1. About the work

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    I’m curious about the personal, the secret, the mysterious. Drawn into inconspicuous otherworlds, I’m struck by sensations of sympathy towards situations of strangeness. In this noisy world of public utterances, I find myself attentive to private sounds.
     

    The Secret Noise finds much of its inspiration in cultural practices that, for various reasons, have been shielded or hidden from public consumption. The work has evolved as a sequence of scenes, each of which poetically references diverse types of music-making at the fringes of public experience. From sacred forms of ceremonial music to legally extinguished compositions, to backmasking and personal music players, The Secret Noise is a poetic response to such practices and a critical commentary on our understanding of music as a public or private exchange.

    The work spans scored and improvised music involving conventional and unconventional instruments as well as electronic music. Although the entire work is based on common themes and sound sources, the recorded form of the work is not a recreation of the live experience. The live work tends towards a more dramatic theatrical aesthetic while the recorded work tends towards a more austere and meditative aesthetic making creative use of attribute particular to the vinyl and CD media.

    The live work in produced by Ensemble Offspring and involves eight experienced artists from different disciplines who have created the work in a collaborative fashion.

    The Secret Noise is conceptually grouped around themes under the following titles each referring to different conceptions of secret or private music.

    Plis Cachetés
    Forbidden Spectacles
    Music of Friends
    Backmask
    iMusic

    Plis Cachetes

    Plis Cachetés takes as its starting point a surreal exploration of artistic ownership and the law.

    Plis Cachetés takes as its starting point a surreal exploration of artistic ownership and the law. It forms the basis of the opening installation of the live show where audience’s plis cachetés (drawings by Harry Pierce) are interpreted/authorised with individualised performances.

    From paranoid governments to monopolising corporations, hyper-protective artist-estates and composers withdrawing their early works, this scene is a compendium of sound based on music that has been legally extinguished from the public experience. This scene takes its name from the French Scientific Academy’s method of patenting ideas via the submission of proposals as plis cachetés (sealed envelopes). In the period following the French revolution thousands of ideas were sealed and, until recently, remained lost and unavailable to the public. This scene alludes to proposals found in the plis cachetés concerning the invention of new forms of music and dance notation. The drawings used in this ‘entry’ scene allude to arcane notational languages and were created by artist Harry Pierce. Often added to by audience-participants the drawings are interpreted into movement and sound by the performers in a surreal experience somewhere between bureaucratic routine and the intimacy of a private show.

    Plis Cachet

    Plis cachets gallery | Drawings by Harry Pierce

    • Plis cachetes Gallery

    Forbidden Spectacles

    Forbidden Spectacles is built around an abstract allusion to the bullroarer:

    Forbidden Spectacles is built around an abstract allusion to the bullroarer a sacred instrument communicating the spirit over vast distances and excluded from the experience of the majority of the community. I was interested to note that many of the world’s cultures to create instruments swung overhead in a rotational fashion have used the instrument almost universally to serve a sacred function within that community. This interest formed the basis of the three scenes that feature whirling instruments including fricative objects (I’ll be upfront … the heads of toilet brushes), chortle balls and humming cups.

    Forbidden Spectacles

    • DIY instrument building: make your own humming cup

    Music of Friends

    Music of Friends, delves into the idea of musical cliques.

    The scene alludes to the chamber music tradition: from its pre-concert function as music heard only by royalty to music exclusively composed and played by groups of friends in private settings. In this modern-day rewrite of the repertory, Music of Friends becomes a slightly humorous commentary on the phenomenon of closed musical circles and the identification of music as a commodity to advance one’s own (and exclude others’) social standing. Musical material used in this scene resulted in a self-standing spin-off work Clique performed by James Crabb (accordion), Claire Edwardes (percussion) and Jason Noble (clarinet). A modified version of the trio, under the title Music of Friends, including Bree van Reyk on piano-accordion is featured in the live version of The Secret Noise.

    Music of Friends

    Listen to an excerpt of Clique

    Backmask

    Can music hold double meanings and secret messages?

    From the ‘Plato code’ of Ancient Greece to US Congressional hearings into subliminal mind-control, the capacity of music to carry hidden messages is the subject of continuous controversy and conspiracy theories. The possibility of music having a superficial form as well as a secret form that may be unmasked by the inquisitive listener is the basis of this mash-up of hidden references. This scene is a playful rethink of techniques popular in the recording industry to conceal secret music and messages. Backmasking (the satanic message that reveals itself by spinning an LP backwards); incorrect play speeds (a new meaning found by changing LP speed or skipping through a CD); secret tracks (concealed between the grooves of an LP or in the pregap coding of CDs); hidden text and images (unveiled by the visualisation of digital audio); and modular structures (where a new work is exposed by the reordering and/or superimposition of separate tracks). The Secret Noise includes over 35 references to existing works noted for their double-meaning sources which can be found mainly in the track Backmask (EP only) and the bass clarinet, vibraphone, drumkit and turntable quartet Heaven Only Empty.

    Backmask

    iMusic

    Private music for the headphone generation

    From court dances to the throbbing beat of the nightclub, music and dance has, for the most part, functioned as an expression of socialisation: a medium to bring people together. At least until the age of the iPod. With the experience of music increasingly individualised and personalised, the iMusic scene explores the ubiquitous headphone as an expression of private music. The original version of iMusic was based on music delivered through iPods that the audience would never hear, however, the work subsequently evolved into a more soloistic work for vibraphone and electronics under the title Time Alone.

    iMusic

    Further information

    Read media previews about The Secret Noise and the topic of music deliberately hidden from public consumption:

    Radio interviews: