Timothy Cooper – Mechanical – Shortlist for Sound Art / Electroacoustic Work

  1. How did the piece come about?

As anyone who knows me is well aware my favourite pass time is cycling up hills. The work grew out of a desire to save a bike frame that had a crack that meant it was un-rideable. The frame – known to me as Claudette – is a beautiful 351 Reynolds Claude Butler Elite. So initially, I just wanted to do something to save that frame. As the ideas for the piece developed I began to think about making an installation and the sonic experience probably came first. My background is as a composer who tends to carefully sculpt and craft my sounds so it made sense for me that the sound would be the most important thing initially. I wanted to explore creating a sonic space for the bikes to inhabit in some way, a space that was going to evocative full of detailed, layered sound. I went through various ideas about whether the bikes in the piece might be motorised, a bit like a Eduard Bersudsky’s moving sculptures. But when I was working on the sound materials during a residency at Cove Park I became quite attached the physicality of winding the bikes. Making the piece interactive had always been high on the list of options and as I worked through the materials and started to programme the interactive system it became clear that this was the right way forward for the work. The project then also became a design task where the crucial aspect was making sure that the bicycle’ interface was engaging to play with.

  1. Was the piece written for a specific space, and if so, how did that influence the work?

No the piece isn’t site specific. It wasn’t even first presented in the way I intended. I made it as an installation for a gallery space. It was first presented at the CCA by Cryptic and I wonder if the specific context, a performance space and company and event associated with live performance, may well have positively influenced the work. Certainly the number of people in the work at one time (there were around forty people initially) seemed to affect the work in a good way and that probably wouldn’t happen in a gallery situation.

  1. What other projects do you have on the go at the moment?

I’m working towards a concert with Danielle Price (tuba) and Tom Poulson as part of Matthew Whiteside’s The Night With… series. We’re using Stockhausen’s Tierkreis as a way of linking between the other pieces in the programme. We’re realising the Tierkreis movements collaboratively. I’m writing a new piece for tuba and multi-channel electronics for the gig. I’m also working with Laura Bissell on a piece exploring sea-sounds and sea-words and an installation with calligrapher/painter Susie Leiper and with poet Samuel Tongue.

  1. Who are the upcoming Scottish creators to watch?

I really like Inês Bento Coelho’s work, she’s an artist who creates site-specific installations.

  1. What other pieces have you seen this year that you found exciting and will stand the test of time?

I’m not sure I’m qualified to comment! I think like most composers’ I have a problem with the ‘canon’. I’ve had a few extraordinary sonic experiences in the last 12 months. Annie Mahtani’s delicate, fragile and extremely brave Aeolianestablished and maintained a sense of space at an incredibly quiet dynamic. Jonty Harrison’s large-scale work Going/Places evoked so many spaces and places in such a confident and beautiful way. Finally, just before a performance in St Giles’ Cathedral Edinburgh. The lights were switched off and the electrical system and bulbs were so old that they made a clicking sound intermittently. There were dozens of these bulbs and the texture was so beautifully delicate and unpredictable, definitely the best sound of 2016!

  1. What is the piece that you would most like to write?

I really want to compose an electroacoustic music theatre version of Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis. It is a utopian novel telling the story of a stricken boat arriving at the island of Bensalem. Written in 1624 it has sections that tell us about their equivalent of a national health service, an enlightened education system and what Bacon calls soundhouses (what we now know as electroacoustic studios). He tells us about many more aspects of Bensalem life that seem so just and beautiful it seems hard to believe it was written centuries ago.


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