I had the pleasure of attending an incredible performance by Eat My Noise as part of the Cork Film Festival last year. The experimental duo, David Duffy and Peter Power, combined their talents to create a show for all the senses.
I entered the warehouse on Albert Quay with no real idea as to what to expect. The Film Festival guide said their INQUYRE show would “challenge expectations of choral music by creating an explorative space of light and sound; an oral audio visual spectacle showcasing the voice” – anything that pushes the senses and uses multiple art forms has me intrigued!
The vast warehouse left plenty of room for the crowd as we stood taking in our surroundings. Fluorescent light bulbs hung haphazardly from the ceiling and long coils supported hanging speakers that hung face down between the bulbs. All around there were speakers pointed toward the center of the room. Straight ahead three sheets hung where the visuals started as soon as the lights turned off.
An explosion of soundscapes erupted from around the room. The speaker under which I stood broke into vocals that harmonised with music coming from the other hanging speakers. The visuals ruptured grainy images, similar to frayed old film projections disintegrating before your eyes. As my senses caught up with me, movement came from behind the projection sheets. Dressed in big white tops with hoods that covered the eyes a group emerged moving soundlessly to position themselves among the crowd. With the next bar they lifted their heads and the most beautiful choral singing entwined with the electronic soundscapes, string arrangements and immense music coming from everywhere. The fluorescent lights flicked in time with the music and the grainy colours of the visuals flashed an effervescent red or blue every time the bass kicked in.
Words will never truly describe what the experience was like but if anything maybe this will encourage people to take any opportunity to attend or encourage events like this. It’s something I think all ages would appreciate and enjoy.
An experience born out of two creative minds working to bring an idea to reality, I was intrigued, so caught up with Peter from Eat My Noise:
You both have a broad musical background. Tell me a little about this and how/when you decided to experiment with electronic music.
Peter: I was a grunger, and a songwriter, and performed classical music, but something was niggling me about electronics. I had a Sega mega drive, and rented a game that allowed you to build electronic tracks and I played it for days. I think there the seed was set. I just wanted to make music happen. I started messing later on with fruity loops, and it just went from there. The power to control the sound and make it do anything you want, that’s very addictive.
All ideas change as you try to take them out of your head and put them in the real world. It started out larger, more bombastic, a larger choir, more lights. But as we stripped it back and dealt with the various issues as a creative team, what was left felt stronger. The challenge was marrying all the elements, and at times it felt like it wasn’t possible. So much time and care had gone into the concept, the thread that tied it all together, but standing in the room that thread felt delicate and almost shy. It’s a difficult task balancing all those media elements that carry with them such meaning. It was absolutely what we expected, until we watched it for the first time. And then we thought “Wow” what the hell is this?! That’s the most fun part. That moment you realize it lives without you.
How did you begin to work with choral singing? Do you find the textures of electronic soundscapes and vocals is sometimes left relatively unexplored or are there artists whose experiments with this have inspired you?
I’ve been in choirs my whole life. Choral music has to be the most human music there is, it’s the closest to directly speaking to an audience member you can create. Our minds are neurologically wired to understand the human voice, its nuance, its range, its cadence and timbre. Choral music is the peak of that I think, and it’s deeply moving. Dave and I arranged the music, the lyrics were written by me. They were about I guess personal struggles with the weight of awareness. The weight of being; the need to belong and yet the need to remain independently oneself. One of the poems is below:
To become part.
To come apart.
What does it take to give in?
To the callings of the Other, or Another?
Or the Distances Within?
Be a part.
I guess that dichotomy of not knowing how to decide on a position in life, and the fear of making a decision on that.
We are certainly not the first people to use electronics and vocals, but there are not many examples of the way we use them on the world I don’t think. We weren’t very inspired directly by electronic artists doing this, but compositionally I guess in the chords and in the structures you’ll hear all of the artists that have touched us or moved us. That is an inevitable fact of listening and making.
How would you explain your take on producing to someone who’s “not into” electronic music?
Being honest, I think the term “electronic” has run its course. It really doesn’t encapsulate a lot of the music that is being made any more. It’s just a term for an element of the construction and sound of the music that many artists exist in now. A way of thinking about it is that without electronics, you exist in a sound world. If you have electronics as well, it’s a sound universe. It feels absolutely endless. Sometimes when I sit down to the computer to start, that immensity is paralyzing. But its absolutely the reason I do it.
Our music is a mixture of beauty and ugliness. We think that you must explore all those elements in the music and sound you create, and not spend too much time in one or the other, because in life you don’t. You exist in ups and downs. In waves. That’s music, and you have to explore that. I feel in my heart that someone not into ‘electronic music’ could love our work. Imagine being in a church; a choir singing to you in the dark processed by electronics, and an orchestra above you lifting you out of yourself into that sound universe. That’s our work. We just try to reach people, and either break their hearts, or break their minds.
Why do you choose to be behind the visuals instead of center stage?
We have in some of our shows been on stage, and we are performers both in our own right. For us in this show there was no need for us to be in the space, no need to draw focus on ourselves. You must know when you are necessary, and when you are just allowing your ego to overwhelm you. It was a practical set up too, as one of us was operating the technology required, but we could have changed the viewpoint. It is hugely important as a creator or director or performer, to know when you are getting in the way of your audiences experience for your own personal gain. That pedestal you speak of, sometimes that is the producer themselves propping themselves upon it. But equally if it’s right, that human element of what you have made is what the audience wants to see too.
What was the biggest influence on the shows concept?
Tough to say. Eric Whitacre maybe? Ligeti? Amon Tobin? Trentemoller? Jon Hopkins? It really is tough to say. When you compose like this, I guess you try to avoid too many direct inspirations.
In terms of the concept of the work itself, the inspiration for that came from much of my science background, staring at night skies and down microscopes and wondering why it all looked the same. And trying to find a way to connect those things.
What, outside of music, is inspiring you at the moment?
I guess to make this kind of stuff you have to be fairly engaged in things besides music. The connection of architecture and lighting design has become a large one for me; I have also started down the Kierkegaard rabbit whole after some time spent in Denmark and I am hoping I don’t get lost down there. Trying to convince audiences to be brave again is another thing, the ideas and connections that you can make with people to ask them to trust you with their time and money. A book called the Social Animal, definitely worthy of a read. And comedy. I watch lots and lots and lots of comedy to remind myself that all of this, its just a farce. And its fabulous. A fabulous farce.
Keep an eye out over the summer for Eat My Noise. You will hopefully see plenty around the country.
Thanks a million to Peter for taking the time to have a chat with me, and to both of them for their fantastic show. Stay updated with them on their Facebook page here.
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