Read on for an overview of this year’s Optical Sound programme.
Optical Sound shorts
This year’s sonic-themed shorts programme holds extra significance, with the addition of a cash award for the most aurally worthy. It’s a stellar lineup, featuring no less than 5 UK premieres and encompassing documentaries, mashups, experimental fare, plus a couple of crackers from Birmingham too. The programme includes Paul Bush’s multi-award-winning fond farewell to plastic - a beautifully choreographed romp which uses thousands of synthetic items to highlight our throw-away culture, documentary Harmonic Spectrum about Sean who uses the piano to navigate life on the Autistic Spectrum, and jazz musician Xhosa Cole’s electrifying audiovisual response to a BLM protest last year.
Journey to the South
29-31 May | Free
2020 wasn’t an ideal year to commission an international collaborative performance piece… come to think of it, it wasn’t an ideal year full stop. But when the opportunity arose to produce something with British and Vietnamese artists through the British Council FAMLAB project, we knew we had to find a way to make it happen.
Having discovered the incredible Saigon Supersound album releases during the research phase, which shine a light on the lost tracks from the Vietnamese ‘golden music’ era (1965-75), we already had a great starting point. We assembled a stellar team: British animator and visual artist (Emily Scaife) and Vietnamese musical duo (ANNAM), and through a series of zoom discussions, sending images, clips, and music back and forth over the course of a year, a new AV performance piece, sampling some of those older tracks, was born. The result is a sumptuous and transformative audiovisual interpretation of Saigon, conjuring the alluring vibrancy and magic of the city itself. The performance has its world premiere at the Vincom Center for Contemporary Art in Hanoi, Vietnam this May, and is available to view digitally for the entire festival.
22-24 May | Dir. Sam Green | Free
Why do certain sounds make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, or trigger something inside you that brings you to tears? These are a couple of the questions Academy-Award Nominee Sam Green explores in his audio-video work that investigates the universal influence of sound. “This is cinema for the ears” according to Green, but it could also be described as a radio documentary, or a sound walk with a sprinkling of ASMR. The piece weaves seven specific audio recordings into a meditation on the power of sound to bend time, cross borders, and profoundly shape our perception - opening new ways to hear our everyday world. This work is designed to be experienced with headphones whilst lying in bed. UK premiere.
Sisters with Transistors + Caro C: Electric Mountain
29-31 May | Dir. Lisa Rovner
“Why have there been no “great” women composers?” asked Pauline Oliveros in the New York Times back in 1970, in an insightful analysis of gender bias in the arts sector. The truth is there have been, but history has a nasty habit of ignoring them. Sisters with Transistors aims to right this wrong with the portrait of nine electronic music's female pioneers who shaped the soundtrack of the 20th century. From Suzanne Ciani who invented the famous Coca-Cola “pop and pour” sound effect, to Coventry’s finest Delia Derbyshire, this archival documentary is a joyous and exciting look into the (r)evolution of electronic music and the women that led it. Narrated by Laurie Anderson.