scream and cry and shout. We make noisy, passionate love. We have loud and heated arguments. We make violent, clamorous wars. We fill our eyes and our mind and our soul with the narcotic buzz of bedlam. In our restless, angry, despairing consumption of sound we confirm that we are alive. And when we think of its opposite – if at all – it’s with a sense of impending terror. Senescent silence waits for us all: a dead silence, as quiet as the grave, an end to life’s clashing crescendo.


Today, our retreat from silence is both multidimensional and multimedia. The internet is the signature invention of our age: brash, adolescent and noisy. If noise is life, when anybody can be heard by anyone, anywhere, we take a step closer to immortality. Where once the Delphic Oracle admonished adherents to ‘know thyself’, today the message has morphed. ‘Broadcast Yourself’ urges the oracular voice of YouTube: make noise, be heard and leave a piece of yourself behind forever. If you’re not online, you don’t exist. Is this so different from the age of Apollo? The link between silence and death is as old as language. ‘Sing, Goddess, of the wrath of Achilles’ are the first words of The Iliad, the defining text of ancient Greek literature. Achilles was the hero of the Trojan War who was offered a long and happy life lived in obscurity, or a short and violent existence marked by glory. Achilles (whose name is derived from the Greek word for ‘fame’, which is itself derived from the verb to ‘hear’) chose the latter. “Short is my date, but deathless my renown,” he declared. To pass unremarked by history – to be met with silence – is the true death; to leave an echo of one’s name – to be spoken of after you have gone – that is to live forever. And so the goddess sang, and the song continues still. Centuries later, the age of rationality waged a new war against silence. In the West, silence had been sequestered by the Christian eremites, hermits who disappeared into the desert to commune with God. At the root of their worship was ineffability – where language collapses into quiet rapture in the face of the divine. To be silent is to know an aspect of God.

In The Screwtape Letters, CS Lewis characterises the Devil himself as a hater of silence: “Music and silence – how I detest them both! Ever since Our Father entered Hell… no square inch of infernal space and no moment of infernal time has been surrendered to either of those abominable forces, but all has been occupied with Noise… We will make the whole universe a noise in the end… The melodies and silences of Heaven will be shouted down.” In the post-Enlightenment era, ineffability, with its implications of divinity, abstraction and metaphysics, was an embarrassment to the tradition of secular scientism. As Pierre-Simon Laplace explained to Emperor Napoleon I, when it came to God, scientists had ‘no need of that hypothesis’. But when it came to silence – to a secular interpretation of its meaning, its values, Back View of a Young Girl – Vilhelm Hammershøi, 1884

even its definition – science found itself beset by the existential discomfort seemingly buried in us at a molecular level. Its response was an uncharacteristic and ironic taciturnity. Fast-forward 200 years and the resistance to silence evolved as the great academic questions shifted. New social and political movements emerged from the shared experience of war. Suffragettes and former colonies both developed a narrative of self-identity after centuries of historical silence. In feminist and post-colonial studies, language and liberation were one. “There is no silence without the act of silencing,” wrote feminist author Janet Batsleer to her friend Sara Maitland. “The silence of the oppressed can only be recognised in and through a language of freedom. That silence is a place of non-being, a place of control, from which all our yearning is to escape.” In the 19th century, violence and silence were the twin expressions of imperial instinct. The raising of social consciousness in the 20th century was a process of silent communities finding the voice they had been so long denied.

Science and Religion are united: sound is life; silence is death. This is the meta-narrative of the human condition. We emerge from the quiet cradle of the womb, from the barren wastes of stellar dust, before returning once again to the fearful finality of a silent grave. f

This fear of silence – ingrained, eternal – has prevented us from establishing what silence actually is, except in a broader, religious sense. Are there different types of silence? Do different people experience it in different ways? Is it a positive or negative force in our lives? And, more fundamentally, does it really exist?


In 1947, avant-garde composer John Cage entered a room at Harvard College whose walls were covered with a material designed to eliminate echoes. Standing in this anechoic chamber, Cage heard two sounds – one high, one low. The engineer in charge informed him that the high sound was his nervous system in operation; the low one his blood in circulation. Cage had already been experimenting with silence in music, but the experience at Harvard inspired his most famous work, ‘4’33”’. Premiering the piece in New York in August 1952, David Tudor took a seat at his piano, closed the lid and waited in silence. He opened and closed the lid twice more to mark the end of the piece’s three movements. History has remembered the event as the beginning of ‘silent’ music, but as Cage himself contended, that misses the point. “There’s no such thing as silence,” he said. “What they thought was silence, because they didn’t know how to listen, was full of accidental sounds. You could hear the wind stirring outside during the first movement. During the second, raindrops began patterning the roof, and during the third the people themselves made all kinds of interesting sounds as they talked or walked out.” Cage’s music challenged the classical definition of silence as an absence of noise. Janet Batsleer might write that ‘silence is waiting to be broken’, but outside of a vacuum or the artificial cocoon of an isolation chamber, what we understand as ‘silence’ is a constant flux of discreet sounds. A park, a bedroom, a study, a library – all these places of silent refuge are a quiet Babel of competing sounds: bird song, the distant hum of traffic, the rustle of paper, the scrape of chairs. In a post-industrial world, one that is globalised, shrinking and overcrowded, where even the deep silence of desert and mountain can be split by the noise of passing airplanes, we need a new definition of silence. Not a semantic definition, but a cultural one. Perhaps it’s not a new ‘definition’ we need at all, but a new ‘understanding’. A new meaning.

That lifestyle was pitched somewhere between the secular and religious, a sort of humanist mysticism at once groping towards spiritual enlightenment but analysing the journey with scientific detachment. But the first experience in Durham proved to Maitland “how ignorant I was” – she found herself ill prepared for the extreme asceticism demanded by the ferocious climate and solitude. She regrouped on Skye, in a small cottage where, for six weeks, Maitland existed in a state of silent contemplation.

“All the benefits of silence depend on it being voluntary,” says Maitland. “Solitary confinement in prison and the silencing of particular groups or communities or any form of censorship nearly always has very bad effects on the silenced person and are very bad for society.” In the 21st century, the war against silence has been subsumed, like so much else, by the War on Terror. In Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, and the secret prisons of the Middle East, silence has allegedly been weaponised. The same techniques which, in Maitland, produced the serene effects of expanded awareness can also, according to a 1998 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights, amount to a practice ‘of inhuman and degrading treatment’.

That was merely the start of a journey that has taken Maitland into the eremitical silence of the desert; into the tranquil hills of Galloway in search of Wordsworth’s ‘bliss of solitude’; to the potent zazen of Buddhist meditation; from Viriginia Woolf’s ‘room of her own’ to the chamber in the heart of Catherine of Sienna. Maitland’s conclusions – part philosophy of rapture, part neurological breakthrough – are both startling and controversial. “I think there are different kinds of silence,” she says, “and I think the way there are different kinds of silence is, for me, the proof that silence isn’t simply an absence of something, because if it was an absence of something all silence would be the same.” There are two great traditions of silence in Maitland’s thesis. The first is Religious silence, as exemplified by Christian hermits or Buddhist monks who, in contrast to the social and political cacophony of early church movements, developed a new relationship with God and the universe by using extreme experiences of silence to destabilise the ego and open their inner self to the divine.

“I learned that silence is in itself a form of freedom; it generates freedom, free choices, inner clarity,


These experiences recur time and again in accounts of silence and solitude from polar explorers, solo mountaineers and round-the-world yachtsmen. But while, for Maitland, their manifestation was a cause for curiosity rather than alarm, in other contexts their effects can be highly damaging.

Sara Maitland is an author, philosopher and intellectual. As the clock ticked on the 20th century, she found herself facing a new and uncertain future. The millennium coincided with her 50th birthday, her long-term marriage had recently ended, and her youngest child had left home. “I suddenly was in a completely new place,” she says on a crackly phone line from her home in a secluded part of Weardale. “I was living on my own for the first time in my life. I had none of those socialising responsibilities that I’d had for many, many years, and I thought, ‘What shall I do now? If I’m going to be alone what is the most interesting alone to be?’ And that’s when I started getting interested in silence.”

strength. A freedom from one’s self

Inspired in part by religious conviction, but also by a simple desire to get away from a life defined by the deafening debate of Oxford University and the feminist movement, Maitland decamped to an isolated moor in the North East, determined to cultivate a lifestyle of silence.

In contrast, Romantic silence, as practiced by Woolf, Wordsworth and the English poets of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, is an attempt to use the solitude of the country not to eliminate but to explore the self, and to find within it the inner authenticity that will awaken the poetic muse.

and a freedom to be oneself.” f

As Charles de Foucault explained in a letter to a priest in 1901, “It is [in the desert] that one empties oneself, that one drives away from oneself everything that is not God and that one empties completely the small house of one’s soul so as to leave all the room free for God alone… The soul needs the silence of it, the inward retirement, this oblivion of all created things.”

Dust Motes Dancing in the Sunbeams – Vilhelm Hammershøi, 1900

As Maitland explains, “There are different ways you can access silence, and therefore different results you can get from it.” The Romantics’ silence is one of self-discovery – it is, in effect, a rationalist, modernist silence. It’s the self-improving silence of The Priory. The meditative silence of religion is a form of spiritual self-flagellation. In A Book of Silence, her document of the long journey she took, Maitland recalls her time among the eremites: “In the desert, I realised that there is something hideous, especially to a contemporary Western sensibility, about a systematic and determined attempt to break down, or thin out the boundaries of the self and become open to, participate in, the undefined, illimitable freedom of the divine.” And yet, “In the desert I learned that silence is in itself a form of freedom; it generates freedom, free choices, inner clarity, strength. A freedom from one’s self and a freedom to be oneself.” The dark side of silence that Maitland discovered in the desert had also manifested itself during her stay in Skye. Here she documented the distinct responses that her mind and body displayed in this cocoon of quietude. They included the intensification of physical sensations like eating and hearing; she underwent a process of disinhibition, casting off various social norms, including her clothes; more profoundly, she experienced a breakdown in her perception of boundaries, a commingling of the sense of self with some greater force beyond it; alongside aural hallucinations and a serene sense of connectedness.

Maitland is just one of a growing band of intellectuals who are calling for a readjustment of society and a realignment of our relationship with silence. In his Manifesto For Silence, Stuart Sim reflects the thinking of the Romantic poets when he writes, “The ability to think, to reflect and to create are all to a significant degree dependent on our being able to access silence… It is an absolute necessity of existence, which the trend towards a 24/7 society is rendering more and more difficult for many of the population. Its loss would seriously impoverish our lives.” For Maitland, a more active role for silence in the modern world “would lower stress; if extended to children it would enhance creativity. I think that it would lower consumerism and violence, which I believe are linked.” It’s Maitland’s contention that silence, far from being a purely abstract force, has real, physiological consequences: “Silence does something to your brain waves,” she explains. This, then, is the bedrock of our new understanding of silence, backed up by a definition that’s more sophisticated and multi-layered than ever before. But what about the meaning of silence? That, perhaps, can be found in a simple passage in Maitland’s book. “As time passes, I increasingly realise there is an interior dimension to silence, a sort of stillness of heart and mind which is not a void but a rich space. What became obvious to me as I thought about this is that for me there is a chasm of difference between qualities like quietness or peace and silence itself… In my personal vocabulary the difference is similar to the one between happiness and joy.” K images: vilhelm hammershøi K explore more @ /historyofsilence A Book of Silence, by Sara Maitland, Granta Books.







Most commonly known for holiday camps and nuclear power stations, Dungeness, in Kent, is also home to surreal concrete structures known as Sound Mirrors. Dominating the otherwise barren landscape like extraterrestrial monoliths across the sands, these relics from an earlier age act as eerie reminders of a time so close and yet so far away. Photographer Spencer Murphy undertakes a clandestine quest to capture these edifices in all their splendour. By Spencer Murphy f



We stand on the bank of the flooded gravel pit, quietly gasping at the thick summer air as we struggle to take it all in. In front of us, looming in the lengthening shadows of the setting sun, are the sound mirrors, crumbling stone memorials to a time when the world was at war. Up until this point, memories of the film Eden Lake had plagued our thoughts and conversations as we drove through the Kentish beach resort of Camber Sands, on past the old arcades and the Pontins holiday resort. We’d joked about the possibility of our trip ending in some sort of stabbing spree, small talk whose real aim was to hide our actual nervousness about the evening ahead. But now, seeing the mirrors waiting for us on their man-made island, all joking ceases, all fears subside, and we are left with a profound sense of awe for the relics of mankind’s endeavours, and the vague sound of his dreams still echoing through the centuries. We left London that morning by car, stopping briefly in the Kentish town we grew up in to borrow a large Canadian canoe from a friend and then spending the better part of an hour struggling to strap it to the roof. Once we could smell sea air, we decided to stock up on supplies, stopping at a general store the likes of which you’d expect to find in the American Deep South: all wood-clad and covered with sawdust, its parish newsletter bearing an image of a demonic papier-mâché statue of Christ fashioned by children for the local church. The banjo theme from Deliverance was sounding in my head, and I think at one point I accidentally started to hum it as I stood at the counter. The old woman at the till seemed to not notice as she rang up our dinner of cheese sandwiches and bottles of ale. We made a short, scenic excursion through the deadwood weirdness of the Dungeness Estate as we got close – its shell gardens, its painted shacks, the shimmering bulk of the neighbouring nuclear power station – before pointing the car towards our final destination. We parked at the end of a dark alley between garages and the caravan park that backs onto the gravel pit. Outside a spiked gate plastered with ‘Keep Out’ signs and barbed wire, we removed the canoe as quietly as possible to avoid rousing local suspicions, then dragged it a couple of hundred metres to the shoreline. There we sat – crouching in the rushes to avoid detection by a lone dog walker – waiting for the right moment to jump in the canoe and paddle into the open water. Our desire to remain undiscovered was based on more than just a fear of happyslapping local kids terrorising us in our tents in the night. In 2003, English Heritage decided to preserve the sound mirrors from graffiti and general vandalism by cutting off access to the island via a man-made moat. These days, the lonely island where they sit has become a difficult place to get to. Built in the 1920s and ’30s, the sound mirrors were developed by military engineers as an early warning system to amplify the sound of approaching enemy aircraft before they came into view. By the time war broke out again in 1939, the devices were all but redundant, overtaken by both an increase in aircraft speeds and, more importantly, the emergence of radar. Once the coast was clear, we launched the canoe into the water and jumped in, trying to avoid soaking the tents, camera gear and other equipment that lay inside the canoe. We rowed towards the opposite shore and the concrete structures. Strange black shapes thrashed around in the shallows. Now and then, we hit the gravel bottom of the lake as we navigated through rushes, and we had to get out and guide the canoe along until we hit deeper waters again. Our screams almost gave us away as we discovered leeches stowing away on our legs and feet.



Looking up at the surreal beauty of the sound mirrors, our original uneasiness is replaced by an overwhelming yet peaceful sensation; their unsettling mix of the ancient and the alien make us forget our exhaustion and our fears. Not even the small bursts of distant gunfire from the neighbouring MOD training site can detract from the eerie serenity of the monoliths, which take on a strange humanity in the gathering darkness, their great frames glowering on the horizon like the faces of Easter Island heads. As night falls and even half-hour-long exposures fail to pick up any light, we decide to set up camp. We long ago agreed that the bug-infested shingle of the island was no place to pitch a tent, instead opting to climb up the base of the main sound mirror and sleep inside the bowl of its tilted 30ft satellite-like dish. Few experiences have lent a sense of communion with the universe like lying back and looking up to see the night sky pinned up with stars and framed beneath a stone arch, flooded with a sense of floating through the blackest fathoms of the cosmos in a fossilised alien ship. Only the distant glow and ceaseless buzz of the power station infringes on the solitude, lending a strange undertow to our dinner of sandwiches and brief rumination on the wonders of the universe over beers bought from the general store. The bottles empty, we bid goodnight and do our best to settle in on a bed of sloped concrete.

