PREVIEW/INTERVIEW: Andrew Woodhead & Sarah Farmer (Ideas of Noise Festival, 3-5 August 2018)

Ann Antidote/Notorische Ruhestörung - in the Ideas Of Noise programme
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There’s a new festival happening in Birmingham, 3 to 5 August. It's called Ideas of Noise and the producers are musicians Sarah Farmer and Andrew Woodhead. Peter Bacon found out more:

LondonJazz News: Ideas of Noise is a new festival for Birmingham. How did it come about?

Andrew Woodhead: Sarah and I have been circling each other on the Birmingham music scene for quite some time now, and have often talked about working together in some form or other. The idea of a festival has been brewing separately in our minds over the course of the last few years, so it seemed like a good place to start.

Sarah Farmer: I’d produced a pilot day-long IoN festival as part of my Masters, which I'd hoped I could grow in the future, and Andy had been thinking about how Fizzle (the improvised music series that he runs) could expand its output with something festival-like. It made sense to combine the two and work together.

We'd started playing together occasionally (Andy electronics, me violin) and I'd been going to Fizzle – it became clear we were interested in similar things, albeit we come from quite different artistic backgrounds (Andy from jazz and improv, myself from classical and fine art). I think it's the combination of these differences that really sums up Ideas of Noise.

AW: I think the fact that it's artist-led is what really sets it apart from other festivals; we're trying to create the kind of Festival that we'd want to go to (and play at!). It's also about celebrating all the amazing creative people who live and work locally – we have a huge variety of world-class artists and musicians right here in the West Midlands, and we wanted to try and showcase some of that and bring these artists together under one banner.

LJN: It feels like a clear effort to link overlapping genres and audiences?

Sarah Farmer - violinist and Ideas of Noise producer
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SF: Yes completely – that was the main aim right from the pilot. As I've developed my practice as a violinist and sound artist I've been noticing the crossovers in sounds, concepts and methods between genres. Getting more familiar with 20th and 21st century violin repertoire and techniques you notice a movement towards noise on the instrument (Schnittke, Lachenmann, Cage, Elliot Sharp for example) and you start to notice the influence of other genres in contemporary classical. I also love metal, electronica, the sounds of loud motors and other things very outside classical repertoire, but they started to connect.

Andrew Woodhead, pianist and Ideas of Noise producer
AW: A lot of it came out of bumping into each other at various events around town and (over a post-gig pint) wondering why we weren't seeing the chap who comes to all the Improv gigs at any of the Contemporary Classical nights, or the lady we see at all the Metal gigs going to check out some Electronica?

SF: So we really wanted to try an experiment – would audiences of harsh guitar noise also be interested in harsh violin noise, would a fan of free improv also be interested in aleatoric music, do these work together in a programme? Different contexts but similar qualities.

AW: As artists we see all of these forms of music (and more) as a source of inspiration for our own work, and we're trying to push our audience to think along the same lines.

SF: More and more artists are working across genres or hinting at "outside" influences in their own work.  It seemed like an interesting project to bring varying genres together, and through that highlight some similarities and differences between forms. IoN is a platform for artists and audiences to share this process and hopefully find new connections in the work and discover something new.

LJN: It brings players in from elsewhere as well, but it has a strong Birmingham identity?

AW: Almost all the artists are from the West Midlands, and ones who aren't either have strong connections to here or we just really wanted them to play in Brum! We wanted to make a festival that showed off some of the fantastic musicians that are around here, but we also wanted to make an interesting program that looks outside of Birmingham too.

SF: We decided to open it up to the West Midlands because we wanted to learn more about our surrounding areas, connect with new interesting artists in our locality. Through our open calls we've been able to find artists we hadn't heard of and seen some really exciting work and as IoN grows we hope to keep finding more – this is an ongoing project!

