Tag: Duncan Harrison

Obfuscation and misdirection, the close up magic of aleatoric scores

December 2015
The Scope XVII

We don’t normally run a show this far into December, but we had the opportunity to do something with HardWorking Families and go about realising some of Dann Hignell’s text scores, so it seemed like an opportunity not to be missed.

Duncan Harrison

Duncan Harrison Duncan Harrison was originally slated for the middle slot, but as we had only three acts and were starting late he opted for the first. The score he was performing was this (page 115):
“A short reflection upon the fact
That those on the outside
Have as much right to be here as any of us that
Their voices carry through walls and
If they don’t they should
(I am not sure how you would put this to song but a good start
Might be to ask everyone to open a window)”

We didn’t know that at the time, but the realisation went something like this: Duncan had a portable cassette player on a table with a small stage type lamp next to it. He switched it on and it appeared to be a recording made downstairs in a bar, it was quite trebly and distorted. He started the tape and got up and ran around the room checking the windows and then turned the lights down and cleared off. We could hear noises coming from outside the door, so I was expecting him to come back. he didn’t after about 20 minutes during which we’d kind of worked out it was a recording from downstairs (punk, Saxon and suchlike through the distorted conversation) someone went downstairs for a drink.

“I don’t think he’s around”
Tom went and checked, “I can’t see him anywhere”
So at around 30 minutes we turned the lights back up and started setting up for Tom’ s set, but without the electrocreche, and we started chatting over it then at 45 minutes the tape finished “clunk” and everyone cheered.

It makes a lot more sense knowing which score he was performing, I don’t even think Dann Hignell did at the time – excellent levels of confusion.

Hardworking Families

HardWorking Families Hardworking Families without Nan; unfortunately Nan shipped their Cello off to far-most Africa two days before the show and we couldn’t source a replacement in time. This meant Hardworking Families had to step in to cover the fray on their own. I’m sure there’s some kind of wider metaphor there, but I’m going to move on.

Anyway, it was Tom Bench with his new glittery guitar from the Train of Thought Emporium. And a nicely constructed set of Noises through the effects chain, some playing of cassettes into the pickups and the player rubbed on the strings, some things inserted in the strings and general muckaboutery at a reasonable volume for the most part before he stood up and started trying to get some feedback going.

There was some feeling that the cassette voices at the beginning was almost a continuation or reference back to Duncan’s set, but I’m not sure if that was intentional, or just me.

Dan Hignell Ensemble

Dan Hignell Ensemble

Dan Hignell had his ensemble set up through the middle of the room facing the screen so they could see the scores. From left to right looking at the backs of their heads (i.e. towards the stage, if you like) were Dan Hignell on a lovely old portable organ, all brushed aluminium and slightly bent plastic sliders, Kev Nickells on Violin and sharing a French horn with John Guzek who played violin, too, then on the far side from me Barnabas Yianni on some electronic things.

They ran through about six of Dan’s scores with accompanying cards, the realisations varying from scratchy repeated violin figures, to the feeling of someone wrestling with a French horn on the beach. some pieces felt like the musicians were working against each other some as if everyone was in their own universe. The last piece was a bit special, it was quite a bit longer than all the others, Dan playing space organ drone figures, with very long violin slides from one player with the other providing some over the bridge wrenching and Yianni’s electronics running in the background bringing a repeated pip figures, with the piece ending on a slight crescendo with arpeggiating violin parts.

A good Scope to end the year, really filling out the ideas we had for it when we started doing it.

Laboratory conditions

January 2015
The Scope

The Four Heads

The Four Heads
There are already a good number of people in when the Four Heads start. Dan is set up with singing bowls and an odd single stringed instrument at the back also mic’d up and playing quietly back through the PA, Geoff is perched on a stool just inside the door playing his ukelele through a cheap delay to a quiet amp on the other side of the room. The idea is an immersive sound that isn’t overwhelming, so the uke washes back and forth with occasional plonks, and Dan gongs and pings with his singing bowls, and bows more or less everything he can see.


Laborotoro Before Laboratoro play we move people around a bit so that Xelis has some space on the floor. He has reflector dishes with microphones (and pickups?) suspended from the ceiling feeding thin wires to Ed who is set up under the Caroline of Brunswick’s screen. Xelis talks and sings into the dishes the sound is processed by Ed’s Max MSP patches into arpeggios, or noise or something… There are field recordings – bird song and bunker sounds – and they both play a range of trumpets and hunting horns, Ed has a couple of drums he sticks or pats with beaters. Xelis dances and prowls, too. It’s good to see that they’re still not managing to do anything straight.

Duncan Harrison

Duncan Harrison The gap between sets is far too long but we keep the wide open space for Duncan Harrison. He balances his mixer on a stool, puts on dark glasses (after apologising) and starts talking about and from Henry Miller & Henry Rollins. He has some text in the middle of the floor and a cassette recording of some of it, he reads the text; standing, kneeling, crouching – after a while of this he presses a button on his mixer and we’re engulfed with a not loud but very unpleasant squall of feedback so that it feels like someone has unplugged the speaker on reality. You can see Duncan continue talking but not hear anything distinctly. He comes over to Agata who has been taking photographs and whispers in her ear. The horn player from Birds of Death Valley leaves the room visibly distressed: it is very unpleasant. Duncan shuts it off and I don’t remember if he reads some more or just stops.


duck-rabbit duck-rabbit are set up on a table at the “stage” end of the room, Tom Taylor playing a keyboard loaded with crunchy step sounds from Dungeness beach, and one of Joe Wright or James Opstead playing a weird joystick controller thing slung round a neck, and the other with a non-keyboard controller controlling a box synth I’d not seen before. the results are somewhere on the line of free improv and abstract electronica, Tom’s fingers bashing impressively around the keyboard bringing forth all manner of horrible noises. This mismatch is even more pronounced on the third improvisation where they replace the Dungeness sounds with those from a Widnes scrapyard.