This is no gentle lulling of crickets and frogs, but rather a raging torrent of sinister gurgling screams, like the collective anger of a million inconsolable babies all reaching fever pitch. f It’s then that the noise starts: frogs, or possibly toads, their croaking chorus pitching ever upwards in intensity as the night bottoms out before us. We’d seen them earlier trying to launch themselves at our canoe. They were huge beasts, the likes of which you’d only expect to find in the heart of the Amazon, but nothing could have prepared us for how many there might be, or what levels of acoustic assault they were capable of achieving. I am so glad to be off the ground but the noise is like no other I have heard. This is no gentle lulling of crickets and frogs on the bayou, but rather a raging torrent of sinister gurgling screams, like the collective anger of a million inconsolable babies all reaching fever pitch at the same time. The night passes slowly. Every time the noise ebbs, I begin to drift into sleep, only for it to then start up again with renewed ferocity, louder and more aggressive than before. Finally dawn brings a salvation of sorts. I clamber down from the mirror to take more pictures, and as suddenly as they came, the cries cease. The journey back to the car is as placid and beautiful as anything I can remember. As the sun rises and the weight of a sleep-deprived night is lifted by it, we paddle out onto a calm dawn lake that’s decorated with sleeping swans. Shimmering in the refracted glory of a pastel sunrise, the sound mirrors lend the air of old stone friends by the dawn’s light. We bid them farewell and point the canoe towards home. The sheets of film lay exposed and protected in my bag. We have made it safely through the night. K photography: spencer murphy K explore more @ /dungeness



Music is an integral part of human existence. It can make us cry, laugh, smile, dance and experience, deeply, the joy and the sorrow of life itself. Can science explain the complex neurological processes of such intense feelings? Ours is a musical brain, after all.By Professor Paul Robertson f


lthough we may only rarely consider it, music is a part of human behaviour and is as universal as it is inexplicable. Music making has been recorded throughout history and across virtually every different culture. But why? And if music is so much a part of being human, what purpose does it fulfil? As a typically obsessive professional musician (I began the violin at eight and formed and led an international classical ensemble, The Medici String Quartet, for nearly 40 years), I have had every reason to ponder these questions across my life. About 35 years ago, when I was in my early 20s, I became convinced that the then burgeoning brain sciences could and would provide many answers to these ageless questions. When we began, consultant neuro-psychiatrist Professor Peter Fenwick and I found that, at that time, there was hardly any relevant research. Less than a handful of experiments had been undertaken during brain surgery using implanted electrodes (with the patient conscious), and most other theories had been based on the often-tragic deficits associated with brain lesions and wounds. About 14 years ago when I came to make a television series about this subject, things were changing and, whilst the overwhelming thrust of research was on speech, vision and movement, a number of scientists were occasionally considering musical function in their work. At least one, Professor Robert Zatorre at McGill University in Montreal, was already focusing almost entirely upon the musical brain. Since then, a whole plethora of wonderful non-intrusive brain


mapping technologies have moved the topic richly forward, and now around 200 researchers worldwide are making significant contributions to the area with centres in Leipzig, Germany, at the Max Plank Institute, and at Goldsmith’s College, London, amongst others. Whilst my insistent enquiries into this arena made me an uncomfortable companion amongst some fellow musicians (most of whom tend to have a profound reticence about discovering a rational source for their own inspiration), I found that I couldn’t stop asking those apparently simple but awkward questions which, when pursued into adulthood, make someone a tiresome eccentric or inspirational irritant – or both! HEARING AND LISTENING

The physical properties of sound as a molecular energy and the beautiful mechanism of the ear to respond to and calibrate this auditory information (the cochlea, ossides, basilar membrane, etc.) have long been appreciated. But modern research is now uncovering the sophisticated brain structures and processing that enables this energy to be converted into electrochemical signals from the brain. Unlike our eyes, we cannot shut our ears. As a result, we remain continually responsive (but mostly unconsciously so) to all the sounds which fill our personal space – including the rich and often rhythmic sonorous orchestra that fills our internal bodies such as blood flow, pulse and breathing. But thanks to the brain, we are able to only ‘hear’ those sounds that we need to hear.


This omnipresent biological and environmental sound world, together with the brain systems required to render the sensory bombardment of sound bearable and intelligible, give us an important clue as to the true power of music. Only a small part of our musical experience is cognitively construed by us as a cultural experience. The larger part of our musical response takes place at deeper and more primitive levels of the brain where it directly alters our levels of arousal as subjective changes of emotions and moods. These musical ‘affects’ can now not only be tracked within the brain but also measured as alterations of blood pressure, breathing and hormones such as cortisol, adrenalin, serotonin and oxytocin. And, remarkably, because as a species we are so precocious in our musicality (it’s now well established that from 26 weeks in utero the unborn baby responds to musical stimuli), such innate musicality is functioning long before we use language. I can illustrate this from my own personal experiences. Last year, I was in a deep coma for six weeks. During this time, my family played me music, and the medical staff measured significant changes to my vital signs as I unconsciously responded and entrained, becoming neuro-physiologically empathetic to the musical rhythms. Similar benefit can also be found with many patients suffering advanced dementia who can often somehow ‘recover’ themselves when played music or engaged in singing. Current Brain Mapping Techniques

Over the last 20 years, new brain mapping technologies such as PET, FMRI, EEG and MEG have each developed sophisticated methodologies that allow researchers to discover both where and when events are happening within the brain. This is particularly important in studying music, which is, after all, essentially a temporal art form. Simply measuring events in isolation – a pitched note, a sonority, a chord – may be interesting and valuable, but music is much more than a succession of events, and it’s only now that scientists are really beginning to tackle musical phenomena as the complex, dynamic integrated system that it is. Just as musical performance is more than the successful execution of a series of notes, even apparently simple musical response involves a complex mixture of listening, empathy, emotion, movement and cognition, as well as the brain activity needed to process all this information.


An unexpected loud noise may be converted into neural impulses travelling along the spiral ganglion and superior olivary nucleus (behind the ear), travel via the inferior collicus directly into the spinal motor systems and make us jump as a ‘startle response’. Simultaneously, other neural pathways lead to the amygdala stimulating feelings of fear and stress. All this quite independently of any ‘cognitive’ aesthetic judgements we might otherwise choose to make. We all know that not only can music make us literally move (entrain) into dance or through tapping of feet or hands, but it can also move us emotionally. This connection between bodily movement and emotion seems to be more than semantic, and even a brief personal reflection reveals how hard it is to imagine an emotion (or ‘feeling’) disconnected from an associated or defining bodily state (or ‘affect’). Such music, which shapes our subjective experience so insidiously, is not only found in the concert hall but is part of the everyday manipulation of our perceptions by way of film, television and advertising.

LAST YEAR, I was in a deep coma for six weeks. During this time, my family played me music, and the medical staff measured significant changes to my vital signs as I unconsciously responded to the musical rhythms. f Music and Dance

The internal transition from hearing rhythmic music to physical rhythmic expression involves a connected group of brain functions including the pre-motor cortex (in which we consider and reflect upon action), the basal ganglia (by which unconscious action occurs), together with the cerebellum and vestibular system (by which the muscles are regulated and balanced posture maintained). Plus, if we are consciously processing rhythmic information, cognitive areas of the brain such as the auditory cortex and right secondary auditory cortex are also recruited.

Movement and Emotion

Without these systems, not only would we lack dance music and ensembles but also conductors, marching bands, cheerleaders and commercial recorded music. But perhaps more importantly, we would also be far less adept as social animals since, as well as providing much cultural value, these are also a prime source of our shared emotional experience and social rituals.

Scientists now have a good knowledge of the main brain centres involved in responding and recognising musical rhythm, and are able to trace the profoundly beautiful relationships between musical sound and our muscular responses and sense of movement. To illustrate (courtesy of Professor Nigel Osborne):

Interestingly, for a long time it was thought that the ability to move rhythmically to music was an exclusively human gift. Other so called ‘dancing’ animals such as elephants, horses, bears are actually trained to respond to visual signals rather than


auditory ones. However, this neat theory was recently brought crashing down by a beguiling little film on the internet (see ‘Dancing Cokatoo/Cockatiel’ on YouTube), which clearly shows a cockatiel dancing perfectly in time to the Backstreet Boys! Music and Language

Like spoken language, music is structured and organised, and some even suggest that music is a kind of universal language. Although this is a very attractive notion, it’s impossible to tell exactly what it is that music tells us. Once again, the most current brain science is opening up some very interesting insights into what has previously been an abstruse philosophical debate. Although there are some contemporary commentators (most notably Steven Pinker), who believe that music is merely an interesting side effect of other more important evolutionary developments, most music/brain researchers by contrast consider our musical instinct to be a vital precursor to much of our more highly prized human attributes.

Unlike our eyes, we cannot shut our ears. As a result, we remain continually responsive to all the sounds which fill our personal space – including the rich and often rhythmic sonorous orchestra that fills our internal bodies such as blood flow, pulse and breathing. f Professors Colwyn Trevarthen and Sandra Trehub are among the world leaders in exploring early musicality, particularly between mother and child. Although it’s clearly impossible to sum up such a vast dedication and expertise in a few sentences, we can say that their work proves that in all cultures and societies earliest communication takes place in spontaneous musical ‘motherise’ – a type of primordial pre-verbal prosody in which both mother and baby emote in a kind of songlike stream, ‘goo-goo, agaa, agaa’ and so on. These unconscious and entirely natural outpourings can be notated and even musically scored when a clear periodic phrasing, imitation and general creative ‘play’ becomes immediately evident. The strong suspicion must be that these are the fundamental building blocks of what later becomes the music we enjoy. Like music, language communication is founded upon sound and, in order to carry meaning, both systems contain syntax and semantic structures. This means that in both we must be able to understand implicit rules of relationship and context between single events (e.g. words and grammar in spoken


language, harmonic and melodic events in music). A number of researchers have sought to explore the possible similarities between brain areas implicated in both of these. Measuring the brain’s response to hearing chord sequences, Koelsch has discovered significant differences in how we respond to regular chord sequences compared to irregular ones. Broadly speaking, it seems that much innate musical response involves brain areas closely related to similar speech processing. Brain areas closely associated with speech recognition have equivalent areas in the right brain dedicated to musical comprehension. In essence, it seems that the early parts of both speech and music processing within the brain may use common areas. Unexpected ‘wrong’ words and ‘wrong’ notes both elicit activity in areas of the brain such as part of the medial temporal gyrus close to the superior temporal sulcus – an area known to be involved in semantic understanding. Coda

Although we can hardly conceive of a human culture without music, its ubiquity and the organisation of our auditory systems, combined with our contemporary verbal/visual culture, make us easily forget its inherent power and subtle influence. The Taliban banned the playing of music during their reign in Afghanistan, and other despotic regimes have attempted to curtail its use and style, yet music remains an innate and universal human need. Irrespective of all other social pressures, economic upheavals or conflicts, human beings continue to listen to and participate in music making. Music plays a vital role in early social and cognitive development, underscoring our individuality from before birth until the point of death (taking up earlier shamanic and traditional practices there are now once again skilled musicians working in some oncology units as ‘thanatologists’ who ease dying patients as they pass from this world). Throughout life, music is present and actively involved in celebrating the rites of passage we make as individuals and societies. We would do well to attend to the lessons that music offers us, and risk a dreadful impoverishment of the human spirit if we do not. I firmly believe that the current work in the musical brain will furnish us in time with a richer understanding of what it means to be human. K illustration: lars henkel K explore more @ /musicalbrain Paul Robertson is a writer, broadcaster and founder of the internationally successful Medici String Quartet. He is now Visiting Professor in Music and Medicine to the Peninsula Medical School, Associate Fellow of Green Templeton College, Oxford, and Joint Chief Executive of the Music Mind Spirit Trust: Special thanks to Professor Stefan Koelsch for helping the author summarise the complex ‘Music and Language’ section of this article.


Les Paul When reggae artist Bob Marley was laid to rest in 1981, five of his most precious possessions were also placed in the coffin: a bible, a ring given to him by Prince Assfa-Wossen of Ethiopia, a football, a marijuana bud and his guitar. The make of guitar? A Gibson Les Paul, no less. Born Lester William Polsfuss in 1915 in Waukesha, Wisconsin, he would simply become known as Les Paul after he developed the first solid–body version of the electric guitar in 1941. Initially, he used a big piece of railroad timber as guitar body, which famously became known as ‘The Log’. But it didn’t look very good. Les Paul explains: “I put wings on it, and fastened two sides on it so that it looked like a guitar. I realised that many people hear with their eyes.” On it, instead of using the hollowness of acoustic guitars, he put magnetic pickups that electronically resonated the sound. The string’s vibrations turned it into sound when electronic signals were sent to an amplifier and speakers. Paul’s prototype – later christened the Gibson Les Paul Standard – was then mass-produced by Gibson and, even though Paul never officially worked for them, it is today their signature guitar. Together with the Fender Stratocaster, their instruments have been played by rock legends from the past, as well as the bands currently topping the charts. David Bowie wrote ‘Hunky Dory’ on his, Slash played most of the legendary Guns N’ Roses riffs on one. The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards and Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page are both Les Paul devotees. The list goes on and on. “You could go out and eat and come back and the note would still be sounding,” Paul once described its sound. But the legend of Les Paul goes beyond his innovative skills. The man could play them as well. In the threshold of his career, he made a living as a studio musician and the following years saw him jamming with the likes of Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole. But he reached his biggest commercial success while touring and recording with his wife, Mary Ford. Their eleven hit singles included ‘Mockingbird Hill’, ‘How High the Moon’ and ‘Vaya Con Dios’. It was while in this romantic and musical partnership that Les Paul started working on his famous recording and performing techniques. “I’ve never let anybody know exactly what kind of pick-ups I use or how I get my sound on records or onstage. That big, fat, round, ballsy sound with the bright high end is the Les Paul sound – nobody else has it,” he said about his licks and trills. Les Paul’s sound obsession started early. At the age of nine he is alleged to have set himself the task to find out why his window rattled every time the train passed by. But childhood mythology aside, in the end, it always came back to the guitar – and his insatiable desire to play it. Case in point: in 1948, he was involved in a near-fatal car crash which crushed his right arm and elbow. The doctors, unable to fully reconstruct his body, told him that the arm would have to remain fixed in one position if it wasn’t to be amputated. Les Paul didn’t hesitate, telling the medical team to set his arm in a 90-degree angle, which enabled him to at least play his guitar. It took him a year and a half of physiotherapy to get the full use of his arm back. Technically, Les Paul invented equipment that revolutionised the way recording studios operated. The eight-track recording device, delay effects and overdubbing – which is essentially sound on sound - are some of his innovations. His first multi-track recording took place as early as 1947. Paul went into his studio and used up over 500 test discs as he cut a version of his song ‘Lover’, featuring eight guitar melodies, all recorded by him. A year later, the song was a bona fide Billboard hit – the technique was used by everyone, and Les Paul was crowned the true Wizard of Waukesha. Les Paul didn’t invent rock‘n’roll music – but he made it possible. He’s one of a handful of artists who has a permanent exhibition in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. No small feat, but perhaps the biggest accolades come from fellow musicians and colleagues. After Les Paul’s death in August 2009, Henry Juskiewicz, Gibson Guitar’s CEO, summed him up thus: “He was a futurist and, unlike some futurists who write about it and predict things, he was a guy who actually did things.” K text: david hellqvist K illustration: rebecca wright K explore more @ /lespaul



The golden age of rock‘n’roll – a circus of hot rods, skulls, voodoo, flaming guitars and buxom gals – has long faded into the depths of history. There’s one artist, however, who refuses to let the memories die. Through pencil, paint and an unrelenting passion for the music, Vince Ray reanimates the past and screams louder than hell itself. By Andrea Kurland f

There was a time when nostalgia could kill. When Johannes Hofer coined the term in 1688, he did so with an image of Swiss mercenaries in mind – men who, stuck in the lowlands of France and Italy, would pine after their mountainous homeland until they made themselves sick. The prognosis for soldiers suffering from nostalgia or mal du pays (homesickness, to you and me) was simple: return home and live, or stay away and die. Over time, nostalgia made its way out of the medical lexicon and into the general vernacular, brushing off its reputation as a disease and morphing instead into a badge worn in reverence of the good old days. To be nostalgic was to be romantic, a wistful emissary of a time before the fall. Time had done what time does best; softened the negative, the suffering and pain, into an idealised shadow of its former self – a memory that only recalls half the truth. I expected Vince Ray to be a terminal case. As an artist and musician, his work doesn’t just dip into the past for a hit of inspiration – it lives and breathes circa 1950-1979, an era that ignited with rockabilly and ended in punk. On stage, he pays homage to legends of the day, combing a quiff to rival Cochran, popping a collar like The King, and busting out the same bad-ass theatrics that made Lux of The Cramps the ultimate frontman. On paper, he’s the overlord of a glamorous netherworld where femme fatales and hot rods mingle centre stage, and guitar-based voodoo casts zombies under the spell of rock‘n’roll. Together, his art and music synergise into a singular tribute to a bygone era. And yet, sitting here in his North London home, there isn’t a pair of rosetinted glasses in sight. Vince may be an ambassador of yesteryear but, surrounded by his beautiful three-month-old daughter, Scarlet, and equally striking ‘Missus’, Katie, this is one time-travelling envoy who won’t be fooled by idyllic visions of the past.

