Making the Future – Private View 24 September 5-8pm, exhibition runs to 2 October.

This year’s MA exhibitions from the department of Art and Design at Nottingham Trent University (NTU) are part of a year long celebration of 170 years of art and design research and study at the university. An exposition entitled ‘Making the Future’ is currently on show at the Bonington Gallery at the NTU campus.

Along with other artists on show is the work of MA Fine Art graduate Murray Royston-Ward. With a background as an experimental musician and DIY sound recorder, Ward creates projects using open technologies such as Raspberry Pi along with community groups, to realise sound installations, workshops and performances. We caught up with him before the private view (placed in the middle of the show’s running time) of the MA show:

a-n Art Students: How did you get in to using Raspberry Pi?

Murray Royston-Ward: I’ve spent quite a few years involved with improvised, experimental music as part of what is sometimes referred to as ‘the no audience underground’. I got into making contact mics, DIY recordings and eventually making small synths and guitar pedals. This all crosses over with the work of hacker communities, where such approaches to materials and creativity explore a set of values away from the mainstream that is frequently political. These crossovers have naturally led to engaging with Raspberry Pi and Arduino. I can’t say I’ve used them too extensively yet though, they’re just another tool in the process of what Christopher Small (New Zealand musician and educator 1927-2011) called ‘musicking’. They are however cheap and open which is something I value.

AS: Tell us something about the research and projects you have developed during your MA at NTU?

MRW: In December 2013 I ran a workshop in Kampala, Uganda where we made contact mics and then went out to record the local environment (we were in the Katwe slums) before creating a sound collage with open source audio tools. I ran another workshop in Banepa, Nepal in March 2014. The original plan was to make ‘reverse’ contact mics which act like ‘vibration’ speakers. Based upon the work of composer and electronic musician Nicolas Collins, with ‘vibration’ speakers you can turn things like objects or windows into speakers. I also modified the project into a ‘tactile’ sound workshop in a deaf school, exploring different vibrations generated by sound sources. I have some hand made books which document and reflect upon these experiences. They also provide information towards making your own versions of the technology – a kind of instruction manual.

In March 2014 I wrote a score for Nottingham Contemporary’s ‘The Memory Project’ which led to several large scale drawings. They fit somewhere between visual scores and process maps influenced by the circuit diagrams and manuals of Forrest Mims (amateur scientist and author of Getting Started in Electronics) and the diagrammatic scores of David Tudor (American pianist and composer of experimental music 1926-1996).

Another score and installation I developed drew upon the alternative tuning systems of La Monte Young (artist and minimalist composer) and the musical legacy of Sunny Murray (pioneer of Free Jazz drumming). The environment directly implicated the listener’s physical presence, with tones shifting in relation to one’s movements and position. Harmonic frequencies and percussive accents were chosen to create the possibility of ecstatic response, directly channeling the emotional powers activated through Free Jazz and Fluxus era composition.

AS: Have you presented any of this sound work live?

MRW: Yes, I ran a workshop that focussed on making our own audio tools to realise a performance of David Tudor’s 1973 composition ‘Rainforest IV’. I had previously developed a more powerful version of the ‘vibration’ speaker (mentioned above). It was important to me that we built these ourselves so that the process of making audio technology was an equal part of the ‘musicking’ process. I should mention Kelly Jayne Jones, Ian Philip Watson and Benjamin Hallatt here as they were far more than participants in this project, and I couldn’t have done it without them. For Making the Future I have presented the ‘score’ and video footage of our performance.

AS: What are your plans after finishing your MA?

MRW: I’ve just finished audio and artwork for a one off dubplate record that has been commissioned for Mat Jenner’s ‘Foam’ project – An interactive and immersive sound installation with unique, one off 12” vinyl records commissioned from 100 contemporary visual artists. This will visit ‘The Attic’ at One Thoresby Street, Nottingham, in October 2014 before continuing its tour. I’m quite excited about this as I’m pushing against the edges of what is reproducible on vinyl and the risk of failure is a significant part of my work.

I’m also developing the workshops that I ran in Uganda and Nepal further and have a few other things in the pipeline but too early to say any more than that.

For more information on the Making the Future exhibition see The Bonington Gallery’s website – boningtongallery.co.uk/current-exhibitions

To attend the Private View on Wednesday 22 September RSVP to [email protected]

For more information on Murray Royston-Ward’s work see his website – murraysroystonward.tumblr.com

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