This short video contains some taster clips of sound compositions created for Martin O’Connor’s The Mark of the Beast in 2018.
Following the CD release in 2014, a back-issue of framework:seasonal issue #7, winter 2014 is now available on Framework Radio bandcamp page.
My composition Post-Industrial Broadcast #1 features in a compilation of thirteen tracks from some wonderful artists.
Many thanks to Patrick Tubin McGinley.
The Mark of the Beast gets a ***** review
Presented by Martin O’Connor and Platform
Written and Performed by Martin O’Connor
With Nichola Scrutton and the North East Recovery Community
Platform, Easterhouse 13th-15th April
The Scottish Storytelling Centre 19th April
Inspired by Glasgow and its relationship with alcohol and addiction, Martin’s latest poetry performance The Mark of the Beast explores society through a prism of morality, temptation and family attitudes towards the ‘demon drink,’ and is performed in Martin’s recognisable blend of Scots and song, shot through with religious references and imagery.
The performance includes sound design created by Nichola Scrutton featuring personal experiences of alcohol addiction from members of the North East Recovery Community.
Martin O’Connor – Writer and Performer
Nichola Scrutton – Composition/Sound Design
Fergus Dunnet – Set Design
Hana Allen – Stage Management
Davie Green – Lighting Design
Alan McKendrick – Directing Support
Eoin Carey – Image and Production Photography
Theatre Review – The Herald
The Mark Of The Beast
Platform, The Bridge, Glasgow
“Whit ye huvin?” The voice has a chirrupy geniality to it: pure Glesca’ camraderie. “Ur ye huvin’ a drink or no?” The camaraderie is now teetering on the querulous, the aggressive even. Offence is on the verge of being taken, here. Minutes into this pithy, comedic, often harrowing monologue about various shades of alcohol addiction, writer/performer Martin O’Connor has wheeched us inside a pub, and into the core shorthand of belonging – of being a mate, a part of a community – that is inherent in the offer of a pint.
One pint… unseen voices chip in with memories of the wee swally that first introduced them – often, as far back as childhood – to the compulsive disorder of getting totally blootered. The recorded voices belong to Glasgow’s North-East Recovery Community: mixed into Nichola Scrutton’s chorale-cum-sound design, they will add personal witness to O’Connor’s tangy, savvy progress through the cumulative effects of long-term alcohol abuse. There’s the bilious heartburn of self-loathing, the upsurge of resolve – “Ah’m affit..” – and the lonely isolation of battling your demons when your pals remain in the boozer.
There’s a graphically vicious section when a posse of well-dressed lads become a pack of drunken thugs, relentlessly kicking a total stranger
just because… because he was there. It all sounds, feels, pungently real.
O’Connor’s talent for morphing social documentation into a bravura prose-poem pivots merrily on the rhythms of everyday Glesca’ patois, but – back-lit by designer Fergus Dunnet’s row of stained glass windows – he offsets the gallus patter with the soaring fire and brimstone of biblical texts, juggling revelations and hallucinations in a linguistic cocktail of those abiding havens: bevvy and religion. We laugh a lot, because O’Connor understands bathos but he never mocks the alcohol-afflicted, or diminishes their trials in what is a truly exceptional piece of work.
The Mark of the Beast is a collaboration with writer/theatre-maker Martin O’Connor that explores issues/ideas around alcohol and addiction in Glasgow.
Between November 2015 to March 2016, Martin and I undertook a period of research and development, commissioned by GEAC Platform-to-Health and GRAND (Getting Real About Alcohol n Drugs). Working with the North East Recovery Community.
At that time, I composed a sound installation Good Days Bad Days, incorporating the many voices/stories of participant’s experiences. For The Mark of the Beast, I re-visited and re-composed that material for Martin’s live solo show.
13th – 15th April, Platform, Glasgow
19th April Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh
Wave Shift – Radiophrenia
Source sounds for the work include voice, hydrophone and other field recordings captured during my Sura Medura Residency in Sri Lanka.
Collaboration as composer/sound designer with writer/theatre-maker Martin O’Connor on his solo show Togail Nàisean/Building a Nation. We toured as part of a double bill with Aisling Oidhche Meadhan Samhraidh/A Midsummer Nights Dream and had a performance at Tramway, Glasgow in 2018. Read more about it at Martin’s website here.
Isle of Mull
Sura Medura Exhibition
A Sura Medura exhibition is running from 21st April to 19th May 2017 at The Briggait in Glasgow. The exhibition includes a range of work by artists who have been artist-in-residence at Sura Medura in Sri Lanka.
Wave Shift, a new work made in collaboration with artist and illustrator Natasha Russell, is premiered as part of the Sura Medura exhibition. Read more about Wave Shift
Wave Shift was originally an experimental audiovisual collaboration with artist and illustrator Natasha Russell in response to the ideas and situations we encountered on the UZ Arts Sura Medura Residency in Sri Lanka. Natasha and I were in residence from October – December 2016, along with Sumit Sarkar and other visiting artists. Following the installation I re-worked Wave Shift into a stand alone composition.
During our post-residency collaboration, Natasha and I became interested in the way an understanding of the experience of a place shifts over time, between people, even at the drop of a hat. We decided to weave decaying memories, slippery facts and shifting folklores through sound and print to form a portable set that melts place and atmosphere into an imaginary landscape.