“It’s a scene that’s quite devoid of politics, But that’s what I love about rockabilly and psychobilly – It’s about light-hearted indulgences and getting your kicks.” f



psychobilly edge, they were taking rock‘n’roll and giving it a new form – with new lingo, new attitude and new dress code to match. And all the while, there was Vince, in his childhood home in Nottingham, taking it all in. “I suppose my mum and dad’s influence with rock‘n’roll music of the 1950s started things off,” he says. “Then I saw the 1968 comeback special that Elvis did, and I still remember going out and buying a leather studded belt and black sunglasses and sticking me hair back. I also remember everybody laughing at me because I was only 10. I guess I’ve just taken what influenced me as a kid into my adult life.” From those formative threads – the rockabilly riffs, the Hammer Horror films, the pulp fiction magazines inhabited by greasers, gals and hot rods – Vince has

On paper, he’s the overlord of a glamorous netherworld where femme fatales and hot rods mingle centre stage, and guitar-based voodoo casts zombies under the spell of rock‘n’roll. Together, his art and music synergise into a tribute to a bygone era. f woven himself a lifestyle immersed in the things he loves, “escaping from Nottingham to go to art school in Maidstone” at eighteen, before undertaking a post grad at the Slade School of Fine Art. Soon enough Vince the student became Vince the entrepreneur and, along with two friends, he found himself designing sets for music videos, interiors for clubs and “doing any artwork they could find, mostly adult comic strips that, for want of a better word, were a bit rude”. With artists like Coop propelling the lowbrow art movement in the States, the time was soon ripe for Vince to step out alone to work as an illustrator by day, and play as a frontman by night. The art may still keep the bread on the table, but it’s the music that gives the buzz. “I regard both the art and music creatively as the same thing,” he says, “the only difference being that the artwork earns me money; the music doesn’t. I should give all my time to the art and just regard the music as a hobby, but I hate the word hobby – it sounds like you’re fooling around. But music is my passion. It should always be your dream in life to do what you love and somehow make money out of it too.”

“As much as I do look back, the nostalgia side of it is not really what I’m into,” he says, coating his words with a Northern lilt. “Because often I think if you did go back to the ’50s, it wouldn’t be like people think it was. I don’t think there would be kids running around in leather jackets and hot rod cars everywhere. There’d be a few who would probably be aware of those things and into rock‘n’roll music, but I think we’ve glamourised it, exaggerated it, coloured it in – made it so much more of a movement than it ever was in the first place. I mean, originally it was just a few hillbillies making records and releasing them on small labels in the late ’50s – a bit like punk rock in the ’70s.” They may well have been “just a few hillbillies”, but these unwitting progenitors sparked a movement that would go on for generations to come, reborn and reinterpreted by a lineage of successors looking for something to counter the culture of the day. Whether they were jiving to a rockabilly slap bass in Tennessee or throwing in punk for that


By doing what he loves, Vince has already walked an impressive path. As frontman for two namesake bands – Vince Ray And The Boneshakers and the heavier Vincent And The Razorbacks – he’s supported the likes of The Meteors, Demented Are Go and even, in 2008, the band he credits with “reinventing rock in the ’80s”, The Stray Cats. He may have come far, but the love is still strong. “It’s a scene that’s quite devoid of politics,” he says. “But that’s what I love about rockabilly and psychobilly – it’s a celebration of life. It’s about light-hearted indulgences and getting your kicks – and that’s quite hedonistic, I suppose.” Hedonism and fatherhood don’t exactly go hand-in-hand. But whether he’s still singing about rock‘n’roll zombies or drawing buxom vixens with devilish form, no one knows this more than new-dad Vince. “Everything about how you saw your life in the future goes all fuzzy,” he says, “and then it evolves into something new. Obviously you stay the person you are, but your outlook does change. It’s natural, you can’t resist it – your values go out the window and new values come in.” Having spent a lifetime looking back, Vince Ray is looking forward to… looking forward. After all, there’s no time for nostalgia when your future is just thirteen weeks old. K explore more @ /vinceray


Improvised and freed from the shackles of structure and time, some art forms defy conventional wisdom, only to be proven infinitely wise themselves. Whether it is foam and fibreglass on the undulating ocean or the cries of a musical instrument in the dank recesses of the city, there is but one word for it: Jazz. By Sam Bleakley and Alan Bleakley f



The surf broke stately as the bass line to some great uncontainable rock‘n’roll classic. THOMAS PYNCHON, INHERENT VICE.


he master of postmodern paranoia, Thomas Pynchon, so nearly captures the sound of the surf. But this `music is neither predictable rock‘n’roll nor its gutless offshoots of twangy guitars and the cornball harmonies of Jan and Dean. What these lack, and what the wild, unfurling body of the ocean offers, is surprise. Surprise to which surfers must respond through improvisation. Improvised music is jazz. It’s to uncontainable jazz classics – with their fascinating syncopation, strange timing and brilliant improvisation – that we must turn for the genuine body of ‘surf music’. After the Second World War, two powerful cultural events emerged in America. In New York, modern jazz (known at the time as bebop) was born. It replaced swing music in popularity, and generated a whole new way of phrasing with an emphasis upon syncopation and improvisation. In California, wave riding exploded with the development of aerospaceinspired foam and fibreglass Malibu surfboards, much cheaper and lighter than the cumbersome redwood planks and easily waterlogged balsa boards of before. A ‘hotdogging’ repertoire modelled by Phil Edwards arose that many surfers still crave: tight swinging turns from the tail, cross-step walking and riding the nose. These boards were provocative instruments for the collective imagination of a new wave of surfers, none of whom could have possibly envisaged a second wave of design change in the late 1960s, where boards shrank from 10-feet ‘logs’ to head-high slivers of foam and glass ‘sticks’ that mirrored design in guitar bodies. Through the changing lengths, hotdoggers and tubemasters from Dewey Weber to Gerry Lopez played their boards like jazz musicians blew their horns: with style and improvisation.

Surfing was associated with the Californian love of leisure and health, sun-filled days, the wide, open lung of the Pacific breathing life into a post-war generation of clean-cut kids. Jazz, however, was moon music, played under naked bulbs in smoke-filled bars late at night, associated with heroin abuse and a ‘live fast, die young’ philosophy. But modern jazz was the most demanding, intensive and engaging of art forms, dependent on sustained improvisation and exquisite timing. Jazz broadcast invention across city radiowaves. Jazz was cool. Jazzlife hipsters and beats were creatures of the night and arbiters of fashion. Hipsters would be adorned in sharp Italian suits, Brooks Brothers button-down collar shirts with skinny ties, Bass Weejun loafers, and just-below-the-knee black pencil dresses. The beats would be dressed in berets, goatees, horn-rimmed glasses, black polo necks and tight jeans. No Room for Squares exclaimed the title of tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley’s 1963 Blue Note label album. The pianist Sonny Clark’s 1958 album on the same label put it another way with its title Cool Struttin’. A blue note was an imaginatively squashed note, played with soul; a note that oozed quality and feeling, and that signaled ‘style’.


By the mid 1950s, two men – trumpeter Miles Davis and arranger Gil Evans – changed the face of bebop. Davis had not adapted to the frantic double and triple times of bebop and was looking for something else in music: space, elegance, aching notes and searching phrases. A new jazz emerged. This birth of ‘cool’ was played slower, with acres of space created to allow notes and phrases to hover and disappear slowly into the big bell of the sky.

Surfing does not march to a regular beat like a military band, but plays around the beat – just off it, just behind it, accenting the off beat. Hipsters are off beat, never satisfied with a regular pulse. Great surfers are always just behind or just ahead of the wave’s pulse. f So how does surfing relate to jazz? Whether you are a longboarder, shortboarder or big-wave rider, what is common is improvisation around two basic moves: the bottom turn and the cut back. Longboarding has elegance with such moves as walking, trimming and noseriding, something that only a few can do with real finesse. Watch Californian Kassia Meador with a full hang ten in the sweet spot of the curl, suddenly suspending time, wringing out big blue notes from the sea’s body, lingering in space, like an aching Miles Davis solo. Shortboarding has a twin vocabulary, something brilliantly spoken by Tom Curren. Firstly, it’s torque, speed and locking-in, getting at the core of the wave’s energy and exploiting this through radical turns in the pocket and via functional tube riding. Secondly, there are the manoeuvres that echo other board and bike sports; moves that work at the edges of the wave, pulling its energy ragged, toying with exclusion as outlaw and outsider in avoiding the pocket to ride the lip, launching outlandish aerials and making floaters stick as if at the eye of a storm, in a still patch of ocean, the movie reel flicking over, the screen gone white. From Christian Fletcher and Martin Potter, through Kelly Slater to Dane Reynolds, these moves continue to be developed in more radical ways. And in big-wave riding, the draw is the adrenalin rush in outrunning monsters at speed and sweeping turns like Laird Hamilton on a liquid mountain face; or through perfect timing at takeoff to stay alive as a massively thick square lip taps Shane Dorian on the shoulder out of curiosity and does not break his back this time because his positioning is uncanny. Let’s say that the wave is the bass line of the sea’s music. This is the pulse that wrings itself out as the snappy snare drum flourishes and rim shots of the medium to smaller reelers – a punchy shorebreak, or an unraveling point break – are held taut by a strong offshore wind, snapping back at triple time towards shore as if on a piece of elastic drawn to breaking point, then collapsing with a flourish like a series of big cymbal splashes, onto sand, coral, rock or wall, or a deep-water pressure bed.


The surfer is the soloist, stating the melody (the basic moves of bottom turn and cutback) and then improvising against the ocean’s shifting backdrop of bass and drums – the grind and pulse, the rhythm machine, the accented accompaniment. First, the surfer must join the band, the often unpredictable mix of elements and topography – sea, wind, currents, bottom shape, tides; the booming, deep bass of the sea with its top note raked off as spray, or the foam apron rushing up and sucking back, shaping the sand or pebble bottom that is the sea’s sounding board. Your solo might be played against a gently unfolding and forgiving face giving room for manoeuvre, leading to cascades of notes, runs, arpeggios; or against a freight-train tube frantically unzipping down the line, the wave biting at you, just held up enough for you to slot in and play long, wailing notes held at an intense pitch, suddenly snipped short in a last-ditch kick out, the curtain coming down like a guillotine, the audience already set for the next act. Once the surfer gets to know the band, the heart of surfing as jazz emerges in syncopation. Surfing does not march to a regular beat like a military band, but plays around the beat – just off it, just behind it, accenting the off beat. Hipsters are off beat, never satisfied with a regular pulse. Great surfers are always just behind or just ahead of the wave’s pulse – watch Joel Tudor, Dave Rastovich, Rob Machado and Joel Parkinson. They take off just behind the lip and slot in for a deeper tube; paddling in on a fade, a left-go-right, to give a bigger arc to the bottom turn and then gain more speed for a subsequent top turn just under the hook; or smacking the lip at an angle to gain a moment of suspension of gravity and backward slide, creating a space just behind the beat, and then running ahead of the pulse in a quick-time run only to stall, jam the tail, let everything suddenly reel on for a moment as the rhythm section wails and then hang on a long ringing note, only to step on the gas and chase down the drummer with a howling run, hollering the history of jazz as call-andresponse slave song, letting freedom ring on the inside section with a big off the lip and a perfect coda. Where good surfers improvise through extended syncopation, knowing how to match the uncertainty of the wave’s motion, it’s rhythm that keeps all of this together. Without a sense of rhythm, surfers look awkward, unsure and unstable. But rhythm is not just about riding the wave with great timing, it’s about the art and style of the whole surfing experience; eyeing the conditions, judging where to paddle out, duck diving, finding the take-off spot and exploring its limits. The complete ride, as one round performance, is from paddle in to kick out, often in a crowd. This is a holistic grasp of a gig, from setting up to packing up the drums. It’s the drummer who maintains the rhythm in the band and a good jazz drummer accents, or plays around rhythms, dropping bombs, switching to double time, smacking out rim shots, filling in with booming tom-tom rolls, and making colour from cymbal splashes. After rhythm comes knowledge of the pulse and beat, or following the bass player. While the drummer creates the top end of the beat, the bass player creates challenges around pulse. On some days, the house band just grinds out predictable six-wave sets, the fourth wave the biggest, 15 minutes between sets, the wind combing every unwinding face, stripping off spray. These are rare days for most surfers, whose house bands are jobbing musicians playing low-key gigs, as onshore slop unfolds and now the surfer must work hard to create scintillating solos. This is the beauty of practice, where good surfers can improvise even in the worst conditions. Before the best-waves-in-the-world current ‘dream contest tour’, surfing’s 1980s elite events were held at


crowd-pulling places like Huntington and Newquay, often in mushy surf. Australian Tom Carroll trained extensively in sloppy waves to win back-to-back world titles through finals from twofoot Pennsylvania wave pools to 10-foot Pipeline and Sunset in Hawaii. The tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins, at the top of his career by 1959, felt that he had got stuck in a groove and wanted to reinvent his playing. He took a three-year sabbatical from public performance and recording, and took regular trips to the Williamsburg Bridge, in New York, where he would practise eight hours a day and rethink his style. The result was a stunning album, The Bridge, that showed a better-developed tone and an ear for more radical improvisation. Playing solos, improvising against the pulse of the elements, requires a good ear to hear that pulse. Knowledge of the bass line of the sea is the building block of good surfing as it develops discrimination between which waves you choose in a set, where you sit on take off, and which sets you leave alone, often close-outs. Great bassists like Charles Mingus and Dave Holland, and drummers such as Art Blakey and Tony Williams, led bands from behind, stalking their horn players, with pulse and beat running down the soloists like inspired ghosts. When the basics – the chops – are in place, and the soloist has a stock of tunes, improvisation can be developed. Modern jazz and modern surfing are grounded in two Dukes – Duke Ellington and Duke Kahanamoku – two great improvisers who made things look and sound easy. Both were masters of the lazy sound – music rolling like water, water played like music. Jazz surfers must want to be like these Dukes, making the difficult look easy, stuff just rolling out as if it were second nature, where actually it is carefully constructed, painstakingly learned, beautifully improvised and honed. And, like Sonny Rollins, jazz surfers must reinvent style on a regular basis, trying new equipment, surfing new spots, and learning to play with challenging bands – gaining a new repertoire. The Dominican novelist Jean Rhys, author of Wide Sargasso Sea, wrote a poignant short story called ‘Let Them Call It Jazz’ about a black woman living in London in the 1950s who suffered from racial abuse. As a celebration of her difference, she improvised wild tunes in her head. She met a man who saw value in these tunes, transcribed them for her, and sold them to publishers who called the music ‘jazz’. The woman could not understand why the music needed a label at all. For her, all life is improvisation. So let them call it jazz if they wish, just because it’s away from the norm. Let’s ditch the simile: surfing is not like jazz, surfing is jazz. It’s radical music, the sound of freedom, the yells and hollers and the sweet sighs, taken to the ocean’s skin and tattooed as blue notes in sharps and flats. K illustration: rebecca wright K explore more @ /callitjazz Since graduating from Cambridge University with an MA in Geography, Sam Bleakley has spent nearly a decade as a professional surfer, writer and adventurer, sponsored by Oxbow. He was twice European longboard champion. His first book, Surfing Brilliant Corners, will be published by Alison Hodge in 2010 and is illustrated by John Callahan’s stunning surf-travel photography. Sam’s dad, Alan Bleakley, is Professor of Medical Education at Peninsula Medical School, Universities of Exeter and Plymouth. He grew up in Newquay, Cornwall, and has been surfing and passionate about modern jazz since 1964. He has written four books and many academic articles, and is a widely published poet.


