Sound is quite difficult to write about, as Emlyn notes in his intro. I’ve found this becomes more difficult over time doing it, rather than less. When you’re categorising your archive of sounds, just how whooshy does something need to be to be described as a ‘whoosh’? Or is it more of ‘shwoosh’? I know I’ll probably never actually use the sound anyway, but I’d like to think I can find it again if I need it, using a maximum of 5 words to describe it.

The issue of categorising sound raised itself again, along with categorising visuals, while I was compiling notes on all the audiovisual works I received for a concert this weekend as part of the Soundings electroacoustic music weekend. Out of the 50+ works received, only about 7-8 can be performed within the hour available, so it was important to have a good criticism of each one, but keep the notes as brief as possible.

So how do you go about selecting the pieces? Well, to start with, the brief for the call was deliberately vague (…syncraesthesia: n. the fusion of acousmatic sound and abstract vision to create an immersive audiovisual experience; see also synchresis and synaesthesia…), but there were a few entries that didn’t quite fit, so they were out, no matter how good.

Next, Soundings itself is mainly about electroacoustic music – but that really covers any manipulation of sound, from the very musical through to the sound of a CD drawer glitching for 25 minutes (yes, that is a real recorded piece of music). In practice, though, very recognizably classic or ‘pop/rock’ is out. But wouldn’t you know – that eliminated almost no-one.

So, it came down to a set discipline for each one – listen to it without the video. Then watch it without the audio. Then watch and listen to the full thing. And make notes at each stage. Did the sound hold up as an interesting composition in itself? Was the video interesting enough to watch as a silent movie? And, crucially, did the two aspects synthesize to form something that was definitely more than the sum of its parts? This led to a shortlist of particularly outstanding pieces, and then it became apparent that there were audio and visual themes that could be explored between certain of them to give shape to about an hour’s worth of work. And a final list was created – I think it’s well worth a look and listen, and hope you will too. And maybe a listen in on one of the other concerts over the weekend – there’s a lot of interesting work being performed, and a chance to talk with many of the composers.

So that’s how the list was selected – though. I still have two other potential lists, with completely different works, that I’m itching to show another time…

But the good thing is that there will be another time, and plenty more of them. There’s more and more happening in this sound/visual art, the combination of soundscapes, electronic and digitally manipulated sounds with experimental and abstract video. Soundings is just one opportunity for this work to be shown – I hope to see and be involved with many more.

Find out more about Soundings here.


Mix-Blog: A bit like a mix-tape but with blogs instead. Read more from the series here.