the instrument in late development stage

Part of Sonica 2022 in Glasgow, new live work Creation is a performance piece written alongside the construction of new instrument built for the purpose.

The instrument has largely dictated the writing, being a four bridge version of Bart Hopkin’s ‘Handsome Glenn’ zither. It is played from one side, with the electronic pickups on the other side of the bridge, creating a slightly warbly detuned sound that can be adjusted by shifting the bridges or changing the string pressure.

I’ve also included a robotic player mechanism (derived from the excellent Dada Automat), and a rotating disk player mechanism, which sounds fancier than it is. the other facet of the performance is a series of bells and bowls around the space that are also played remotely which, along with the six speakers, helps to create an enveloping kind of atmosphere.

bells, bowls & motors

I’m going to post a more complete rundown of the creation process of the instrument in a future post as it may be of interest to some.

It has been written for a large sacred space, in this case Paisley Abbey, which has a lovely atmosphere and a very beautiful acoustic. The first performance, as part of Sonica, is on 12th March at 3pm.

This statement, written at the time of So Below, is still wholly relevant to this work:

At present I finding inspiration in the music of various countries and traditions. Many of these traditions have a spiritual leaning, in line with music’s almost ubiquitous use in sacred practice for the majority of known history, from the bone flutes found in caves to the gongs of ancient China and the chanting of monks. There are common features to many of these traditions, including close tunings of notes, repetitive patterns and a simplicity of melodic line, that lends them a particular atmosphere. This is an exploration of some of these techniques, used to effect consciousness change or to create an atmosphere conducive to a devotional mindset.”

You can get tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/sonica-glasgow-2022-presents-alex-smoke-creation-tickets-251832737497

So Below is a live performance piece for a chapel or resonant space, with the option of using various instruments. It was first performed in 2019 at the Glasgow University Chapel, supported by Cryptic, and with Maarten Vos on cello.

The setup is for an array of speakers around the space, with the sound moving through the room. It is performed in the dark, or as near-dark as can be achieved, and the focus is on the sound rather than the performance. This recording has been adapted to stereo.

It will be available only on Bandcamp.

Cello: Maarten Vos

Equipment: Cello, Voice, Monochord, Symbolic Sound Kyma, Looper

Software: Ableton Live, Madrona Labs Kaivo, Madrona Labs Aalto

Thanks to PRS Foundation for funding

and Cryptic for the support.

There is now a new page on the website detailing all the current performances and installations. Hopefully it makes it clearer what I’m up to. It is available from the menu on the left. The individual projects are listed underneath.

All are available for bookings. Details are on the individual pages.

I am still in the process of updating the website with releases etc, but will all be clear soon I hope!

New work this year, made in collaboration with artist Heather Lander for Cryptic. It’s a physical installation with intricate surround sound and a live performance element.

‘Primordial Waters’ will premiere as part of Sonic-A in Glasgow this week, appropriately on 31st October (Samhain of the Celtic calendar), concerned as it is with Celtic mythology and practice, and with the natural world in all its dimensions.

It is being performed in its full form at least twice, on 31st October and 1st November at the Tramway in Glasgow at 9pm. It will also remain setup as a short-form installation without the live elements in Tramway during the day of the 1st. You can get tickets here.