A dramatic documentary about Artists extending the meaning of courage. K photography: mickey smith K download & explore more @ /powers-of-three



Classical music: the music of kings, the creation of illuminated composers, the preserve of the upper echelons; an exclusive and elitist world that renders most people mere observers, disengaged and detached from its intimidating soundscape. But scrape beneath this veneer and there is an aesthetic in a sphere of its own: the alt-classical scene, a sound vision realised where listeners are radicals and performers are revolutionary artists in a brandnew musical age. By Claire Jackson f


n the popular consciousness, classical music is reserved for dusty concert halls usually peppered with greying heads. Concerts are recitals, not gigs, and are brimming with arbitrary rules and regulations. Attendance becomes a ritualistic trial, littered with hurdles that the unassuming listener must vault at their peril. The membrane to acceptance is only semi-permeable; few will make it, and those that do still have grave tasks to bear.


implication, Unpopular Music. No wonder that stories of its imminent demise are so commonplace.” Clearly, there is good reason why we do not allow such sound forms to penetrate our lives. We might be passionate advocates of culture high and low, but this welcome mat does not always extend to classical music.

Once inside the inner ring, a passing interest will threaten to become just that. Critics and fans discuss the music with a baffling array of jargon that makes the offside rule seem like a piece of cake. Newbies must persevere, wade through this nonsense – only to come out the other side still wondering whether the emperor does have his clothes on.

But, deep in our cities, an underground movement is gathering momentum. Its current is picking up speed, its strength increasing in numbers, shattering all preconceptions of the classical world. In clubs and cafés, we see violins wired up to microphones, piano strings plucked from the inside and laptops, whistles and vibrators conspiring to create intoxicatingly experimental sounds.

Alex Ross, New Yorker music critic and author of The Rest Is Noise, aptly remarks: “When people hear ‘classical’, they think ‘dead’. The music is described in terms of its distance from the present, its resistance to the mass – what it is not. You see magazines with listings for Popular Music in one section and for Classical Music in another, so that the latter becomes, by

Call it what you like. Contemporary classical, electro-classical or non-classical. In reality, this defies categorisation. This is music. In the following pages, we meet some of the individuals responsible for nurturing this noise: the composer, the soloist, the curator and the orchestra. And they’ve all got the following message: eradicate prejudice, challenge your soundtrack and change your life.



The foreign dialling tone gave him away. Gabriel Prokofiev is en vacances in France, except, for him, a holiday means time away to clear his head, to create. The composer, DJ, musician and promoter is heading up a coup d’etat against the constraints of the classical music world, overthrowing the traditional forms of its consumption with his club nights and independent record label, Nonclassical. His acquiescence of the populace almost complete, he seeks solace in making contemporary music accessible, bringing sonic art to wider audiences and championing fresh new sounds. We battle voicemails, but when the duel is over, Prokofiev talks freely, thoughtfully, as though dealing with the press is a privilege. I enquire how he perceives the common understanding of classical music today. “It’s an unfortunate situation. Especially in the UK, people just think it is stiff, inaccessible and old-fashioned, or for old people,” says Prokofiev. “Obviously the viewpoint can easily change but it is down to the people doing the music – we can’t just think, ‘Oh, poor us, no one understands us.’” Prokofiev’s label is a playground for a cacophony of sound. It’s a place where artists such as the Elysian Quartet and Hot Chip plot to create and challenge. “There’s a lot of exciting contemporary classical music out there. The problem is that it’s not reaching its potential audience,” Prokofiev explains, pausing to consider the predicament. “The music itself can start to communicate better and better once it creates a rapport and stops being in its own little world. Then it will self-perpetuate: the music itself will become more accessible to people, [it will become] a continuing dialogue.” So what is Nonclassical doing about it? “We release contemporary classical music in a non-classical way. We focus on newly composed classical music. Generally we get stuff that really feels like it has been composed now and sounds like it has. There are a lot of composers out there who think that they are writing in a contemporary style – a sort of post-1950s/60s/70s, grey, serialist music. Somehow that’s being encouraged in the music colleges. Or there are composers that are writing music that sounds like film music and going the other direction to sound too populist. We want contemporary music that has an edge and really feels like it is doing something new and fresh. “So far on each CD, we’ve had an original composition that fills half the disc and then the second part is remixes. For that we get producers from all sorts of musical backgrounds, people that might make dubstep, electro or noise music, and that’s an experiment in a way. But we always use producers who understand where we’re coming from and who take it


seriously – we’re not doing some cheesy thing to sell more units. It’s interesting to push classical music against other genres, but in an intelligent way.” There seems to be a real trend at the moment for contemporary composers to collaborate with musicians from the electronica/ dance/indie scene. Eventually, Prokofiev hopes that this can move from being considered a crossbreed to standing up as its own genre: “I’m from the school of classical composers that want to take influence from the folk music around them – and for me, folk music is dance, electronica and hip hop… music of the people, from the cities… Most people are getting tired of the same type of music in bars and clubs – people deserve to have more interesting stuff going on. It’s positive to have music that has classical and slightly more challenging sounds in informal settings.” For Prokofiev, these settings include Hoxton pub The Macbeth, where Nonclassical holds its monthly club night. Typically, audiences rock up around 8pm, enjoy some drinks and DJing – leftfield electronic beats layered over Stockhausen, generally mixed by Prokofiev himself – interspersed with live contemporary classical acts. The beauty of this format is the fluidity. As Prokofiev himself notes: “People don’t have to think, ‘Shit, I’ve paid all this money to get in and I’m stuck here, this is awful.’ Maybe they’ll step back to the bar, have a drink and think, ‘Actually, this is all right.’”

“Brahms supposedly played the piano in brothels, musicians performed in salons and chamber music always used to be in people’s houses. People would be relaxing, drinking, probably walking in and out – and now people think they have to be still and if you move you get all these dirty looks.” f

‘Grandson of the great Sergei’, as many newspapers declare, Prokofiev is in a fair position to make big assertions. Sergei Prokofiev, in case you don’t know, was a prolific 20th century Russian composer who created a sensation as an enfant terrible and went on to write lavish, mechanistic and, at the time, über-modern scores. Romeo and Juliet is one of his most famous ballets (trotted out regularly on the opening credits of BBC series


The Apprentice). “My grandfather’s music is a huge inspiration,” he admits. “I can be daunted; he was so precocious and talented when he was so young. That can be intimidating, of course.” Though Prokofiev’s label has achieved a lot, there’s more work to be done still. “Classical music has worked itself into a trap. It has to be taken very seriously and everything has got to be technically or theoretically sound… Put it somewhere really informal and it instantly makes it more natural and the performers enjoy it more. They’re playing for the real world, and the music suddenly has a new vibrancy. Music that might seem cold and quite foreign and difficult feels more accessible,” muses Prokofiev, adding, “Brahms supposedly played the piano in brothels, musicians performed in salons and chamber music always used to be in people’s houses. People would be relaxing, drinking, probably walking in and out – and now people think they have to be still and if you move you get all these dirty looks. I’m a composer, I don’t want people to be like that in my concert… and I don’t think composers that are dead would want that to happen.”


“See you at 8:30 then,” calls a guy on a bike as Lucy Railton and I perch gingerly on chairs outside a café in east London, the early autumnal wind catching us by surprise. I ask whether she knew the friendly passer-by. “Oh no,” she smiles, “but he heard the soundcheck earlier and said he’d come back.” The cyclist had had a sneak preview of Kämmer Klang, a contemporary classical showcase night run by Railton and her close-knit group of musician friends. The stranger’s experience epitomises the purpose of the evening: to make new music available to all. Hidden behind a smattering of run-down buildings, past a parade of shops with fronts that have seen better days and the usual glut of heavily franchised food outlets, lies Café Oto, the home of Railton’s monthly shindig. It is cosy, but not in an obvious way; its open brick work, unfinished floors and sprawling pot plants lend a natural abrasion, almost a disdain for anything or anyone that dares hark back to another age. This is it, screams the space, this is now. “Over the last year this place has become a real hothouse for creative music. A lot of improvised and electronic stuff happens here,” says Railton. Kämmer Klang features a range of new and rarely played classical works, often coupled with Nonclassical artists. On the evening we met, the line-up included a headline set from avant-garde experimenter


Simon Bookish, as well as music by John Cage, Christian Wolff, Luciano Berio and Tristan Brooke. “I try to have something classic like Schoenberg, Webern and Berg and then music from our time,” Railton explains. “I don’t want to sum up the history of modern music in one night – that would be impossible – but it’s important to represent all types of contemporary music.

“I think the best way of thinking about classical music is that there’s an amazing relationship between past and present: something classic is something from the past that is worth doing again, whether that’s a repeat of a TV show, a motown hit or album by Nirvana. They’re classics because they can stand the test of time and have an enduring quality.” f “I don’t want to say [I’m doing this] to reach the masses or make anything monumental out of it. The ticket price is always five pounds; it means that anyone can come. We’ve done nine gigs with minimal income and there are four more planned.” Inside, more wires are being laid and arresting arrays of sound filter through the air. A flautist practises her flutter tonguing, and as the note ricochets off every surface, she stops to exclaim how good the acoustics are. A pianist plucks the strings deep in the heart of the instrument, beating its core for an unknown punishment.

“When people hear ‘classical’, they think ‘dead’. The music is described in terms of its distance from the present, its resistance to the mass.” f It is Railton’s turn. She performs at every event she holds, which makes us wonder what word we should use to describe her in the title for this portrait. Eventually we settle on ‘curator’. She makes her cello sing and weep; we feel its pain, its desire, its climax. She plucks the strings with such vigour I fear for their survival, and then she puts a fluorescent pink whistle to her lips and blows. This isn’t something to fear, this is the sound of our generation.


place,” he tells me during a rehearsal break. “There’s a perception that classical music is like a history lesson, but that actually has nothing to do with the experience of the music, which is colourful and wonderful. Music takes you out of yourself and makes you think about your own life – knowing that Bach came before Beethoven is nonsense, it’s more about your relationship with music and your own private journey.” An advocate of experimental programming and new music, Coates is an artist in residence at London’s Southbank Centre, guest principal in the London Sinfonietta, and has collaborated with electronic/instrumental/spoken word ensemble House of Bedlam, ‘core’ classical artists like Angela Hewitt and trip hop merchants Massive Attack, among others.

“I think the best way of thinking about classical music is that there’s an amazing relationship between past and present: something classic is something from the past that is worth doing again, whether that’s a repeat of a TV show, a motown hit or album by Nirvana. They’re classics because they can stand the test of time and have an enduring quality.” f


In a quaint market town in picturesque West Sussex, a cellist draws his bow over heavy strings, duelling innocently with a tape part. His instrument is plugged in, the mic hungrily processing the sound, spurting out haunting timbres. The venue is a café with high ceilings. The musician, Oliver Coates, surveys the 50-strong throng happily cramming itself with classical music and cake, a frequent scene during the Arundel music festival. Coates believes that the fact that audiences can enjoy Mozart with their mozzarella toastie or Cage with their cappuccino is paramount to the event’s success: “Detailed, intricate, entrancing music doesn’t need to be heard in a fusty, rule-bound


“All good music is about being aspirational and about looking for something beyond everyday life,” muses Coates. “I think the best way of thinking about classical music is that there’s an amazing relationship between past and present: something classic is something from the past that is worth doing again, whether that’s a repeat of a TV show, a motown hit or album by Nirvana. They’re classics because they can stand the test of time and have an enduring quality. “The problem with classical – and contemporary music – is that people see it as an exclusive club: composers writing for other composers, with a hidden language, something that has evolved out of the 20th century scene. People try to outdo each other with the complexity of ideas or in the conceptualisation of their music.” While concept art music will always be around, it shouldn’t get in the way of genuinely exciting sonic experimentation. Part of a recent shift towards opening club membership is innovative programming by curators at festivals like Glastonbury, Latitude and the Big Chill, who are increasingly opening up programming to embrace acts like contemporary composer Michael Nyman, the Britten Sinfonia and soloists such as Coates.

The Orchestra Chris Wheeler, artistic director of The Heritage Orchestra

“First and foremost it is not a classical orchestra,” explains Chris Wheeler, firmly, referring to a group of instrumentalists known as The Heritage Orchestra, over which he presides as artistic director. The term ‘orchestra’ is now synonymous with the classical symphonic formation: double woodwind, string and brass sections, possibly with a smattering of timpani, harp, saxophone and/or similar where required. Although parts of the establishment embrace contemporary sounds – the odd Stockhausen festival here, a Philip Glass prom there – Wheeler et al are determined to go a step further, a jump beyond modern music. And where the stalwarts of the industry are starting to cotton on to fusion-melding collaborations (this year sees indie princes Grizzly Bear work with the London Symphony Orchestra, for example), The Heritage Orchestra decided five years ago that this would be their niche, recreating the Blade Runner score with Massive Attack and working with electronica outfit UNKLE, to name a few. This October at King’s Place, London, Heritage will once again collaborate with freewheeling creatives The Bays and break any crumbling boundaries they might have missed the last time round. “All the performers will have LCD screens and on-stage composers will compose in real time. Everything is fully improvised. Essentially a 20-piece orchestra is getting music written then and there,” says Wheeler. “There’s no remit about style: we’ll play absolutely anything – we’re the iPod generation, we absorb it all and react to it all. We’re not going to confine ourselves.

“Even if something doesn’t work it is important to try stuff out and dare to succeed. There’s not enough room for another orchestra playing Beethoven and Brahms.” f

“A lot of orchestras are prudish or elitist about music,” he adds. “Even if something doesn’t work it is important to try stuff out and dare to succeed. There’s not enough room in the orchestral landscape for another orchestra playing Beethoven and Brahms. But there is room for an orchestra that will take modern cultural references, rip them apart and then present them in a traditional format turned on its head.”

