Off The Page

Friday 24 - Sunday 26 February 2012
The Playhouse Theatre, Whitstable
Produced by: 
Sound and Music and The Wire

Off The Page is the UK's only literary festival devoted to music criticism and audio culture. Taking place in the seaside town of Whitstable in Kent, this unique weekend-long event looks to expand the discourse surrounding contemporary sound and music by bringing together leading critics, authors, musicians and artists in a programme of talks, presentations and panel discussions. The Saturday and Sunday of the festival also include special sonic art discovery events for children and families.

Friday 24 February, 6.30pm - 10.15pm

6.30 - 7.30pm
Gavin Bryars: The Story of The Sinking Of The Titanic
Originally issued in 1975 on Brian Eno's Obscure label, and subsequently revived in versions that have incorporated electronica producer Aphex Twin and turntablist Philip Jeck, Gavin Bryars's 1969 composition The Sinking Of The Titanic is one of the most profound and enduring works in modern British music. In the mid-60s Bryars played double bass in the post-free jazz trio Joseph Holbroke, but it was as a composer of works that imbued a post-Cagean soundworld with a resonant emotionalism that he established his reputation. On the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic itself, Gavin Bryars will open the second edition of Off The Page with a talk that tells the story of a composition that commemorates one of the 20th century's defining events.

8.00 - 9.00pm
Mark Pilkington: From the Akashic Jukebox: Magic and Music in Britain, 1888-1978
Magic and music are as old as humanity, but organised witchcraft, a British cultural export whose influence has been felt all over the world, is younger than jazz. In this talk, illustrated with images, music and rare recordings, Mark Pilkington, writer and publisher of Strange Attractor press, explores British occultism's origins in the bohemian groves of late 19th century London, and charts its impact on popular music and some of its players, from the rock 'n' roll years through to the paradigm shift of punk. The emerging stories glow with transcendence, ripple with mystery, honk with absurdity and are all too often shadowed by tragedy.

9.15 - 10.15pm
Short films programme
Everyone knows this is is a London based artist run organisation dedicated to exploring the moving image in all its contemporary manifestations. For this hour long programme,'s James Holcombe selects a series of short films by historical and contemporary artists working across sound, image and music. This programme pivots on a screening of Turd Class, a portrait of Hugh Metcalfe - underground performance artist, DIY film maker and 'dubious musician'.

NB: The last train back to London leaves Whitstable station at 22:39, c.15mins walk from the Playhouse.

Saturday 25 February, 10.30am - 9.45pm

10.30 - 11.30am
Dave Tompkins: Sustained Decay: The Ecology of Miami Bass
In this illustrated talk, hiphop scholar Dave Tompkins, author of the acclaimed history of the vocoder How To Wreck A Nice Beach, presents a cultural and political history of the 80s hiphop sub-genre known as Miami Bass. In recent years, Bass music has boomed around the world, shaking rumps all the way from the favelas of Rio to the tower blocks of East London, but the ground zero of Bass (aka Booty) remains Florida's cultural capital during the era of Reaganomics, when producers fed the kick of an 808 drum machine through a car-load of sub woofers to produce a low end pressure system that perfectly mirrored the extreme vibration of life in the Sunshine State. Mixing weird science with wildstyle semiotics, pop culture analysis with urban archaeology, the talk will recast Bass as the sound of a city perpetually on the brink of going Boom!

12.00 - 1.00pm
Artist discussion
An Audience with Evan Parker
One of a small group of musicians who in London in the 1960s pioneered the art of free improvisation, saxophonist Evan Parker is a towering figure in British music. Over four decades he has stayed true to the restless spirit of genuine experimental practice, collaborating with a huge variety of artists and musicians in multiple contexts, from Noise groups to big bands and electroacoustic ensembles, in the process acquiring an international status as an instrumental virtuoso, inspirational group leader and catalytic label runner. For this event, Parker has selected five pieces of music by artists who have impacted on his own life and work, which he will discuss with journalist and curator John Kieffer.

2.15 - 3.15pm
Panel debate
Collateral Damage: Music in a Digital Economy
In recent years, the internet and a raft of new technologies have transformed the ways in which we produce, perceive and consume music. And as the reality of music's new digital economy starts to bite, musicians and labels are having to rethink both philosophy and practice, addressing the issue of how they create and disseminate work - while some decry the free movement of music across file sharing networks and the collapse of traditional record industry models, others look to exploit the new possibilities offered by crowd sourcing and social networking. For this panel discussion chaired by The Wire's Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Tony Herrington, Vicki Bennett (People Like Us), Chris Cutler (ReR Records), Robin Rimbaud (Scanner) and Kiran Sande (FACT, Blackest Ever Black) discuss possible responses to the challenges posed by music's changing eco-system.

