Image: Jez Burrows

This Friday, experimental music festival INSTAL 10 begins at Tramway in Glasgow. The 3 day event described as ‘an experimental festival of experimental music’ is organised by Arika who are also the name behind Kill Your Timid Notion and Shadowed Spaces.

We talk to Barry Esson, director of Arika about what we can expect from this year’s event.

How did INSTAL come about?

It started off in 2001 with my friend Tiernan Kelly when we both worked at the Arches. I think we thought at the time that there was definitely a need for some kind of platform for more experimental forms of music in Scotland and in Glasgow. Since then it’s grown and we have more and more of a leading role internationally in the radical fringes of experimental music, not just with performance, but with the ideas behind it, with ways of engaging with it, ways for it to be more than just about sound, and ways for people and ideas and communities from outside of music to gain a purchase on it, and to change it. INSTAL started as a festival of experimental music. Now we hope it is an experimental festival of experimental music (and other things besides)

You have described the festival as ‘radical’ – how will this manifest itself?

Some definitions:

Radical: Arising from or going to a root or source; basic: proposed a radical solution to the problem.

We want to make an argument that there are important ideas at the route of music, and experimental music, which give us a unique purchase on the world. Not just ways of making music, but of thinking and doing, and which can be applied to everyday life. Which is to say – what mostly happens to new ideas is a kind of conservatism that incorporates them by divesting them of their political content so that they palatably reinforce the status quo. We want to insist on the possibility of experimental music to contribute to something other, more useful to us all, than the status quo.

Radical: Departing markedly from the usual or customary; extreme: radical opinions on education.

INSTAL is an experimental festival of experimental music. The way we structure it is increasingly informed by our engagement with unusual and uncustomary modes of collective engagement, thinking and doing. It is a set of un-average musical ideas, but importantly it is also structured so as to try and celebrate un-average modes of being together.

Radical: Favouring or effecting fundamental or revolutionary changes in current practices, conditions, or institutions: radical political views.

Music is stuck. Experimental music is too. But at it’s core there are ways it can be rethought. We want to make a modest contribution to this process, and to get at the ways and means by which (experimental) music can raise itself above the dull trajectory of entertainment that is forced upon it.

Image: Jez Burrows

As well as performances there are several discussions taking place – what sort of debates can we expect?

Well, we just want to intelligently think about radical music and how it engages with the world: what it can propose, what it is limited by, what its consequences are if it is to be more than just entertainment… We want to show how all music is a function of things bigger than music alone. And we’re not naïve about this: a lot of music can claim to be a-political but actually simply reproduces the ways in which our lives are dominated. So we’ll be chatting about the ways in which we think the music at INSTAL is influenced by and influences wider concerns with alternative ways to engage with the world.

INSTAL is located at the Tramway – how does this space influence the festival and the events?

A festival should be more than a series of gigs. So we have to think about how to allow for all kinds of divergent and dynamic social interactions to take place, between musicians, artists, audience members, us… Tramway is a large and complex building, so we’ve tried to use all the different spaces, with their different characteristics and capacities and feels to create a festival that has varied kinds of experiences: big gigs that we can all watch together, smaller intimate things that only a few people can see at a time, intense short performances which would be too much if they were more than 15 minutes, long and drawn out contemplative experiences…

Anything you’re particularly looking forward to this year?

I’m looking forward to continuing to not know what will happen, and to finding that out. Obviously we think all of it has a good chance of being amazing, but definitely the riskiest thing we’re doing is the Evacuation of the Great Learning project, which has already started with Glasgow Open School and who will be making up a large part of an autonomous group at the festival, also including the radical noise artist Mattin and philosopher Ray Brassier, who will investigate all kinds of ideas about music and art collectively, and then take over the last 4 hours of the festival on Sunday, to present their findings as a kind of re-imagined idea of what ‘performances’ could be. It’s a major thing for us, but we have no idea what to expect…

For the full programme and more information about Arika visit