So you’re just as likely to see Heritage performing Gabriel Prokofiev’s Concerto for Turntables and Orchestra with DJ Yoda as you are to catch them gigging with Dizzee Rascal at the BBC Electric Proms. Heritage, like all our nonclassical portraitures, inspire nothing but admiration, delight and conviction that in a century filled with so much meaningless consumption, what they are creating is something to cling on to, to drink with thirst, to nourish ourselves with. But the orchestra’s name… isn’t it a little, well, retrospective for a modern-day soundclash? “We are an orchestra because we’re that size ensemble,” explains Wheeler, matter-of-factly, and I immediately appreciate his refusal to dumb down, to fall foul to the temptation of the label ‘band’. “‘Heritage’ is subversive… we believe that you don’t need to play and listen to the great canon of classical music to acknowledge heritage. Absorbing influences from modern culture creates something totally different. It’s about reinventing heritage; having your own take on it and finding your identity.” K photography: nathan gallagher K download & explore @ /altclassical


In 1550, Giorgio Vasari wrote one of art history’s greatest ever works: Lives of the Artists, a journey into the minds of the greatest painters, sculptors and architects of the Italian Renaissance. Now, almost five hundred years later, a new feature-length documentary from Relentless takes the very same name. Its subjects? Artists. Not painters, sculptors or architects, but Artists no less: snowboarders, surfers and musicians who, like Vasari’s revolutionaries, are driven to extremes in their search for fulfilment. By Director Ross Cairns f


chool, for me, was pretty boring. There always seemed to be a better use of time, and while I loved reading and those occasions where we were let loose to run around the playing fields, it all seemed a bit flat and pointless. But there was some punctuation to the general tedium: Art. For two hours a week, I’d perk up and make stuff; my masterpieces over this period included copying the cherub with a cigarette from the cover of Van Halen’s 1984 album, a warped pottery bowl only a mother could love, and an airbrushed epic of a man being eaten by a huge snake on a very purple planet. However, it was really art history that pressed my buttons, as well as, I’ll admit, a particularly attractive supply teacher, whose name I shamefully can’t recall but whose form lives on in my mind. She introduced our class to the wonders of the Renaissance and Baroque, ages of invention and sheer over-thetop excess, and in doing so, she lit a fire – in me at least. One text in particular became a favourite: Lives of the Artists by Giorgio Vasari, published in 1550 to document the ‘most excellent’ painters, sculptors and architects of that period and several centuries before. Where Lives of the Artists sits apart from other art history books of that period and the centuries that have followed is that it goes well beyond the work and instead focuses great attention on the personalities


of those artists, the highs and lows they experienced, the bitter rivalries, the circumstances of their time, and so on. Did you know that Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo came to blows in the street in Florence because one was heard to call the other ugly? Maybe you did, but for this spotty kid in thick glasses with no clue whatsoever, all those stuffy paintings and shiny sculptures suddenly took on far greater significance. They came from real people. So roll forward about 20 years and I’m presented with an opportunity to bring to life the idea of Artistry that sits at the heart of Relentless. The intention was to catalogue the personalities of the ‘contemporary’ artist. To Relentless, artists are not just painters or sculptors. Artists are those people who are prepared to make sacrifices and suffer, those who have a vision and will do whatever’s necessary to make it real; they are obsessed, and they make their mark on the world so it becomes a little brighter or more meaningful for the rest of us. Artists exist in practically every domain you can think of. For now, though, Relentless is focused on telling the stories of artists in action sports and music. We call them ‘Artists’ with a big ‘A’. So yes, it’s 20 years on and I find myself hanging out of a helicopter, hurtling down a deep, ice-walled crack on a glacier in Greenland, chasing one of the world’s top freeriders

from the summit to the sea. Why? Because we’re shooting a contemporary catalogue of Artists and the lives they lead. And fittingly, after Vasari – and in recognition of his opus – we have called it Lives of the Artists. Where Vasari had his pen and ink, we have the big screen, the richness of film and the internet. With moving pictures and surround sound, it seems we get the better deal! Lives of the Artists is a documentary feature film that tells the stories of a group of young men who pursue their passions without compromise, and in so doing, demonstrate their Artistry. First there is Frenchman Xavier De Le Rue, one of the world’s top snowboarders, the World Freeride Champion for the last two years. Xavier has tasted success in a variety of snowboarding disciplines and will compete in the Winter Olympics this year, but his passion lies fundamentally in the purity of backcountry riding, the search for the perfect line. By venturing into remote, dangerous and often untouched places, he is able to tune into the mountains without the distractions of competition and its attendant circus to test himself and push both his own limits and what others believe is possible on a snowboard. Xavier, against the odds, survived a horrifying avalanche during the season prior to shooting Lives of the Artists which engulfed

him and swept him two kilometres down the mountain before depositing him miraculously on the surface of the flow with the chin strap of his helmet asphyxiating him. Pulled unconscious and on the edge of life, he was fortune to survive what he describes as ‘the kind of accident you don’t walk away from twice’. As a husband and new father, he has come under extreme pressure from those around him to abandon his risky lifestyle, but he has emerged with a new maturity, with total respect for the mountains and an uncompromising will to overcome their challenges. A driven and deeply philosophical man, Xavier describes how, when his family and friends left him pondering his future after a visit in hospital, he surveyed the mountains surrounding Chamonix from his window, looking for some kind of sign: ‘All I could see was lines.’ Lives of the Artists witnesses Xavier on what he describes as ‘the best trip of my life’ amongst the remote Fjords of Greenland, where you can ride right from mountain summit to sea level. In some of the most magnificent and challenging terrain on the planet, where almost every descent is a first, Xavier De Le Rue demonstrates his Artistry with uncommon integrity, insight and passion. The film also follows two big-wave surfers – Englishman Tom Lowe and Irishman Fergal Smith – and their friend – photographer


Mickey Smith – to the South Pacific where, on the reef that touches the southern tip of Tahiti, breaks what is arguably the world’s most ‘perfect’ heavy wave. Known as Teahupoo, which translates as ‘wall of skulls’, it’s a killer in paradise. Teahupoo is a point of pilgrimage for the world’s best and most courageous surfers. When Teahupoo ‘works’ it is an awesome thing, the full force of nature seemingly unleashed, but in recent years conditions have conspired such that the the swell hasn’t delivered. With news of a big one incoming, though, and with only a couple of days’ notice and the boys at opposite ends of the planet, they race to Tahiti. Tom and Fergal, fresh from an inspiring winter’s surfing in Ireland which we documented in the film Powers of Three, resolve to test themselves by spending ten days riding Teahupoo over a succession of swells. Picking up injuries, experience and respect from the local surfers, who are amazed by these two Europeans facing down their local break, the boys are riding high. But this is turned on its head when they encounter a whole new world to the isolation they knew in Ireland. A prediction of the biggest swell for three years turns Teahupoo into a magnet for some of the world’s best and most famous surfers, and with it comes a distasteful circus of chaos completely at odds with the splendid isolation and integrity of their pioneering winter. On a wave where things can go very wrong very quickly, they do, and so Teahupoo reminds all of its power. Still, in the film we focus on the joys of the boys meeting the challenge of Teahupoo on the biggest day in years – without the darker side of the popular intensity and aggravation that emerge, around which they are outspoken in their disapproval. What’s clear is that for these young pioneers, it’s not about the audience or the adulation. Their Artistry is a private and pure thing that sees them at their happiest and most fulfilled when it’s just three guys versus the might of the cold and unforgiving ocean. Finally, Lives of the Artists hits the road with UK hardcore punk band Gallows as they tour the USA on the Warped tour. On a soul-sapping and tortuous trek from city to city, playing on a tour where 90% of the bill represents the most commercial and soulless aspects of commercialism – ‘punk for little girls’ – Gallows stand out like a very sore and angry thumb by delivering impossibly intense performances to audiences that just aren’t prepared for the onslaught. On the journey, we witness the frustrations of the band, all of whom are very serious about being remembered as influential members of punk’s history. Totally uncompromising, with fierce levels of integrity and fearlessly outspoken, frontman Frank Carter leads the charge as he and the band push themselves to the very edge. All this couldn’t be a sharper contrast to the beauty of Greenland and Tahiti, the composure and calm of Xavier, and the quiet determination of Tom and Fergal. Gallows are volatile and enraged, sometimes dispirited and disgusted, but throughout remain pillars of


integrity, never giving less than their all as they introduce real punk attitude and performance on a mission to enlist an American youth weaned on manufactured money producing bands-by-numbers. Gallows are the real deal; real Artists, angry and authentic to the core.

Artists are those people who are prepared to make sacrifices and suffer. They leave their mark on the world so it becomes brighter or more meaningful for the rest of us. f

In Lives of the Artists, the three stories are woven together. That could make for a rather uncomfortable and confusing journey through three different realms, but actually it’s the sharp contrasts between these worlds and their domains of performance that demonstrate the common characteristics of the personalities involved: their shared Artistry, with all the vision, ambition, struggle, sacrifice, obsession and triumph they possess. In snow, in surf, in music – indeed, in life – the same rules apply, the rules of engagement, the rules of mind, body and soul, the ‘Rules of Art’, of patience and passion. There are no easy rides. Suffering goes with the territory, with the terrain, and those who want it most must accept the rules, that you only get out what you put in. The snowboarder, the surfer, the musician, each is the master of his own realm, but they are all just Artists, men driven to extremes, consumed by that singular desire to leave their mark on the world, to carve their own scars deep into its surface. Lives of the Artists is about those people. To most, they are different men of different ages from different walks of life. But look past the surface details, look closer, and you’ll see the same thing. You’ll see that they’re not so different after all. They say that memory is more vividly and enduringly imprinted in the presence of adrenaline or some other emotionally charged backdrop. Perhaps my beautiful art history teacher is responsible for my vivid memory of Vasari, of Leonardo and Caravaggio, brought to life in the pages of a 400-year-old book. What’s certain is that I know I will never forget the experiences of Greenland or Tahiti, or the Circle Pits in Detroit, Chicago and St. Louis, where I witnessed real Artistry up close and personal, in all its visceral beauty. K photography: ross cairns K download & explore more @ /livesoftheartists


Léon Theremin It was on Wednesday, April 26, 1967 that Harold Schonberg, The New York Times’ senior music writer, broke his world exclusive: Soviet inventor, musician and physicist Léon Theremin is alive and well. Almost thirty years had passed since he was last seen in New York, just before he was reportedly whisked away by KGB agents to a secret Siberian location. The world gawped in wonder. The architect of the greatest musical invention of its time – the Theremin – had fascinated people when he took his instrument on a world tour and arrived in the US in 1928. His sudden abduction, just before the outbreak of the Second World War, had only tickled their imagination further. The instrument, one that was not to be touched but to be felt, was a revolution. It comprised of a long and thin vertical rod on the right-hand side and a horizontal metal loop on the left. The player’s hand would control the pitch by closing in or withdrawing from the rod. The closer it would get, the higher the whistle tone would become. Moving the hand up and down over the wire loop on the side would modulate the volume. The sound is created when the player’s natural electrical charge pierces the magnetic fields of the antennae. When Theremin first heard the eerie whistling tone while experimenting in his laboratory, he was aghast at the electron’s voice, for he had never heard anything so beautiful. The Theremin, when it was patented in October 1920, was a major boost for a Russia still reeling from the First World War atrocities and the bloody October Revolution that followed. Luckily for Theremin, he was the sort of scientist the new Motherland needed. His deep, searching sound offered a curious moment of peace and calm in an otherwise unstable world. When the thin and mustachioed man lifted his hands towards the machine, otherworldly sounds would flow seemingly from the ether. Vladimir Lenin heard the news and sent for Theremin.“What magic have you brought me?” he had asked as he sat waiting for his demonstration in early March 1922. Theremin’s response was to play the Bolshevik leader Camille Saint-Säens’ ‘The Swan’, the first piece of music he had played on his invention and one he knew by heart from playing cello in his youth. He then moved on to Mikhail Glinka’s ‘Skylark’, carefully studying Lenin’s face for a reaction. Was he impressed or preoccupied with other thoughts? Halfway through, he got his answer. Lenin quickly got up from his seat and walked over to Léon. “Let me try,” he said eagerly. The pair started playing together, Theremin standing behind Lenin to aid his performance. After a short while, he let go and Lenin finished nearly all of ‘Skylark’ himself. Everyone in the room applauded. Even Léon was impressed – not many could pick up the technique so quickly. After his re-entry into Western consciousness in 1967, Theremin’s fascinating story was once again told to the world through Schonberg, who described him as a man “who looks and acts like the prototype of the absent-minded professor”. When he had returned to the Soviet Union in 1938, Theremin had been put to work producing spy equipment in a Siberian gulag. He spent years developing ‘The Thing’, a listening device in the shape of the Great Seal of the United States. Soviet school children presented it to the US Ambassador in Moscow in 1945, and it had hung in his office until it was discovered by accident in 1952. But music will always be what Léon Theremin will be remembered for. His genius has lived on far beyond the Cold War and his greatest invention still resonates today. From the 1950s onwards it has been used to add that extraterrestrial sound to Sci-Fi movies, and even featured in the theme song to the original Star Trek series. Legendary bands that have made the instrument part of pop culture include The Beach Boys and Led Zeppelin, whose 1969 anthem ‘Whole Lotta Love’ featured a Theremin solo from Jimmy Page. Even eclectic modern-day artists like Goldfrapp and Portishead are still using it to this day. Léon Theremin’s legacy, it seems, is very much alive. K text: david hellqvist K illustration: rebecca wright K explore more @ /theremin



In spite of all the ferocities of earth, water and wind, these motocross riders have conquered the elements to live their lives by the roaring soundtrack of their machines. Not physical injury, nor sheer exhaustion, can prevent them from branding their artistry in the sodden earth beneath their feet. f All portraits taken during the Maxxis ACU British Motocross Championship round 7 at the Duns Motocross Track in Scotland. K photography: guy martin K explore more @ relentless /soundandfury





New Zealand-born Scott Columb, 26, after finishing his race late into the afternoon.


Twenty-year-old Nathan ‘The Destroyer’ Parker, after crashing out of his race with a burst radiator pipe.


Scott Elderfield, 16, moments after his sixth-place finish in the MX2 championship race.


Seventeen-year-old Mel Pocock immediately after finishing fourth in his MX2 championship race.


Despite its taut metal strings, its rich lacquered wood, and its deep, stirring resonance, Plumerel’s double bass is a freak, a blasphemy to the established art of musical construction. Yet it is this anomaly that has fascinated generations of virtuosos, from Edgar Degas to the New York Philharmonic. Plumerel’s bass is more than an instrument, it is history. By Scott Bourne f


n this day and age it would be quite strange to begin a story with a letter but, considering the nature of this story, I believe it is quite fitting.

It was in late November 2007 that I received a post from my good friend Mr Shinji Eshima. Shinji has now been playing the double bass for the San Francisco Ballet, as well as opera orchestras, for 30 years. We had met a few years back through mutual friends and, when I returned to France, the letters began.

On this particular morning, as I opened Shinji’s letter, I had no idea the adventure that would follow or the emotions I would have and how they would mix with a history that ran far deeper than our friendship. In the letter, he explained to me that he was in the midst of possibly purchasing a new bass, not just any bass, but one which had made it into a Degas piece. Since I lived in Paris, Shinji had written to ask if I might take the time to go by the Musée d’Orsay and examine the piece in search of a distinguishing mark on the bass in Degas’ painting. I was thrilled at the idea. That evening we spoke on the phone, I made a print out of the painting and, the following morning, I was off.