[2.45-6pm, Children's Event in Studio Space - The Invisibility Research Lab - please see below for details.]

3.30 - 5.00pm
Simon Reynolds: Toopological Space - The Flow-motion Studies of David Toop
While many musicians have written criticism or conceptualised their work, few have operated on both sides off the theory/practice divide so extensively and provocatively as David Toop. Since the 1970s he has been recording and performing both solo and in various collaborations, writing music journalism, and authoring books such as the classic Ocean Of Sound. Toop has also been involved in curation (as with the series of landmark compilations he assembled for Virgin in the 90s) and organisation (as co-founder of the London Musicians Collective and co-editor of Collusion magazine). In this 'intellectual profile', Simon Reynolds (author of Energy Flash, Rip It Up And Start Again and Retromania) surveys Toop's career, teasing out the philosophical and political implications of his work and attending to its prophetic aspects.

5.15 - 6.15pm
Panel debate
The Attack of the Radiophonic Women: How Synthesizers Cracked Music's Glass Ceiling
From the vantage point of the 21st century, some of the most future-proof electronic music composers of the 1950s and 60s have turned out to be women. From the BBC Radiophonic Workshop's Delia Darbyshire and Daphne Oram, to Pauline Oliveros in San Francisco and Eliane Radigue in Paris, post-war female composers embraced the liberating technologies of analogue synthesis and computer composition as the means to bypass the male-dominated world of new music, in the process creating some of the period's most idiosyncratic and influential sounds. For this discussion chaired by The Wire's Deputy Editor Anne Hilde Neset, film maker and visual artist Aura Satz, sound artist Felicity Ford and label runner Jonny Trunk ponder the strange phenomenon and continuing popularity of electronic music's radiophonic women.

7.15 - 8.30pm
Film screening
Eliane Radigue: Virtuoso Listening
Now in her eighties, Eliane Radigue is a justly celebrated figure in electronic music. Her work has roots in Europe's post-war avant garde and she has been linked with the pioneers of American minimalism such as Terry Riley, La Monte Young and Steve Reich, but her monumental meditative compositions have taken a singular path, transporting the listener into new realms of sound. Anaïs Prosaïc's Virtuoso Listening is a new hour long documentary created in collaboration with the composer. The film is receiving its world premiere at Off The Page and will be introduced by its director.
Eliane Radigue: Virtuoso Listening is produced by Stephane Jourdain / La Huit and supported by CNC, PROCIREP, SACEM.

8.45 - 9.45pm
Andrei Smirnov: Sound In Z - The Electrification of the Soviet Soundscape
Sound In Z
relates the astonishing early history of Russian electronic music.
Written by Andrei Smirnov, director of the Theremin Centre at Moscow
State Conservatory, the book's heroes include Arseny Avraamov, inventor
of Graphic Sound and a 48-note scale; pioneering film maker Dziga
Vertov, director of the Laboratory of Hearing and the Symphony of
Noises; Vladimir Popov, inventor of Noise Orchestras and Sound Machines;
Leon Theremin, inventor of the world's first electronic instrument, and
others whose dreams of electronic sound and multimedia were cut short
by Stalin's regime. For Off The Page, Andrei will give an illustrated
talk that draws on the book's mining of materials from various Moscow
archives, much of which has not been seen or heard before in the West,
but which throws new light on the early history of electronic music and
sound art.

NB: The last train back to London leaves Whitstable station at 22:39, c.15mins walk from the Playhouse.

Sunday 26 February, 11am - 4.30pm

11.00am -12.00pm
Roundtable discussion
Critical Mass: Music Theory in the Information Age
The advent of the blogosphere, social networking and e-books have capsized the traditional dynamics of cultural criticism. Today, anyone who wants to disseminate information or express a judgment on music has free access to the technology that will allow them to share concepts and philosophies on a global scale. But has this new theory-babble expanded the discourse around contemporary sound and music or shut it down, democratised debate or created a climate defined by wooly thinking and subjective axe-grinding? In this public roundtable discussion, a number of the critics appearing at Off The Page, including Andrew Male (Mojo) and Frances Morgan (Frieze, Sight And Sound), will talk through the changing role of music journalism in an age of information overload. Has the proliferation of online culture and instant publishing created an opening for specialist music critics to re-emerge as expert filters, or has it rendered their theory redundant?

