Galleries: Glasgow’s Sonica music and arts festival is back to delight your senses

There is a certain talent for combining music and art – just look at Wagner, who devoted his life to the “gesampkunstwerk” or the total work of art – it is the multidiscipline of opera.

In the parlance of Sonica, the sound art festival set up by Glasgow-based art producers Cryptic, it is strongly digital, but above all human, the insistence on giving the public something, according to the founding objective from Cryptic, “to delight the senses”.

Sonica itself turns 10 this year, a biannual festival that derailed a digital year due to the pandemic. With over eight artists involved from ten countries and occupying 11 venues around the city, some familiar, some new, the festival continues on its path by incorporating an international combination of sound and visual art in some of the most interesting old buildings. from Glasgow.

Musically, it’s not just about electronica, although electronic music plays a big role, but about a wider range of musical and visual experiences, whether it’s creating music through the audience’s interaction with a field of smoke, or the erratic swinging of a feedback – powered pendulum.

“For me, what’s important there is the diversity of the music,” says director Cathie Boyd, when we speak about ten days before the curtain goes up.

“The program we presented in 2019 was great, but it was too electro for me! In 2017 we had the Dunedin Consort (the famous baroque ensemble), and I loved that mix, early music with visuals. I really want Sonica to open up to different genres.

There’s a wider mix this year, with digital artists working with Gaelic singers, classical musicians, electro that isn’t, and electro that is. The Tramway opening event next Thursday will see electronic music composer Roly Porter and visual artist Marcel Weber (MFO) work in monumental visuals alongside Gaelic singer Anne Martin, who sings funeral songs in a work inspired by the ritual landscape and burials – the eponymous Kistvaen – of Darmoor. “It’s beautifully written, submersive. The score is electronic but it is not electronica. With the visuals, I think it will be absolutely amazing,” says Boyd.

“It is also a pleasure that we are working with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Gavin Bryars this year, giving the UK premiere of his Viola Concerto, A Hut in Toyama.”

At the Tramway concert, Bryars also leads a performance of his moving Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet. Spanish artist Alba G. Corral will creatively code live digital landscapes in response to the music. Boyd is excited about the prospect: “It’s something I’ve wanted to do since the beginning of Sonica.”

Elsewhere, a focus on French artists in this year’s festival sees Virgile Abela’s Acoustic Pendulum, designed in response to Steve Reich’s Pendulum Music, suspended in The Pipe Factory above a floor microphone, the pendulum starting slowly to oscillate in response to feedback. At Le Tramway, cellist Maarten Vos improvises live on Maotik’s “erratic weather” in which live weather data from around the world is visually processed by digital artist Mathieu Le Sourd into unique hurricanes.

On a slightly more earthly note, this year’s commissions include Kathy Hinde’s rendition of Antoine Brumel’s 15th-century experimental “Earthquake” mass, reimagined in the voices of 12 Mexican musicians, each singing part of the mass. , then split up and reintegrated by Hinde into a piece on the earthquakes and seismic activity of Mexico and the fractures of the modern world. Boyd herself travels the world, physically rather than digitally, although in somewhat more restricted form in recent years due to Covid and a growing interest in sustainable travel and the organisation’s carbon footprint, at looking for a new job. In this regard, all commissioned artists or performers come with two works, “so that they spend at least five days in the city, sometimes the whole two weeks, rather than flying there for a day”.

Places are essential. “We try to reveal a new location at each festival. Glasgow is full of old buildings that we want to reveal! The festival is always on the move, says Boyd. “This is the first year we haven’t been to Hamilton’s mausoleum. It’s a great place and we’ll be back, but we don’t want to get predictable!

Predictable, we feel, is something Boyd is deeply opposed to. In 2019, the new venue was The Engine Works. This year the festival features The Deep End, the arts and social enterprise space in Govanhill, and The Pipe Factory in The Barras, which once made disposable Victorian-style clay pipes. The general idea, as Boyd puts it, is simple. “You wouldn’t expect that here, so come take a look!”

Sonica, Various venues, Glasgow, 10-20 March, Details and bookings via website

Critic’s Choice

Of all the different impressions and experiences that make up our worldview as we grow up, our parents’ lives leave their mark – their passions, their jobs, their inability to sing in key, perhaps, or their particularly chimerical approach to the segregation of cutlery drawers.

Catherine Ross’s father, mentioned in the preamble to this exhibit, was an Arctic weather observer, whose imagination may have sown its own fantastical seeds in her childhood mind – and she calls him, too , in this northern exposure seen , as Dan Richard’s accompanying essay puts it, from the cozy warmth of the cabin.

Fresh from a self-contained residency in Iceland, the Aberdeen-based Grays graduate (BA Painting, 2014), who also won the Muirhead Fund Purchase Prize at the Royal Scottish Academy (RSA) Annual Exhibition ) from last year, presents a series of “Phantoms”.

They are paintings of imagined, half-forgotten landscapes, the imprint of a childhood spent partly in remote northern landscapes, and the rich gleanings of books about the north.

Gouache and watercolor and oil draw sweaters and blankets, rugs, lighted candles on a Christmas tree, snow-covered wooded slopes, red shadows, the varying hues of the northern lights, the deep greens of pine trees .

There is the idea, in some of them, of existence, and perhaps of how memory and stories reinvent reality.

Ross captures the caricature of the snow-draped trees and exaggerates it, the pattern returning, a light touch, as if acknowledging the fabric’s inherent plastic quality and its ability to be made and remade into a different image, to hide and humorously disguise what it envelops.

Catherine Ross: Phantoms, Arusha Gallery, 13a Dundas Street, Edinburgh, 0131 557 1412 16 March – 17 April, Monday – Saturday, 10am – 5pm; Sun, 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Don’t miss

ADDRESSING what the creative world can do to combat and circumvent climate change is this inspiring exhibition from forward-thinking Fife Contemporary on the “circular economy”: the idea that objects are made to be reused, repaired, shared or easily recycled. Curator Mella Shaw, herself a ceramicist and former curator of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, highlights 12 artists and designers, along with Edinburgh’s formidable Tool Library, all contributing new ideas for integrating the circular economy into their work and in life.

REsolve: A Creative Approach to the Circular Economy, Kirkcaldy Galleries, War Memorial Gardens, Kirkaldy, 01592583206,, through 8 May, Tue, Wed, Fri 10-5; Game 10-7; Sam 10-4; Sun 12-4.

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Reggie S. Williams