The Opera Orchestra, c.1870 (oil on canvas) by Degas, Edgar (1834-1917) Musee d’Orsay, Paris, France 84


journal 11/28/07 - Café des Hauteur’s, Paris, France I feel a certain anticipation as I climb the steps that lead to the sixth floor. Renoir, Rousseau, Guillaume, Bernard, Lacombe and, the most popular, Van Gogh. The body, the form, the line of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. I am captivated by the redheaded beauty who drags a brush through her hair in Degas’ Femme se peignant. For a moment, I find my thoughts turning towards a beautiful redhead whose hair has been in my brush. My mind spinning at the women of my life. How I love, who I love and how I am unable to hold on to any of them. I turn around and return to my search. I am close. It’s almost as if I know that it is in the room which I have just entered. I see what looks much like a ballet studio, male dancers stretching on the floor – but a closer look reveals something very different. These are not ballet dancers at all, but men scraping and refurnishing the floorboards of a building. Gustave Caillebotte’s Raboteurs de Parquet. I am fascinated, overtaken by its deception. Beauty captured in the seemingly ordinary that becomes a fine art form when painted by the right man. On a wall just behind it are Degas’ ballerinas. I am amazed and overtaken by the beauty of the human body at work in all forms. And there, just to my left, I find the piece that Shinji has sent me to search: Degas’ L’Orchestre de l’Opera! It’s a fabulous painting with extraordinarily detailed faces. Just overhead we see the ballet stage, dancers’ legs, then the big bass captured in the artist’s paint. It’s the piece I have come to find, but the mark I am sent to search I surely cannot see. As I stared into Degas’ painting, I could almost hear all the fabulous pieces the bass had played. I was made to reflect on all the live performances I had seen and how someday soon Shinji would be pulling on these painted strings. Much more sure of the history of the instrument than myself, Shinji went on to buy that bass. On the side, one will find an inscription that reads: A.M. Ach. Gouffé Immitation de Stradivarius par F. Plumerel (aine) Paris le 10 Janvier mil huit quarante trois

To Mr. Achille Gouffé Imitation of Stradivari by F. Plumerel (father) Paris 10 January 1843

Stradivari never made a double bass as the inscription might actually lead one to believe. It is uncertain if Plumerel believed he was copying a Stradivari design or not. Much research has been done into this particular peculiarity, and no record of a double bass instrument by Stradivari has ever turned up. Whatever it was that Plumerel had in his mind or believed he was copying, the result turned out a phenomenon of its own. Plumerel’s choice of materials was a most unusual mix, a sort of Frankenstein-esque composition of parts and pieces from alternate time periods. The wood, although not known for its particular beauty, was one of fabulous tone and quality: a sparsely figured two-piece Maple back, its ribs and head made from similar wood but apparently not the same piece. The table is constructed of two separate pieces of spruce with an open-backed peg box of which the French have never been known to use in any time period; a style that seems to have been stolen from the guitar but no one is quite certain of when. The lower portion of the peg box has been decorated in a floral design that is most commonly found on 18th century Parisian cellos. Two of the four original peg-holes have been rearranged, and even the instrument’s skin is of a superhuman composition.



I find the piece that Shinji has sent me to search: Degas’ L’Orchestre de l’Opera ! It’s a fabulous painting with extraordinarily detailed faces. Just overhead we see the ballet stage, dancers’ legs, then the big bass captured in the artist’s paint. It’s the piece I have come to find, but the mark I am sent to search I surely cannot see. f Typically, the French treated their instruments in a spirit-based varnish that time often turned hard and caused to crack or chip. Plumerel has used a light-brown varnish, which gives the instrument a golden glow that has aged most gracefully with his creation... and so a bass is born. It has been said that Plumerel’s creation is certainly competent but by no means the standard of his time, or any other for that matter. What the bass is, in fact, is a beautiful freak instrument. For 35 years, Achille Henry Victor Gouffé was a soloist of the Paris Opera and The Society of Conservatory Concerts where he would often play Plumerel’s Bass. Although he had much in common with Auguste Degas and their paths most certainly crossed, it was his son, Edgar, who was said to have an insatiable taste for the opera (where at the time Gouffé was the principal player). It’s also known that Desire Dihau, a bassoonist in the opera, as well as a colleague of Gouffé’s, was quite intimate with the Degas family. It’s Dihau and Gouffé that were immortalised in Edgar’s painting L’Orchestre de l’Opera. From the perspective of existing drawings and the painting itself, it’s apparent that Degas had a front-row seat, audience left. Gouffé is 66 years old in this painting and is undoubtedly playing a four-string instrument with French tuning gears. Although he owned a second bass in this same time period, which was constructed by Auguste Bernardel in 1841, it’s one of the drawings that assure us that he’s in fact playing the bass by Plumerel. After all, only the Plumerel bass has a crescent-shaped ‘step’ on the cheek of the instrument’s pegbox. It is also interesting to know that in 1889 Degas sold two other paintings that may have also depicted this same instrument, both of which were purchased by Theo van Gogh, the brother of Vincent van Gogh. However, the whereabouts of Dancers, Double Basses and Blue Dancer and Double Bass are still unknown to this day. But where did the bass go from there? Gouffé died in 1874, and it is then believed to have passed into the hands of Ludwig Manoly who was the student of Franz Simandl. Simandl was one of the very first pedagogues of the double bass instrument. He is most well known for his book New Method for the Double Bass, which is still widely used to this day. In 1889, Manoly would play this exact bass at the inauguration of the original New York Metropolitan Opera House. He was a principal for the New York Philharmonic and went on to become a teacher at the Institute of Music and Art, which later became known as Juilliard. In 1930 Manoly passed the bass on to one of his students, Herman Reinshagen. Reinshagen also played as a principal in the New York Philharmonic.


In 1940, the bass was passed on to Frank Sollner who played for the NBC Symphony Orchestra under its famed conductor, Arturo Toscanini. Toscanini, who was said to have a photographic memory, suffered memory loss during their last performance on 4th April 1954 and never conducted in public again. When Toscanini retired, the orchestra disbanded. However, many of the NBC Symphony Orchestra formed the Symphony of the Air, who often played without a conductor at all. David Walter, who also played in the NBC Orchestra, acquired Sollner’s bass in 1956. Walter took a leading roll in organising the Symphony of the Air, playing as the principal bass but also acting as the board chairman. He went on to join the New York City Ballet where he played the instrument for more than 30 years. It was as a faculty member at Juilliard that Walter met and taught my good friend Mr Shinji Eshima. It wasn’t until nearly six years after Walter’s death that the instrument finally passed into Shinji’s hands. Shinji’s debut performance with the Plumerel Bass was in January 2008 at the 75th anniversary of the San Francisco ballet. I did not see the instrument until December that same year.

Journal 12/25/2008 - 1053 Shrader Street, San Francisco, California Caroline and I wake up at eight, shower, have breakfast and make our way towards Civic Center for the Christmas Eve performance of The Nutcracker, where Peter Brandenhoff is conducting the opening overture. What began as a joke is now a reality as Peter will today make his debut in a Santa Suit. This is, of course, the work of Mr Shinji Eshima. Caroline and I meet them at the stage door of War Memorial Auditorium 45 minutes before the show. Both Peter and Shinji are smiling ear to ear as we arrive backstage. Familiar faces, some new, some old: tiny pint-sized ballerinas, principals, the orchestra, the make-up artist and stagehands, the flyman and the band. We descend into the depths of the building, then rise again in the orchestra pit. Out before us, the empty audience. Peter steps to the plate and begins to conduct as he imagines his orchestra. The baton in his hand is a gift from the most beautiful Susan Graham. As I stare up at him, I once again see not only the brilliance of Peter Brandenhoff, but his fear and solitude. Shinji smiles and laughs out loud as Peter pantomimes the notes before an empty orchestra. It’s the deep belly laugh of a man in love with life. Looking up from the orchestra pit, I see the empty opera house just before the Christmas Eve performance. When I take a seat, I can’t see the stage or the audience... this is the way that Shinji views each and every performance. Afterwards, he takes us to see the instrument I was once sent to examine in a Degas painting at the Musée d’Orsay. As he pulls the bass from its cabinet, I am thrilled and excited. The circle is now complete. He urges me to hold it, to feel the wood, and the notes it produces. He pulls the bow across the mighty strings, and then thrusts it into my hand. I love the way he not only plays the priceless instrument, but also how he wants to share it. He laughs joyfully as Caroline plucks out a few notes, and when I pull the bow across the strings, I know that for him too, the circle is complete. Pete stands by staring at us. His smile is large, as large as the bass and as broad as the humility of the man who now owns it. K photography: michelle pullman K explore more @ /plumerel


Known the world over as a powerful bastion of experimentation and artistry, Warp Records has been aiding audio innovation and capturing the proverbial zeitgeist for over two decades. Tastes and times may change, but Warp ensures that the quality lives on. By Rob Young f



‘intelligent techno’, the bedroom-produced abstract electronica that’s come to be known as ‘IDM’ (Intelligent Dance Music): Autechre, The Black Dog, Speedy J, B12, Sabres Of Paradise, Richard Kirk, Kenny Larkin, and the absolute pinnacle of the genre, Selected Ambient Works II by Aphex Twin. And at the beginning, way back in 1989… well, I wasn’t actually writing about music then, although I vividly remember my first encounter with a Warp record around that time. Sheffield duo LFO’s signature tune, ‘LFO’, invaded the Top Of The Pops screen like an alien virus, a blank shutter of terse electronic bodyrock that shifted the paradigm away from the prevailing flowered-up acid house hits of the time towards something as yet unimagined; as grey and faceless as its Designers Republic sleeve artwork. Like most independent labels, both Warp and fellow indie Rough Trade were started out of altruistic fervour and idealistic zeal. More than simply profit-churning business schemes, these were boutique labels run as creative, curatorial endeavours. The strength of the idea was so good that the labels became the recognised centre of their respective scenes, significantly raising fans’ and critics’ expectations. And with heightened reputations comes the inevitable transition from establishment-baiting iconoclasm to becoming an institution in your own right – a position loaded with contradictions.

In the mid-’90s, Warp began to show the skilful ability to sniff the zeitgeist and adapt to changing energies in music culture that have kept it in business for two decades. f


he pile of compact discs stands about as high as an extended hand. I rattle through them one by one, feeding the chrome into my hungry player. What do we have here? There’s the sultry electroacoustic folk of Grizzly Bear; the crunchy hip hop fragments of Flying Lotus; Bibio’s uplifting, poignant instrumental vignettes, rendered in fritzed C90 lo-fi; Clark’s dayglo Techno, a smoking plate of wonky, melted silicon chips; Maxïmo Park’s literate, angular post-punk; the Stravinskyan orchestral headrush of Tyondai Braxton’s Central Market; and the witchy, surrealist pop of Broadcast’s collaboration with The Focus Group. A torrent of eclectic audio, apparently with no single defining aesthetic, released over roughly a six-month period. And it’s all cutting-edge stuff, too, each one slicing out a different niche market: not likely to set


foot in the national charts, but then again brimming with a stylistic confidence that’s lacking in so much of the dour, sourfaced ‘experimental’ underground. And all these are products of one record label, one wide-eared enough, and with the broadness of vision, to remain receptive to all these crosscurrents of contemporary sound for the past 20 years: Warp Records. I spool back in memory to other previous piles of Warp releases that have landed on my desk over the years. A decade ago, it would have been albums by Plaid, Mira Calix, Jimi Tenor, Boards Of Canada, Plone, longstanding Warp artists Nightmares On Wax, and the three double CD compilations, clad in the house shade of mauve, that marked Warp’s first ten years. Fifteen years ago, the average Warp batch represented the then futuristic sound of

Warp began as a three-man operation run from the tiny back room of a Sheffield record shop. In 1999, it left Sheffield far behind to operate out of a sleekly functional 1930s warehouse close to Hampstead Heath in north-west London. The openplan office space keeps several overlapping businesses ticking over. There’s the record label itself, with all the machinery of production, artist and repertoire, promotion and marketing. There’s the website, Warp was one of the first British labels to recognise the outreach potential of the web in the innocent mid-90s, designing a multi-coloured interactive portal that took them to an international audience. Allied with that is, a mail order service that offers free trial streaming audio to its customers. At its launch in 2004, it permitted high-quality downloads of entire tracks –  the first mail order company to do so. In its own office is Warp Films, the separate company founded in 1999. The movie division has facilitated the development of full-length and short film work by Shane Meadows, Chris Morris, video auteur Chris Cunningham and many more. The synergy is total: Warp Films can make video

Image from the film ‘Dead Man’s Shoes’ by Shane Meadows.

promos for Warp Records artists, who can supply music for Warp Films soundtracks… you get the picture. The bottom line is, Warp has made itself practically a one-stop shop supplying content for such things as advertising, movie soundtracks and TV stings.


ucked away in one of the messy storerooms of their London office is a massively heavy, two-metre high wooden representation of the Warp logo – a lightning flash across a geometric projection of a planet – rendered in thick chipboard and spray-painted a greenish shade of silver. This was once a record shop sign, fixed to the wall above the premises on Sheffield’s Division Street where Steve Beckett and Rob Mitchell worked behind the counter. Beckett and Mitchell had been students in the city and, in the late ’80s, had both been in failed indie rock bands called Lay Of The Land and Aitch. Along with another important local player, they were about to reinvent themselves as pied pipers of the new Northern bleep techno scene. Warp Records – the shop – arose at the front of a building that also housed the legendary FON studios, where Rob Gordon worked as an in-house engineer and producer. Born into a Jamaican family, Gordon had gained impressive local status as a wizard of the mixing desk, a sonic alchemist who could make a record sound fantastically sharp, overseeing its genesis all the way from the sound booth to the mastering plant. The Warp label was formed by all three of them, and the first release, by an impromptu group called The Forgemasters, comprising of DJ Winston Hazel, Sean Maher and Gordon himself, was a 12-inch entitled ‘The Track With No Name’. Now an impossibly rare collector’s item, it’s the stuff that myths are made of. At the dawn of the 1990s, the weird, spacey, alien bleeps and lo-fi beats zinging out of the clubs of the Sheffield/ Leeds/Bradford triangle were seen as a refreshing antidote to the sound of Manchester, which was turning baggy and bloated.


There was a childlike, playful quality to releases by Squarepusher, Mira Calix and Plaid, while the music of the young Scottish duo Boards Of Canada and Broadcast was shot through with nostalgia for the kind of futures promised in children’s TV and science textbooks of the 1970s, and that never quite materialised.

points in my life,” affirms Beckett. “I see everything as before and after that point. Ever since then my life has just opened up, and I’m just so grateful to be alive. I remember walking back to my house after he had died and looking at clouds and feeling how magical life is. I felt a lot more weight on my shoulders, as there was instantly twice as much work.”

At the dawn of the 1990s, the weird,

he state of Warp reflects the reality that, a decade into the 21st century, purely electronic sounds can no longer remain the only forward-looking, experimental or creative sector of contemporary music. As a label with a substantial and influential history behind it, expectations continue to run high around Warp output. But the problem of being continually judged by reference to its past achievements seems, at last, to be fading away. Warp’s youngest fans today must be people who were only born around the time it was set up in 1989, who are now reaching their twenties at the same moment as the label. Anyone young enough to have spent the early ’90s in the nursery is therefore less likely to have any lingering respect for the factions and subcultures of club culture at the time. Some of the most recent signings – Gravenhurst, Grizzly Bear – reflect the resurgence of a folk-rock influence in indie music; crazed singer Jamie Lidell continually reinvents the soul-torch tradition; and the extravagant, multicoloured crunk and wonky constructions of Hudson Mohawke and Rustie have arrived from the bleeding edge of progressive club culture.

spacey, alien bleeps and lo-fi beats zinging out of the clubs of the Sheffield/Leeds/Bradford triangle were seen as a refreshing antidote to the sound of Manchester, which was turning baggy and bloated. f

Tapping into the underground technotronic continuum that stretched from the warehouses of Detroit and Chicago to the subterranean parties of the newly liberated Berlin, ‘bleep’ made dancefloors feel like gateways to a future bathed in the utopian glow of micro-technology. And just as, 20 years earlier, progressive rock had emerged as the intellectual version of psychedelia, so Warp’s next generation of artists converted this new dance music into a purely headphone, home-listening experience.


he notorious Artificial Intelligence series was launched with a compilation in July 1992, and for the next three years cemented Warp as the standard bearer for a distinctive brand of electronic music. As well as tracks by international artists like Richie Hawtin, Speedy J and The Orb’s Alex Paterson, the album featured abstract (but not ambient) music from the Cornish genius of Aphex Twin, Mancunian duo Autechre, and the enigmatic Black Dog. Packaged with Phil Wolstenholme’s distinctive 3D digital images of cyborgs chillaxing with headphones and a spliff, Artificial Intelligence became an umbrella that extended over 10 releases, including two compilations and eight single-artist albums. The series was marketed as “electronic music for the mind created by trans-global innovators who prove music is the one true international language”. The Artificial Intelligence concept made Warp’s name, at home and abroad, but also quickly became a burden. A more purist label might have continued, faithful to the sound and its fanatical fans, until diminishing returns and changing fashions relegated it to the margins. But in the mid-’90s, Warp – now run by Beckett and Mitchell, after a falling out with Rob Gordon – began to show the skilful ability to sniff the zeitgeist and adapt to changing energies in music culture that have kept it in business for two decades.


