Luke Fowler and Vikki Morton introduce Sotto Voce

A collaboration between Glasgow gallery The Modern Institute and record label Redstone Press sees artists Luke Fowler and Vikki Morton come together for their first release as Sotto Voce. They tell us about the new project

Feature by Nadia Younes | 02 Nov 2020
  • Sotto Voce

You may not be familiar with Sotto Voce, but you’re likely to be familiar with its members, or at least with their work. The duo are Luke Fowler (a Turner Prize-nominated artist and filmmaker, and member of Glasgow-based four-piece AMOR) and Vikki Morton (a visual artist, who also plays music in Muscles of Joy and Rev Magnetic).

Fowler and Morton met while studying at Glasgow School of Art and the pair previously worked on music together for an AMOR project, but despite their varied musical backgrounds they remain reluctant to refer to themselves as musicians. “I'm a non-musician. I come from an art school background,” says Fowler when discussing his role in AMOR, and Morton shares a similar view. “I think of myself as an outsider musician,” she says. "That's quite often how I feel when I'm working with people that are really in the music world, and that's their first creative output."

They needn’t be so humble though, as their latest project proves them to be musicians in their own right. The idea behind Sotto Voce – an Italian phrase, often used in classical music terminology, which means to sing below your normal volume – was to make as many sounds as possible with one instrument. In this case, the instrument is an EML 101 Analogue Modular Synthesizer. “That was the starting point; to really push the limits of this one instrument and then to bring in other voices,” says Fowler.

The pair also took influence from the work of Swiss-born German artist Paul Klee, particularly his Pedagogical Sketchbook; so much so that they have even named their first release after him. “We had all these ideas, and we were looking at Paul Klee's Pedagogy – the written text – and sort of responding to some of the ideas in that, and I think they did relate to the coldness that was in the music,” says Morton.

“There's also this idea in his teachings in the Bauhaus where he's talking about looking to nature for inspiration, and biosystems and feedback loops, and a lot of it is very cybernetic, like a precursor to cybernetics, looking at natural cycles of things,” adds Fowler. “I think that definitely has been an influence on my ideas to music-making and synthesis, looking for the organic, the chaotic, and the random within these binary systems.”

The Klee EP is due for release on Glasgow label Redstone Press this month as part of a collaboration with contemporary art gallery The Modern Institute, where both Fowler and Morton have previously exhibited their work. The EP’s liner notes read almost like a Hall of Fame of the Glasgow music scene: produced by Sam Smith at Green Door Studios, mastered by James Savage, with artwork by Oliver Pitt of Golden Teacher and distribution via Rubadub. But this is merely “a set of coincidences,” says Fowler.

“I think it's really important to look for things closer to home and to do it yourself, and that's really what we were striving to do,” he adds. “I mean, there's an element of convenience about it, but it is genuinely through enthusiasm for the people that are around us and not needing to look further afield than Glasgow.”

The final piece of the Glasgow puzzle comes in the form of a guest spoken word verse from Turner Prize-winning artist Charlotte Prodger, who recites lyrics from a book entitled The Archaeology of Skye and the Western Isles on one of the EP’s tracks, Trapped Overtones. “It was really nice to hear [Prodger's] vocal on the track, and it's a very different sort of vocal part,” says Morton. “And [Luke] thought that [Prodger's] voice would be particularly good for that.”

Having both worked with Prodger on different musical projects previously, the collaboration is just another way in which the duo were able to celebrate the incredible talent Glasgow has to offer. While they might not think so themselves, with the Klee EP Fowler and Morton have proven themselves more than qualified musicians, while also honouring Glasgow’s vibrant and thriving music scene in the process.

Klee EP is released on 6 Nov via Redstone Press