INTERVIEW: SONIC ARTS WEEK | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: gobscure ships ov fool image by Liz Rose Ridley

If there was ever a time to recognise the importance of music and culture in bringing us together, it’s now. Sonic Arts Week, which takes over a variety of venues in Middlesbrough from Friday 16th-Friday 23rd July, is the town’s free celebration of sound, music and art, organised by innovative curators and project space The Auxiliary.

The festival has taken its inspiration from world listening day (which is on 18th July) and honours the birthday of Raymond Murray Schafer, a Canadian composer and environmentalist who is seen as the founder of acoustic ecology. “For SAW21 we really wanted to present a festival that was accessible and fun to be a part of.” The Auxiliary’s Liam Slevin explains.Sound is a great leveller when it comes to engaging with culture and that’s really how we selected the different artists and projects.”

There are a variety of unique experiences on offer, including a scenic sound-themed cruise on the River Tees from Stockton to Middlesbrough on Sunday 18th and Monday 19th, where audiences will be serenaded by Australian artist Jodi Rose who has created a piece of music using the vibration of the Tees bridges. At The Auxiliary itself, artist Dan Knight presents his interactive sound machines for audiences to engage with, and musician and artist Grace Stubbings hosts workshops for attendees to learn how to record and produce music using Dan’s sculpture. Grace also runs a workshop on Sunday 18th on the techniques of recording birds and wildlife in their natural habitats at Saltholme RSPB.

Sound is a great leveller when it comes to engaging with culture and that’s really how we selected the different artists and projects

When it comes to music, the region’s sound is uniquely shaped by the landscape; through geolocation technology local artists have created unique immersive sound walks available to enjoy via the Echoes app. There’s a chaotic catharsis to Benefits’ contribution, while electro folk artist Me Lost Me looks at the sonic rewilding of Middlesbrough architecture and Disability Online and Museum of Homelessness-affiliated artist gobscure gives their unique take on the town.

There’s more sonic adventuring at Centre Square, where Nell Catchpole delivers the next instalment of her Sonic Allotments project.Performers [will be] raking Centre Square with amplified rakes. I think people will get an absolute blast out of it. It’s going to be a little bit surreal.” Liam enthuses.

Audiences are also encouraged to keep an eye out for the Sound Workbook, which sheds some light on the history of artists who use sound as creative art.

Sonic Bikes promises to be a particular highlight, fusing music, cycling and environmental concerns; tiny computers and speakers attached to the bikes create sound and music as they’re ridden, using air quality data to create different sounds – the clearer the air, the nicer the sound. Led by Berlin-based Bircophonic Research Institute, Liam explains that getting Sonic Bikes to SAW21 has been a challenge.The artists are based between Berlin and Lisbon so there is always a chance they will not be able to be at the festival themselves, there is a global bike shortage and airlines have cancelled flights regularly on us. The project is going to be amazing though and it’s well worth the extra work now.”

Sonic Arts Week takes place across various venues throughout Middlesbrough from Friday 16th-Friday 23rd July. All events are free.

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