By the turn of the century, the concentration of the UK’s film and music industries in London made Warp’s location in Yorkshire increasingly isolated, and Mitchell and Beckett were spending less and less time in the office, as they were on the road attending gigs and meetings elsewhere. “Me and Rob spent our lives going up and down the motorway or trainline,” says Beckett, “and Rob was away from his wife and kids a lot, so he wanted to be seeing them every evening. Also, we got bored with Sheffield: it just felt really small and often negative.” By then, only a small proportion of their artists were actually based in Sheffield; when the office finally upped sticks, the family nature of the label unravelled. And when Rob Mitchell died of cancer, aged 38, in October 2001, after an 11-year partnership with Steve Beckett, the company reached a watershed moment: to cut loose, or continue the mission? “It was one of the key


played orchestral transcriptions of recordings by Aphex Twin, Squarepusher and others, and premiered Mira Calix’s NuNu, a composition involving contact-miked insects, live on stage. Warp Films, meanwhile, have won two BAFTA awards (for Shane Meadows’s This Is England and Paddy Considine’s short Dog Altogether), and produced Meadows’s new feature, Le Donk & Scor-zay-zee, as well as Chris Morris’s full-length desert war satire Four Lions.

In all areas of its endeavour, diversity and mobility have been Warp’s key strengths, as well as an ability both to jump on new trends and to cultivate longer-term artistic careers. it has always run on intuitive lines rather than sharp, calculated business logic. f Meanwhile, Warp has brokered some high-level collaborative projects which have taken it into areas far from its lo-fi, underground origins. Between 2003–05, Warp held a showcase multimedia festival at the gorgeously modernist Vasarely Foundation complex in Aix-en-Provence, in the south of France. It was a meeting of aesthetics, the architect’s bold and sharply chiselled forms perfectly complementing the spatial dynamics of Warp’s radical digital musicians. Perhaps most intriguingly, Warp’s partnership with the London Sinfonietta – an orchestra specialising in ultra-contemporary and avant-garde classical repertoire – has resulted in unexpected career developments for the likes of Squarepusher and Mira Calix. The Sinfonietta have

The Warp X offshoot offers a radical new model for film production, concentrating on low-budget, high-quality pictures appealing to niche markets. Forthcoming titles in the Warp X strand include a documentary about the long-running alternative music festival All Tomorrow’s Parties, composed entirely of video footage shot by the public; Paul King’s imaginary road trip Bunny And The Bull and, most ambitiously, She, A Chinese, by Xialolou Guo, shot in China, about a young Chinese woman who abandons her rural village for the big city. In all areas of its endeavour, diversity and mobility have been Warp’s key strengths, as well as an ability both to jump on new trends and to cultivate longer-term artistic careers. More importantly, it has always run on intuitive lines rather than sharp, calculated business logic, which is the secret of its success. There’s no Warp sound, but there is a very tangible Warp state of mind. Says Steve Beckett: “I want every object we put into the world to have a positive impact and have a reason for being there and to represent excellence.” K photography: courtesy of warp K download & explore more @ /warp Battles photography by John Adrian. Mobius strip photography by Dan Holdsworth.


Pythagoras History knows not how Pythagoras came across the blacksmiths. The cacophonous ring of striking hammers must have exerted an irresistible pull on the man famous for his adherence to reason. The thunder and lightning of the tools intensified with each step closer, culminating in an undulating, painful symphony at the heart of the workshop. It must have been a moment of intense clarity. For Pythagoras, this is the instant that crystallised years of thought and would forever change the way we look at the order of the world. What struck Pythagoras’ imagination that evening over two millennia ago was how the discordant roar of hammers and anvils obscured a fundamental truth about the relationship between musical pitch and physical volume. Hammers in ancient Greece were produced simply. For purely practical reasons, they would share an identical shape and come in sizes that followed a basic ratio of either a third, half or twice their respective sizes. As Pythagoras would come to discover, these dimensions produced a distinctively different sound when clashing with the anvil. It was this sound that would send Pythagoras and his devotees on a quest to bring reason to the universe. This challenge would prove testing in many ways. Even though music and musical instruments existed very early on in history, nobody really questioned the nature of music itself. Music was deeply rooted in ancient Greek culture and had a universally captivating power that neither humans nor the gods could withstand. Even the Greek origin of the word ‘music’ was synonymous with the word ‘muse’, the deities that inspired the creation of all arts. As a building block of music, a single note is perfect in itself but almost meaningless without context. When confronted with another note, it turns into an aesthetic dilemma. Pythagoras was convinced that the solution to this problem was a governing set of rules, rooted in mathematical proportion. The Pythagoreans began testing early on how certain proportions would produce the most aesthetically appealing sounds. It was quickly established that the most agreeable harmonies were the product of simple mathematical relationships, much like the weights of the hammers in the blacksmiths. Pythagoras tested this concept by working with a prototype version of the sevenstring lyre. He was the first person to introduce rationality to musical tuning by setting each string an octave apart – a concept that would become the focus of debate for hundreds of years. Politicians, craftsmen and philosophers were eternally divided over the definitive rules of the musical scale. The Pythagoreans experimented similarly with different instruments and discovered that whatever their construct, they were governed by the same basic principles. Surprisingly, these rules found application far beyond music. Pythagoras and his disciples discovered that there was a geometry underpinning all things in motion from the strings of the harp to the celestial bodies themselves. This became the well-known founding principle of the Pythagorean school of thought: all things have number. And while their quest for rationality travelled far, it wasn’t without its challenges. Pythagoras’ work in music confronted him with the concept of limitless numbers – a chaos he struggled to contain and a fact he could not afford to disclose because of his powerful role in ancient Greek society. This contradiction enshrouded the Pythagoreans in cult-like secrecy, which became the source of speculation for his contemporaries and historians alike. As with every story, the most testing of times only make it all the more endearing, and Pythagoras’ story is no exception. Even though his most famous piece of work, the Pythagorean theorem, is best known as an indelible part of geometry studies, his original source of inspiration lives on in a far more appealing form. Pythagoras’ cerebral approach to music lives on even today in musicians such as Brian Eno, Autechre and John Cage, who themselves have perfected the art of algorithmic composition, and have made it a veritable genre in its own right. K text: asen tsvyatkov K illustration: rebecca wright K explore more @ /pythagoras



Using information the government has collected on noise levels within London, a map has been plotted of the capital’s most silent spaces. The map is made up of a series of dots (similar to Braille) where the darkest areas indicate the quietest areas. This aims to reveal a hidden landscape of quiet spaces, and shows an alternate side of the city that would normally go unnoticed. It is often only when it is quiet that we can begin to hear the detail and, when we listen and look a little harder, what we perceive as silent can reveal itself to be just as complex and intricate. K explore more @ /silence



Mystifyingly beautiful but hidden from sight, sound has fascinated man for centuries – but it has also eluded us. Thanks to the dogged efforts of one man, powerful reverberations applied to water and sand have since made it detectable – and turned the once invisible and immaterial into an evocative new art. By David Toop f In 1787, a German physicist and musician named Ernst Florens Friedrich Chladni published a scientific paper demonstrating his newly discovered method for rendering sound visible to the naked eye. By spreading a layer of sand on a flat metal plate, then sounding the metal with a violin bow, he could show the formation of regular patterns as they flowed through the material. “The sand is thrown off from the vibrating portions of the surface, often with considerable violence,” he wrote. “Whereas it remains at rest on the places where there is no motion.” These experiments advanced our scientific knowledge of acoustic vibration, but other than Chaldni’s observation that the results were striking, the effect was not treated as aesthetic in its own right. In the Victorian era, John Tyndall, another important researcher into the physics of sound, went so far as to describe Chladni’s patterns as beautiful, but it was Hans Jenny who finally presented visual documents of these vibrations in a form that crossed boundaries between science and art. In Cymatics, published in 1967, Jenny revealed the physical effects of amplified electronic sound on liquids, powders and gases with breathtakingly beautiful close-up photography. Appropriately for the time, the patterns seemed psychedelic, hallucinatory, like abstract art (particularly the light shows projected on bands like Pink Floyd and Soft Machine). Though dreamlike, reminiscent



The underlying idea driving all this research was that the universe is composed of unseen forces. Once revealed they show a universality of forms and systems that are consistent from the microscopic level right through to human movement, speech and many expressions of culture. f of amorphous creatures or the terrifying landscapes of some alien planet, they also unveiled at a microscopic level what musicians have always known: sound may be invisible and immaterial but its passage through the air, its impact on solid bodies including the human body, can be heard and visualised as forms. Jenny was a doctor and a scientist but his approach to the documentation of these phenomena was enhanced by his abilities as a painter and pianist. Born in Basel, Switzerland, in 1904, he was fascinated by periodicity and forms in nature. “He understood sound as a creative power,” wrote Volkfried Schuster, a member of the Schwingungsinstitut Hans Jenny in the 1970s. “He wanted to realise a phenomenology of the world of vibrations and their effects on different materials.” This new science was called ‘Cymatics’, derived from the Greek word kyma, which means wave. Cymatics was a serious programme of scientific research, but it also caught the zeitgeist. ‘Good Vibrations’ by The Beach Boys had been a worldwide hit at the end of 1966, and by 1967 the vaguely mystical idea of vibes, informed by a heady cocktail of drug usage, new science and radical psychology, had entered the language. But Jenny also had his mystical side, though its roots went back further than the hippies. As a young man he taught science at the Rudolf Steiner School in Zurich, and followed Steiner’s Anthroposophical teaching throughout his life. Another influential book, Theodor Schwenk’s Sensitive Chaos, published by Rudolf Steiner Press in 1965, featured Hans Jenny’s photographs alongside other images of flowing forms visible in water and air. The underlying idea driving all this research was that the universe is composed of unseen forces. Once revealed


they show a universality of forms and systems that are consistent from the microscopic level right through to human movement, speech and many expressions of culture from the choreography of dance through to patterns found carved into stone in Bronze Age temples. Jenny also experimented with colour and light for the theatre, including productions of Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Mozart’s The Magic Flute. In many cases, the images in Cymatics possess an innate theatricality – like weird stage sets, they expose the dramas enacted by life forms at all levels of phenomena. With his background as family doctor, artist, biologist and mystic, Jenny was inevitably drawn to the idea that this rhythmic undercurrent of life was at the heart of a unifying view of the cosmos. He described this as triadic: configuration, wave and power. The strength of Cymatics, however, is its focus on observable phenomena. Jenny ends the book with more speculative conclusions for the future. “Rhythms in history,” he wrote. “Resonances, interferences, standing and travelling waves in human relations; the wave-like rise and fall of memories, thoughts and emotions in a periodic manner; poetry and music – all these are themes which have been illuminated by this concept of the basic triadic phenomenon during our conversations with numerous personalities.” K photography: alexander lauterwasser K K explore more @ /cymatics Photographs ©2002 Alexander Lauterwasser. Reprinted with permission from Water Sound Images. © 2005 MACROmedia Publishing, Newmarket, NH, USA. Photograph of Dr. Hans Jenny reprinted with permission from Cymatics: A Study of Wave Phenomena and Vibration © 2001 MACROmedia Publishing, 219 Grant Road, Newmarket, NH, USA. These books are distributed in the UK by Floris Books.




Andrew Shoben ransforming public spaces into thoughtprovoking works of art is what Andrew Shoben’s Greyworld collective is all about. Their installations are as powerful as they are unique: they sing, speak, screech and howl. “It’s not the only one, but sound is the favourite weapon in my armoury,” says Shoben.


Shoben founded this artistic band of brothers together with painter and furniture-maker Neil Gavin in Paris in the early ’90s. There’s always been a focus on public spaces in both Greyworld’s art and in internationally prestigious projects such as their 2007 Monument to the Unknown Artist outside the Tate Modern in London. The statue of a young man holding a paintbrush isn’t your average bronze monument: the kinetically charged, six-metre-tall installation mimmics the moves and poses of amazed passers-by. Shoben left home early to try his luck in Paris as a composer, focusing his work on electro-acoustic compositions. “I would write a 30-minute opus to tractors, using chainsaws and so on,” he says. But Shoben was never comfortable with the music – or with his audience for that matter. “I wanted to write music for people who I could go to the pub with and this wasn’t it.” It was the elitist attitude towards music that he couldn’t stand, and that point of view has continued to influence Greyworld’s art. It was his flatmate, Shoben remembers, who questioned the constant use of a beginning and an end in his music. “I realised I only wrote linear pieces,” he says. That made the decision easy. In 1993, Shoben quit and started Greyworld to pursue a lifelong goal to make the “banal look and sound magnificent”.


That’s a good way of summing up Greyworld. Their ideas and art objects are simple, yet often neglected and seldom thought of in an art context by anyone. For example, two bus stops in Bradford were equipped with colour-sensitive cameras along with a female voice recording that would compliment awaiting passengers on their green jacket. In a square in Leicester earlier this year, steel bollards were made into noise jukeboxes that were triggered when people walked passed. The list goes on, but perhaps most famous is the 1997 Railings installation, which appeared in both London and Paris. The idea is simply genius: Shoben and friends finetuned railings in a random fence to play The Girl From Ipanema when someone ran a stick along them. Here, as with many of their other art pieces, the observer was asked to interact with the installation – to become part of the sound art. “We wanted to create an aural wallpaper for the city,” says Shoben. “In many ways it’s the purest work we’ve done.” And the choice of song? “Oh, that was easy. Everyone knows it. You’ve either heard a jazz-rock version, or heard it in Tesco’s. In many ways, it represents public space as such, but you can’t listen to it without a smile.” When is public art good? Like everything else, it’s subjective. But Shoben believes that you shouldn’t have to add to the space, arguing it’s better to use existing objects and possibilities. That’s where the Greyworld fascination with sound comes in. Says Shoben: “Sound is great to work with because it’s 3D – you can go around it, stay inside or go through it. Sound shakes, trembles and vibrates, it’s delicious!” Indeed. K text: david hellqvist K photography: andre penteado K explore more @ /greyworld


As soon as you rounded the western wall, you heard the wind wail. This time with a terrifying intensity. You froze. Overextended and stretched high, your fingers locked around a protruding knot in the stone, whilst your right toe was jammed in a crack some three centimetres wide, your left boot scratching against smooth rock. Your face kissed the limestone. You were listening only to the sound of the wind wailing, and the gust now of hailstones spattering an elemental percussion against your back.

It is only when you fundamentally immerse yourself, away from the feedback and distortion of the city, that the grand orchestra of the world truly comes alive. Dropping, carving, rolling and rising on a timpani of elemental sounds, to hear this crescendo before the silence of infinite sleep will affirm that sound is, very much, life. By Michael Fordham f There was a dream you used to have. It was a dream of endless space. Of limitless echoing silence that roared. It was a dream of white noise – the sound of the world in its molecular complexity. Each element you experienced in the dream had an aural dimension. And in your dream the sounds of the world were one. The buttress was at the limit of your climbing competence. There were some letters and figures attached to its grade, but that didn’t seem to matter. You wanted to take your friend climbing. It was his first time and you had promised to lead. You had given the guys a crash course in rope skills the night before, before the drunken revelry in the pub – then the club – had begun. The rhythmic beat of Underworld was pattering still through your mind as you eased up to the first belay point, meticulously placing protection as you climbed, the cantilevered mechanicals of the gear slotting just so into cracks in the limestone. The thing you had liked about climbing was the simultaneous sensation of boundless space and intimate exactitude. Before your eyes was everything. The universe and the fleeting nature of your life within it were defined by the minutiae of your finger placements and toeholds. Behind you, meanwhile, stood the fathomless silence of space. Everything chaotic and out of control existed in that void. To fall into that quiet immensity was to breach through the thin skin of the everyday and to pass through to another realm.