Integrating with the structure and printed visual landscape of the set, the Wave Shift audio component plays out into the space as an immersive, abstract, evocative soundscape composition. Source materials for the work included a selection of field recordings captured during the residency and vocal sound recordings. Both the main thread of sound that underpins the work, composed with a series of hydrophone recordings, and the form, which unfolds as a series of wave-like emergences, draw on myriad notions of water as a bridge between real and fictional landscapes.
Sura Medura Exhibition, The Briggait, Glasgow
Sura Medura Exhibition, Summerhall, Edinburgh
Sura Medura 3
The final stage of our residency was focused on preparing for our Moving Out event. Overall, the day at Sunbeach was a wonderful combination of visual art, sound, sculpture, video, performance, people, food, beer, Arrack sour, sea, sand, laughing, chatting, sharing…and cake (what a fabulous day for a birthday!).
We were thrilled to have a good local crowd join us for the day, and also delighted that so many people came down from the Colombo Biennale and the University Faculty of Visual and Performing Arts to join us for some or all of the time.
In our exhibition, which combined some finished elements and work-in-progress, my sound work Sabda saha Pintura was available as a headphone installation.
The title Sabda saha Pintura means sound and picture in Sinhalese – through much discussion this seemed to be the most apt translation for the collage idea I was working with in the piece. Exploring differences in the English/Sinhalese languages was very intriguing – how or in what way metaphors or concepts translate, for example, sound, soundscape, landscape, environment.
During the afternoon an audiovisual tuk tuk tour was running – a collaboration between Natasha (Russell) and me. Three people at a time could hop into Sudu’s tuk tuk and take a short round trip to visit Natasha’s work in local shops accompanied by my soundtrack. Big thanks to Sudu and Chinthaka for running the tours.
The soundtrack combined recordings I gathered from those shops – people introducing themselves and their businesses, shop sounds, etc – the general store, jewellers, barbers, a fruit and veg stall. I also recorded an introduction to the tour in Sinhalese, with pronunciation help from folk at Sunbeach.
Before a fantastic Sri Lankan curry banquet, I accompanied Samson Omiagien with some live vocals for his performance piece with sculpture, which we had rehearsed in the lead up to the event.
Later in the final week we headed up the road for the Colombo Biennale. I was absolutely delighted to have been invited by Shereen Perera to perform a live score for Video Jam – an event running as part of the opening night.
My film extract came from the beautifully strange, thoughtful film Light in the Yellow Breathing Space by Vimukthi Jayasundara.
I still have much to reflect on – such a wonderful thought-provoking time. Thanks to Neil and UZ, Chaminda, Chathura, Hasantha, Kari and all at Sunbeach, Maria and Jack, my fellow artists-in-residence, everyone I met.
Sura Medura 2
Sunbeach, where we are staying for the residency, is a great place and everyone is really helpful so eventually, after the first week, things settled down a bit.
In week 2 Sumit arrived so there was a bit of getting-to-know-you time, and the three of us chatted regularly. We discovered common and differing ways in our processes and practices, and endeavoured to understand how each wanted to work. Because we all had phases where we needed to work alone, the gatherings were particularly valuable and supportive.
In week 3 we travelled to the University Faculty of Visual and Performing Arts in Colombo and shared our work in presentations with students and staff. That was a really good day – as well as meeting people, we were fortunate to be shown round all the art departments then had lunch before travelling back.
Process and Decision-making
With presentations done it was now time to develop a work. I decided early on that my main tools for gathering actual sound material would be binaural microphones and a portable recorder. Part of my plan was to respond in different ways to the environment for future reinterpretation in sound, for example through spontaneous mark making, but I knew I definitely wanted to make a sound work for our forthcoming residency event later in November.
I realised quite quickly that that idea was a bit challenging – for one thing, I was conflicted about spending too much time composing at the computer when there was so much to explore and experience. The heat, humidity, mozzie bites and limited equipment threw in additional curves to negotiate. I also knew I wanted to do some kind of performance. I decided just to keep gathering and see what happened.
Thinking about soundscapes
The sound environment is generally very dense and I spent quite a bit of time actively listening and drawing. The area is divided – beach side and jungle side – and each has its own distinct soundscape. On the beach side the sea roars continuously as the surf thunders in and on the jungle side the air is thick with heat, bird song, massive trees rustling and people going about their daily lives. A railway line runs between the two through much of the area and regular trains, horns and bells punctuate the air. In the mix are a whole rich array of sounds – the hollering voices of people selling at markets and on the street, the honking and revving of huge buses overtaking other vehicles at breakneck speed (treacherous), thunderstorms and torrential rain, intermittent firework eruptions, the bread, fish and other vans making melodic announcements and so on.
Developing a work
At some point, I started to sense rhythms and cycles, and this was to become a guiding feature of the sound/music. In the end, a piece emerged in a collage form, through which I tried to evoke an essence of this wonderful place. I was initially concerned that the binaural recordings might be difficult to work with in this way because they were so dense but in actual fact they worked really well because the place and spatial content was so rich and varied. I could both cut between different sounds abruptly and find similarities that allowed me to morph from one sound to another. While doing this work I saw there was another strand I wanted to develop, working with voices, as well as continue with drawing/mark making – but that will come later. Ultimately there were many ideas…
Now it’s also time to start preparing for Moving Out and the Colombo Art Biennale…more on that in part 3.