Sonica Festival 2015: Preview

Sonica founder Cathie Boyd describes her mission statement and provides a working definition of what to expect from sonic art

Preview by Adam Benmakhlouf | 07 Oct 2015

Sonica Festival has toured across six continents since it launched in Tramway in 2012, set up by founder Cathie Boyd to present 'the most exciting sonic art in the world.' After 20 years of running Cryptic – the Glasgow-based organisation that produces Sonica – Boyd has her own working definition of sonic art: “Music which is presented visually or visual art which is presented sonically.”

This year Sonica takes place between 29 October and 8 November across Glasgow. Parts of the programme reflect Boyd’s recent enthusiasm for showcasing more geographically distant (from Glasgow) developments in sonic art. The Govanhill Baths will house 'a large-scale kinetic sculpture, commissioned from Indonesian visual artist and theatre-maker Jompet Kuswidananto.'

As part of Cryptic Indonesia in the Glue Factory, Kuswidananto recently presented his Grand Parade, a variously mechanised multimedia installation featuring life-sized figures in ceremonial, festive and political garb.

"The visuals are as strong as the music... they completely ravage you" – Cathie Boyd

As well as new talent from further-away countries, Sonica is also showcasing some of the usually inaccessible or hidden spaces in Glasgow. Tracking this interest in intriguing settings, Hinde remembers in 2013, when a Sonica event took place in asecret venue: “We wouldn’t tell anyone where it was and we bussed everyone from the CCA.” This year, they’re working in partnership with the Glasgow Science Centre and the Hamilton Mausoleum.

In the Glasgow Science Centre basement, you'll find Wintour’s Leap’s tiny LED lights that visualise sound. There will also be an afternoon concert by the Maxwell String Quartet: “They’re performing a programme including Philip Glass and Arvo Pärt."

Boyd describes this audio-visual element of the programme as “a new addition to Sonica which we’ve not had before, which I’ve really pushed the other two curators to agree to because they weren’t too sure about it.” Though this kind of work came from mild behest and persuasion, Boyd observes that much of this work was "made by artists, duos, or solo like Herman Kolgen. The visuals are as strong as the music and they do completely ravage you."

Presenting the most interesting sonic art also for Boyd involves “taking existing work that deserves to be seen again.” While the festival does have a lot of commissions this year, she refers to Kathy Hinde’s work, commissioned in CCA and premiered last year.

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Since then she’s performed in London, Brighton and Aberdeen, but will present it for the first time in Glasgow at Sonica, “so we don’t feel that we just want the premier of the work.” Hinde's work has also won the Arts Electronica Honorary Mention.

While there are acts like Bl!ndman, who last performed in Glasgow in the 80s, Boyd assures us, “It’s also supporting emerging British talent and wanting to showcase this. People like Morton Underwood, Mark Lyken, NORTH OF X and Robbie Thomson – highly, highly talented emerging British artists.”

Lyken, for example, is paired with Kathy Hinde. While Hinde’s visuals “merge machinery and natural stimuli,” Lyken’s Oscillon Response bases itself on late mathematician and artist Ben F Laposky’s Electronic Abstractions. Broadening this theme, NORTH OF X presents The Age of Digital/Analogue, “an audio-visual piece that travels the UK exploring the relationship between man, machine and landscape.”

With Boyd’s two-decade experience of running Cryptic, it's no wonder that Sonica comprises such diverse, ambitious strands of international and domestic showcases of new talent, alongside its representation of previously supported artists’ commissions. If Sonica is still a young festival, it’s a precocious child with much ahead.

Sonica, various venues, 29 Oct-8 Nov