Hard News by Russell Brown


Siren song

The family experienced Ray Lee's Siren at MOTAT yesterday evening. I thought it might be interesting for our two aspie teenagers to be amongst art made of sound and light. And it was, although not necessarily in a good way.

The younger boy didn't really deal with it and had to go outside. And fair enough: although Siren isn't deafeningly loud, there is so much sound whooshing about that as the performance gears up it is quite intense. Several of the 40-odd people with us in the darkened MOTAT shed were fingers-in-ears at times.

Siren is a performance employing a collection of machines: swinging arms set on tripods, each with a loudspeaker and a light at its ends. The arms, and the sounds, are progressively started up until they swell into a room of sounds pushing against each other and striking unexpected harmonics.

At this point, it's important to walk around the room and find out how the sound changes at you move. I spent a few minutes crouched at one of the waist-level sirens; its particular whine dopplered back and forth, jumping out of the background sounds. Towards the end, the house lights went down and tiny red LEDs on each arm whizzed through the darkness.

The closest comparison I could make was to listening to, say, The Clean playing 'Point That Thing Somewhere Else', where phantom "instruments" poke through the noise, bearing tunes that no one is actually playing.

I liked it, not least because for the 40 minutes it ran, I thought about little or nothing outside the room (except, of course, our son, who was fine, just a bit indignant).

There's a YouTube clip here:

And you can find out more here and book here.

Also, Damian and I interviewed Ray Lee on Public Address Radio.

My only other Auckland Festival date has been Greg Johnson, in the Spiegeltent last Thursday, which sounded nothing at all like Siren. It did sound pretty nice though -- the 1920s "mobile public building" is a lovely, warm room for music and suited Greg and his, er, mature audience perfectly. I'm tempted to go back for another dose at when SJD play the tent on Friday.

BTW, Leo has another blog entry. Best cat-box evar, Mech fans.

PS: Leo and I have a problem with the house PC, which runs Vista, after a fashion. Windows Update continually fails on a C015001A unable-to-search error. Most of the fixes offered for such a problem seem to involve hopeful tinkering with the Registry. I thought about just downloading and installing Vista SP1, but Microsoft seems to regard that as unduly courageous. It's a recent re-install of Windows Vista Ultimate, although the same problem applied beforehand too. Any advice? Should I just download and apply SP1, or will bad Windows craziness befall me?

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