Sonic Performance

Artistic rationale

Driven into electronic feedback experiments by the tonal quality of the sounds generated and the performability of the system; also due to the exploratory nature of the process. There is nothing to begin with, then through state changes sonic activity is generated. It is a learning process that demands concentration, attention to detail, mapping parameter changes to sonic behaviour. It is also influencing the performer to develop a bespoke strategy for presenting the different areas as a cohesive sonic material. The instability of the system, and difficulty with which certain results are achieved makes it very appealing to master. With a quite minimal setup a wide array of sounds can be explored, which are situated in a certain area, exhibit similar sonic characteristics, but each time they are presented they can appear slightly different. This is due to small changes affecting the timbre and temporal evolution of the sounds.

An additional rationale comes from the desire to create characterful sounds live, rather than using prerecorded material, or playing an instrument that generates synthesis based sounds. The purpose is to present material that is acousmatic, less referential or recognisable, which allows the audience to focus on the internal movement of the sounds, sonic gestures and keep interest alive while listening.

What is it?

The theory behind the phenomenon has been extensively documented, and is available from several authors, but a simple explanation can be that the noise level inherent in electronic audio equipment, in this particular case guitar effects pedals, is the main cause for driving a system into oscillation. By increasing the gain of the connected components, the system starts to resonate. Its tendency is to find stability, which mostly takes the form of a tone, but can also be iterative, turbulence or noise. Changing the gain in the system can make the sound progress through these areas. For example it can start as repetitive pulse, each repetition occurring closer to the next one, intercalate with noise, and then jump into a tone. And vice-versa, the tone can break down into a pulse.

What does it sound like?

There are different areas that emerge from playing the feedback chain:

mechanical sounds, engine like, motor driven objects, that can be seen as electric creatures. These sounds are iterative but different to an oscillator because each iteration is made up of several sonic components, just as the sound generated by a physical object would reveal the materials it is made from and internal resonances when set into motion

purely electronic activity, alternative noise crackles and short tones interrupted by brief periods of silence

drones, resonant spectrally rich tones

a combination of all of these, fast transitions from one to another, determined by the performer influencing the system, or spectrally shaping the sound


To take the audience on a sonic journey, feel tension and release, but also listen to the sounds rather than to music, or become immersed in the sonic space. When melody is absent, and rhythm exists only at microlevel, internal rhythm of the sound object, the focus shifts on timbre, and the evolution of the sounds, texture and gesture.

Artists/ Inspiration

Otomo Yoshihide, Yasushiro Otani, Toshimaru Nakamura, Sachiko M, Bernhard Gunther, Phil Durrant, Keith Rowe, Xavier Charles

The following pieces have been devised and developed under the guidance and supervision of Dr Andy Keep during 7 long sessions of ensemble rehearsals, and support for individual instrument development. These followed the 6 preliminary learning and practice sessions, with shared, basic sonic tools, prepared for the performance pathway by Dr Andy Keep.