You were there for an eternity. Or as these things go, it was probably for a few minutes. The noise of the wind in your ears and the patter and rush of hailstones made communication with your climbing partner impossible. In a momentary gap in the wail, you thought you heard him call your name. Your right leg, toe still jammed tight in a crack, began to twitch wildly. You were running out of time. Gathering it all, you reached and raced and stretched out of the exposed buttress. All the while the noise of treacle black fear reverberated and spread to each extremity of your body.

There you were, on the interface of here and forever. You would rather be there than anywhere. Your friend made the first pitch with ease. You secured him and experienced a brief moment of foreboding as the wind gusted with a quick and intense whine. Despite that, you stepped out and began to climb again. There were just a couple of moves until the crux of the pitch, and consequently that of the entire route, had to be negotiated. It was a ruggedly exposed step up and to the left – the handhold would be invisible until you were committed, having stepped up and around the buttress.

Four thousand metres. The sky is deep blue. The ridge forms an iced outline in your peripheral vision. All you can hear in your helmet is the sound of your breathing and the scrape of your edge as you carve fast, low-frequency arcs into the ice. With each transition, there is a momentary change of pitch as you ride on the flat deck, before the sweeping side-cut of the board finds purchase and propels the geometry and speed of your line back to where the pendulum swings. You hear yourself grunt with the effort of each compression and with each extension of your legs. Soon you draw focus on the edge of the hard packed piste described by a wind lip that looks around shoulder high. You punch over the lip and silence envelops you. Weight and speed seem to fall away, though this perception is of course counterintuitive. You were expecting sound, compression and greater velocity where now the oxygenated mist of powdered snow is everything. Perspective of space and movement disappears. In the wake of the initial silence, defined perhaps by the noise of ice suddenly evaporating, a faint hiss and whoosh filters through into your helmet. A hiss and whoosh of what? Atoms of air and water and infinitesimal solids interact with steel and plastics of the board strapped to your feet. In moments, you are at the foot of the powder field and your board begins to chatter and worry the ice forming in bigger and bigger clumps where the open glade channels into tightly spaced rows of pines. Picking your line, breathing harder now, you auger in on the gaps between the trees rather than the trees themselves. You pump and grind and duck, leaping between stashes of powdered snow deep in the tree wells and the tracked pathways between the arbors. Each well is a hush and each pathway a percussive rhythm of stone, ice and air, the sound of your kinesis softened and whispered through the fronds.


The wood falls away, and a huge arcing field opens up around you, shaped like the smoothed-out terracing in a giant stadium. You are deep in the powder again. Silence again too, except for your tired groans. You attempt to keep the flow and weight your back foot, until with a slip and a crack and an exhalation of breath you fall. You are buried deep. A foot of snow cocoons you, your beard encrusted with crackling crystals

of ice. You attempt to move, but the weariness and the pain in your feet and ankles and the lactic acid in your thighs make meaningful movement impossible. There is silence such as you have never experienced. You realise that the sun is shining hotly on an exposed slab of loose, heavy snow where you lay. You wait. The mountains’ quietness becomes all of a sudden something to fear.

7,500 revolutions-per-minute intensity. There is massive compression – then floaty release as you move through an invisible wall of g-forces as car and driver flow through, up and over the hill. Lateral energies urge to push you and the car left, left, left. The V8 engine is a symphony directly behind your left ear, tuned in Modena with the expressed intention of maximising the pleasure of in-car entertainment driven solely by internal combustion. Centimetres away from you, vaporous detonations and vacuuminducing forces are thrusting and turning and twisting, driving exhausted gases through a system of alloy tubing loaded with resounders. The twin efficiencies of aural beauty and the physics of mechanical movement are at stake.

Emerging now through the Pouhon section at maximum speed and into a 25-second flat out parabola, you come to the realisation that this noise, this fusion of human mind and its resource-depleting instincts and urges is an increasing rarity on planet earth. What happens when a noise, something as abstract as a sound, becomes extinct? The question makes the indulgence all the more intense.

As you reached a point of calm, you noticed that as the smooth backed swells began to rise and fall, they looked like sperm whales sounding to the depths. It might have been one of those freak waves that pulsed through the building rhythm of the swell, marching with the run of the sea but falling into step with the sound of an altogether different drummer. Wherever it came from, you realised too late that you weren’t going to make it over. There was silence as you scratched for the horizon. Your perception of things slowed, and the world seemed drained of sound. But as the critical moment came closer when you would have to attempt to duck beneath the wave, your ears filled with a falling, tragic arpeggio. There was the mottled, streaked face of the wave as you dived deep and everything began to change.

Below 3,000rpm, the Ferrari’s motor whines and ticks like a malcontent terrier determined to release itself from the collar. Between 3,000 and 5,500 revs, it revels in the intensity of a throaty tenor at full flight. As you push the mechanics through its broad power band wailing and screaming toward 9,000rpm – the lady soprano sings as is her man wrought, heaven-blessed birthright.

Spa Francorchamps. A Ferrari F430 Scuderia. Second gear around La Source, then you open the throttle up and paddle right up through the gears, shooting down and around to the left as you lift the throttle for a second. The weight of the car is displaced dramatically forward. The discourse of motorsport dictates that you go flat through Eau Rouge. This nearcatastrophic displacement of energy is the reason why. The engine note dips from its


The Ferrari’s torsional body flexes as the diffuser at the rear sucks up the Tarmac, and the aerodynamic features on the front and on the side skirts of the monocoque conspire to force the car down harder with each increment of velocity. Soon, the Les Combes section of the circuit appears at the end of the long straight. Seeing the boards streak by 100 metres from the apex, you lean on the brake pedal and flick your left fingertips to send the drive back down through the cogs to third. Each ratio adjustment evokes a high-pitched blip. You flick the steering wheel to the left and then right, trying to keep the transition smooth. Now you’re riding fast through a series of long, sweeping lefts and rights. The sound of the engine reverberates through the pine forests of the Ardennes, sending flickers of sound and feathers of noise in all directions.

The thing you remember is the noise. It had been a big day in mid October, just before the clocks went back. It was called long before – one of those long, longdistance swells created by a storm in the Caribbean that doubled up with a North Atlantic low, only to be held at bay out near the Azores by the high pressure over the islands as the world beneath it turned. You had paddled out as the first ruleredged lines began to meet the shelf and the tide began to push. There was a sickly anticipation in the pit of your stomach.

As the wave breached above you, the dark green to steel blue of the water faded to olive and then to black. The chord that had disappeared now crystallised and began to sing and hiss as the pressure increased in your eardrums. You took a froglegged stroke deeper to avoid the falls but the mass of water began to tug hard at your ankle, which was attached by leash to the board above you. With a sickening release of energy you felt the leash tie snap. What had been the low, muffled rumble of the wave’s energy being spent on the rock-strewn sandbar below you, now took the form of a tangible presence. Released now from the buoyancy afforded by your surfboard, you felt yourself rising quickly, accelerating as you spiraled upwards. Again that ascending sequence of liquid notes, reaching a crescendo now, began to flood your mind. There was a moment of weightlessness as you reached the point of the wave’s critical mass. The next moment you crashed back into blackness. The water’s cacophony was all that remained. K photography: shutterstock K illustration: fabio latunzi-antinori K /elements


Philippe Dubreuille f you’re looking to buy a guitar in London, there is one place you definitely should go. Denmark Street, just off Charing Cross Road in the West End, is the capital’s musical Mecca. But what not everyone knows is that in order to find the finest guitars, you have to venture down from street level into the murky, dark and claustrophobic catacombs underneath. This is where the magic of Philippe Dubreuille happens. But according to the French guitar guru, “location isn’t important, only my hands and head”.


As fate would have it, he found his trade by accident. After losing his guitar, Dubreuille successfully constructed a new one and, soon enough, was making guitars for all his friends. Eventually, he ended up in a guitar repair shop in Geneva where he “learned the tricks of the trade” and built up an impressive portfolio. One evening when The Cure were in town, he snuck backstage to show the band his instruments. The band’s front man, Robert Smith, bought one right there and then, and Dubreuille hasn’t looked back since.

Dubreuille spends most days of the week down here, crafting instruments that may well end up on stage at Wembley Stadium or Madison Square Garden in the hands of such legendary guitar heroes as Noel Gallagher, Iggy Pop and Dave Stewart. As you would expect from a man who makes ZZ Top’s golden axes, Dubreuille is very passionate about his trade.

After a tour of duty at a guitar factory in Portugal, he ended up in London. But the British, according to Dubreuille, are very conservative in their guitar taste: “All they want is a Gibson or a Strat,” he complains. But when a customer pops down with a weird request, his face lights up. “The crazier, the better,” he says. “Because that means a challenge and a chance for me to make a really unique guitar.” A standard guitar takes him about 12 weeks to craft, which is quite fast. Speed, he says, is often a matter of importance for his customers.

“The electric sounds come more from the gut than the brain,” he explains. “There is part of my soul in every guitar I make.” He strongly believes that the vibes and energy of the instrument’s maker are embedded in it. “I know exactly what the guitar will sound like before I start the process – I have the creative concept clear in my head immediately,” he says beaming with confidence. But we have no reason to doubt him, for anyone who can impress Jeff Beck – one of the best guitarists ever according to Dubreuille – knows what they’re doing. As a kid growing up in Paris and then Geneva, Dubreuille played music with his friends and dreamt the usual teenage fantasy of becoming a rock star. “We liked bands like Led Zeppelin, Spencer Davies and The Stooges, and we tried to play like them, but it turned out to be more like noise,” he remembers with a smile.


Right now Dubreuille is working on a new pet project. Doobie (an Anglicised nickname of his surname) is a new line of red and white guitars, bass and amplifiers that will be launched in his own store next year. “Doobie feels like being kicked by someone, it can be that loud. The sound is very physical – it’s like your whole body is shaking.” It seems Dubreuille’s passion for what he does, if nothing else, will see him succeed. K text: david hellqvist K photography: andre penteado K explore more @ /dubreuille


The breathtaking new feature-length film from Relentless about Artists striving for fulfilment. Life is too short for pretending. K download & explore more @









Nicolo Paganini, a grotesque specimen whose pale cadaverous face was framed by dark cascading hair, was the man who cheated death to become the greatest violinist ever to walk the earth. With bow in hand and instrument thrust beneath his chin, he was like an avatar from another world, a man possessed, as if his gaunt, sinuous frame had been ravaged by the devil himself. Through music he struck both fear and adoration into his public, and he gave a city on the verge of degeneration and despair every reason to live. Paganini, the maestro, had to be heard to be believed – and then heard again. K text: erasmus K graphic artist: dave kendall K explore more @



The parents of the young Nicolo Paganini stand over his grave.

As the soil begins to conceal his corpse, a sound is heard, a breath...

H... H... He’s alive! Come quick! It’s Nicolo... The boy lives!

Its a miracle!

The rattle of horse and cart awakens Paganini from his childhood memories.

They say a final goodbye to a son presumed dead from measles.

Parties rage in the streets, but all is not well. There is the boy who cheated death.

His journey to the capital, into the unknown, has been excruciating. How will he be received?

This is the culmination of countless years of solitary preparation alone with his violin. Finally he he sees it: Paris. The city awaits him. Cholera reeks havoc in the city. Death is everywhere.

Dansons mon amour!


Alienated, Paganini is forced indoors. The violin, given to him by his father, becomes his refuge. There is an intruder in the City of Lights...

And so Paganini comes face to face with death once again.

Paganini recovers but cannot escape scurrilous rumours in his village. There is talk of a pact with the devil that has poisoned the poor boy’s soul. With ambitions of wealth, his father forces him to practice. The boy barely stops. He plays by day...

... And by night. Life has given you this second chance. Now you must seize it!

Unable to shake off the stench of death, but with fire in his heart, he learns to contort his fingers into impossible shapes and extract unequalled beauty from the violin.

Lesser men would have fled the carnage. But Paris was to be his greatest challenge. He will not flee.

‘It’s him, the devil’s cohort! Paganini is here!’

That man is sin itself. Beware this cursed demon...

This is not the city I saw in my dreams, but with my bow I shall salvage her from this doom!

Even in Paris, rumours of a demonic childhood remain, but Paganini walks the diseased streets unafraid. The reaper has rejected him once – why would he want him now? 124


Who is this man? ... But did you see those eyes? Those dark, hollow eyes..?

On that first night, he plays alone in a graveyard, his long-awaited Parisian debut.

Yes, but if that is indeed the sound of the devil, then send me to hell!

Amidst piles of infected corpses and half-dug graves, he plays an exquisite ode to the dead. There goes Paganini! Follow him!

Drawn to his tune, the city’s elite rush to the window of a ballroom nearby. Out of the darkness below, Paganini emerges, ringing the violin for all it is worth. His score echoes through the ghostly streets of Paris. It does not sound like the work of any mortal. Who is this vagabond in the cemetery?

They say he is half man, half demon...

Oh Paganini, play us your music!

Look at that! One string! He plays a symphony on one string alone! I have seen nothing more majestic in my life...

It’s as if Paganini has become cholera itself, the dark plague’s living embodiment. He has been contaminated, but his devotion to his music grows stronger.

Sssh! We may all be dead tomorrow. Listen to the man play!

Where is he taking us? The stench is putrid!

His genius haunts Paris by night. He leads a musical revolution, wearing the disease with pride as a war hero would wear his stripes.

He is an apparition sent from hell!

He is a genius!

With thousands dying every day, the word spreads, and Paganini provides a much-needed distraction for a city gripped by death. He is hailed as a saviour by street urchins and nobles alike. Paris’ great concert halls await... 126

The bourgeois adore him, but Paganini craves to be close to cholera, to those who have died. He leads his adoring public deeper into the murk... 127

This art is a burden I cannot bear much more. I am all but dead.

But it cannot last much longer. Despite what people think, Paganini is human, made from flesh and bone like everybody else. His obsession has pushed mind, body and soul to the limit. Death and this new music are infecting the city simultaneously, and man and the supernatural are thrown together into one delirious alliance, a frenzied cacophony of dance and disease, an entire city seduced by the sorcery of Paganini.

He continues to play whenever and wherever he can, but still people die. Paris descends further into a chaotic and carcass-ridden pit. But Paganini refuses to succumb...

Beckoned from the streets below, he braces himself for a final salute.

Death looms closer, yet still they call my name... Encore! Encore!

I must give them what they want one last time...

His stature continues to grow. He loves Paris, and the city loves him back. More than ever, the people need the genius of Paganini.

Paganini plays until he has nothing left to give. He confronts his adoring public and stands before them, arms outstretched. They scream his name and beg for more, but even Paganini, the man who cheated death, cannot stop the inevitable...

And just as quickly as he arrived, he was gone...

But his Art endures.

With bow in hand, he transcends his own desolation, his decaying and disease-riddled body. He becomes an Artist like no other, a superhero born to a city in the grip of death. Still he continues to defy the devil... 128


This Is The Order challenges the way we perceive ourselves and the world around us. It digs deep beneath the surface of action sports, art, music and creative culture, both past and present, to explore an attitude that defines the true Artists of this world. Historical figures are resurrected, great Art is re-discovered and new visions are realised. Man, the noble savage, with all his complexities and contradictions, is capable of great things. We celebrate the enduring value of Artistry. Join The Order for more exclusives from Relentless.


This Is The Order Magazine - The Sound Issue  

It’s the latest installment in our no-expense-spared ode to Artistry, and this time around we enter headlong into the multi-dimensional worl...

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