My final piece for Culture File’s series on ‘Silence‘, is an interview with performance artist Amanda Coogan. I don’t want to preempt the piece by writing too much about it. I will say that of all the conversations I’ve had this year, both on mic and off, this was perhaps the most personally meaningful. Amanda is an unusually sincere person who seems truly present in the moment. There are people I occasionally meet, whom I feel honoured to send time with, because they are present without pretence or defence. Perhaps those moments are why I’ve gravitated towards jobs that involve attempting real conversation – psychotherapy, music journalism, whatever the heck I do now. In those moments I’m reminded that life can be more engaged and meaningful than our fears and shibboleths usually allow.
Below is a transcript of the Culture File piece, and I’ve also made available a largely unedited recording of our interview. Our discussion spanned a variety of topics from the relationship of performance art to shamanic practice, to Irish societies treatment of the other, the evolution of performance art, as well as embodiment, the abject, and the phenomenology of performance.
Trevor Agus’s interest in sound goes back to an adolescence composing computer music. This led to the study of human perception, and his current research – how humans recognise and differentiate sounds. We spoke about the adaptive utility of quiet, the possibility of silence and the pain of tinnitus.
Episode three takes a journey into the underground world of circuit bending. Circuit benders hack children’s toys and dissect cheap archaic electronics, to produce strange new instruments. Circuit bending lies at the intersection of instrument building, grass roots activism and psychedelia. Listeners will learn about the history of circuit bending, a hobby that grew out of the the microprocessor and psychedelic revolutions in the 1960’s; and how these technological and cultural movements fused into a kind of activist musicianship.
From the work of Reed Ghazala (creator of Circuit Bending) on, musical tinkerers have been antiestablishment figures – taking technology beyond its intended uses and in the process becoming outsider artists.
Andrew Edgar explains how geographical differences in the history of consumerism influenced the musical cultures of different countries – and how he views taking toys apart as a sort of ‘sound archaeology’. Andrew introduces us to his collection of unique circuit bent instruments. Artist and VJ MarQu Vr situates circuit bending in the history of electronic music. John Leech gives us a live ‘cartridge ripping’ demo, which involves tricking a classic megadrive into producing chaotic musical sequences. We begin though, in Berlin, where writer and one time rock star Julian Gough, is making his own weird and wonderful instruments.
Mad Scientists of Music is a six part, BAI funded documentary series on Near FM. The show explores the world of Circuit Bending, Chip Tune, and Electroacoustic music in Ireland. Low cost technology, recycled instruments and a new attitude to tinkering embodied by the ‘maker movement’ are helping to reinvent music. A new generation of Irish musicians raised around computers, the internet and video gaming, see noise as something to be hacked, taken apart, and reconstructed. These artists build their own instruments, whether by recycling toy keyboards, modifying video game consoles, or attaching electronics to traditional stringed instruments. They often share their music online for free, and in doing so challenge our ideas about copyright and ownership. Their playful attitude to technology finds new uses for obsolete devices and brings the collaboration of musicianship to engineering and the arts.