AW: We think it's important to give local artists a platform to showcase their work, it helps keep the local creative economy thriving by broadening and sharing audiences. Five to 10 extra audience members at your show can make all the difference at a grassroots level so we're hoping that by cross-pollinating these artforms we can make a positive impact on the careers of these artists in the longer term.

LJN: Tell us about some of the performers…

SF: We launch on Digbeth First Friday with a host of free events at VIVID Projects, including sound and visual art exhibitions from Billy Lucas and Richard Scott, and performances from Simon Paton and Ann Antidote/Notorische Ruhestörung. Over at The Edge, we have an Experimental Writing Workshop in the morning with Frances Morgan (The Wire) and Riffs Magazine, supported by BCU. On the Friday night we have a concert curated by Fizzle and TDE Promotions featuring Angharad Davies solo and Mark Sanders/Rhodri Davies duo.

Rhodri Davies will be appearing with Mark Sanders
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AW: One gig I’m really looking forward to being a part of is a brand new collaboration with Celebrating Sanctuary Birmingham. ELDA is an electronic duo of myself and trumpeter Aaron Diaz, and we often expand the lineup with special guest performers; This time we’re working with Didier Kisala (guitar/vocals) and Millicent Chapanda (mbira/percussion), fusing elements of traditional African music with our own blend of Electronics and Improv. The rehearsals have been really interesting and we’re all excited about presenting the finished result at IoN.

SF: The rest of Saturday’s programme also has a strain of electronics running through it, with Dan Nicholls’ Strobes, Chris Mapp’s Gonimoblast Duo with Annie Mahtani and a special one-off solo performance from Anna Palmer (of Dorcha fame) forming a triple bill evening gig that’s a must for any fans of Electronica, Doom and Post-Rock.

AW: On Sunday, the focus shifts a bit more towards Contemporary Classical music with programmes curated by Georgia Denham and contemporary composers’ collective Post Paradise, responding to the themes of the festival. We also have the wonderful Soesen Edan and Inga Liljeström kicking the day off on with an intimate performance rooted in Soesen’s practice as a music therapist, blending sound baths and vocal improvisations.

SF: Sunday’s events draw to a close with premiere of Xhosa Cole’s new String Quartet work The Greek Suite, commissioned especially for the festival. I’m particularly excited to be performing in this one; Xhosa is an amazing composer and is another artist who sits really comfortably in a number of contexts and genres, reflecting the “in-between-ness” that we’re looking to celebrate with IoN.

LJN: And you have been inviting contributors with the Open Call strand?

AW: We’ve already selected from a huge range of submissions for our Open Call “Shorts” programme – we’ve discovered some great new artists as part of this process and are really looking forward to showcasing them! Billy Lucas was selected for our Sound Artist Residency through our Open Call process and is presenting his first solo show at IoN as a result.

SF: This section of the programme was really an opportunity for us to throw the net as wide as we could and expand the reach of IoN beyond our immediate networks. We really want to hear work from people we’ve not come across yet and introduce them to our audiences, as well as giving them opportunities to connect with like-minded performers and artists throughout the weekend.

AW: Our Experimental Sound Directory Open Call is still open for submissions, so please do keep sending work in for that!

LJN: Is this the start of something ongoing?

SF: That's the intention! This is our first time producing a festival so it's been a steep learning curve, we've definitely been learning on the job, so we're thinking an IoN 2020 gives us time to reflect, prepare, and improve. We'd like to keep things ticking over in a smaller way in the mean time however.



AW: We’ll be releasing a new video series of footage from our Shed Stage at Supersonic Festival this year, as well as live content from Ideas Of Noise itself to keep your ears happy while we get on with planning the next one! Our Sound Directory is going to become a growing online archive of Experimental Music from the Midlands and around the UK, allowing online audiences to discover some of these sounds and creators for themselves. And there’s always the next season of Fizzle kicking off in September should you want to get your live gig fix in the meantime!

LINKS: Ideas of Noise website, including how to apply to Open Call
Fizzle website
Sarah Farmer's website
Andrew Woodhead's website

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