12.15pm - 1.15pm
Artist discussion
An Audience with Linder Sterling
Since emerging in the late 1970s as a key figure in Manchester's punk and post-punk scenes, Linder Sterling has transformed herself as an artist numerous times. From early photo-collages, such as her iconic cover for The Buzzcocks' "Orgasm Addict", via her role as singer in Ludus to the recent stagings of a series of epic and spectacular performance pieces at Tate Britain and elsewhere, her visual art and mixed media work has synthesised feminist ideology and an irreverent aesthetic sensibility into a subversive critique of consumer society. For this event, Linder talks to The Wire's Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Tony Herrington about the relationship of sound and music to her visual and performance art, illustrating the discussion with audio and video clips.

2.15 - 3.15pm
No Regrets: The Enigma of Scott Walker
No Regrets is a new collection of essays on Scott Walker edited by The Wire's Editor-at-Large, and author of Electric Eden, Rob Young. Featuring contributions from Ian Penman, Nina Power and others, the book examines the life, music and times of a performer who has traversed four decades of pop history, from the 60s heyday of The Walker Brothers' blue-eyed soul to the operatic intensity and conceptual depths of his recent albums Tilt and The Drift. For Off The Page Rob Young will give an illustrated talk that synthesizes No Regrets’ multiple texts to delve ever further into the reclusive cult of Scott.

[2.15-3.30pm, Children's Event in Studio Space - The Invisibility Research Lab - please see below for details.]

3.30 - 4.30pm
Performance lecture
The Bohman Brothers and Patrizia Paolini
For more than two decades Adam and Jonathan Bohman have been inhabiting a uniquely messy soundworld, one which contains traces of Fluxus hi-jinks, musique concrète and sound poetry but which ultimately is far stranger and more arcane than the sum of its many parts. Over the years, the brothers have come to be celebrated as the leading exponents of a very English form of domestic kitchen sink absurdism. For Off The Page's closing event, they are joined by Patrizia Paolini, self-styled "writer, performer, cabaret artist, stand-up comedian, poet, cook, pin-up, female Sean Penn and experimental musician", for a vocal performance exploring music writing in its many forms.

Relax, drink and browse

Off The Page is a social event as much as it is a literary festival, and throughout the weekend the Playhouse Theatre's lounge bar will become its hub, a place for audience members to mingle, meet and talk with artists, musicians, authors and critics. Also in the bar, interval music will be provided by Off The Page's resident disc jockey Jonny Trunk, while The Wire bookshop will be open for the duration, stocked with a selection of specialist music and art titles.

Events for Children and Families

Saturday 25th, 2.45 - 6pm

The Invisibility Research Lab
Workshop (for children aged 5-8)

A room at the Whitstable Playhouse Theatre will be transformed into an experimental laboratory of sounds and symbols during the Off the Page weekend. Children and their parents are invited to explore representing the invisible; sounds, touch, feelings, the imaginary, towards collectively creating an abstract map of the invisible and audio recordings.

Sunday 26th, 2.15 - 3.30pm

The Invisibility Research Lab
Workshop (for children aged 5-8)

A room at the Whitstable Playhouse Theatre will be transformed into an experimental laboratory of sounds and symbols during the Off the Page weekend. The oversized map of invisible things will function as a score and be performed alongside the recorded sounds collected on the previous day

Workshops led by artist Louisa Martin. Both workshops are drop in sessions so join at any time!

Sign up in advance by emailing natasha.chubbuck[at]soundandmusic[dot]org or register on arrival.

In this project

Booking Information

3 day festival pass (limited number, advance sales only): £40 + bkg fee

Friday pass: £12 + bkg fee

Saturday pass: £20 + bkg fee

Sunday pass: £15 + bkg fee

Book tickets via Ticketweb

NB: Ticketweb sales will close on Friday 24 Feb at 9.00am. Tickets will still be available on the door in Whitstable.


Please note: the Playhouse Theatre Whitstable has restricted wheelchair access.
Ticketholders with access needs are advised to contact Sound and Music

Co-producer and Co-curator



Venue Partner

Whitstable Playhouse logo


Suggested places to stay

All located in Whitstable, within 20 mins walk of the festival venue

Oyster Guest House twin/double rooms from £55 per night

Alliston House twin/double rooms from £60 per night

Copeland House (very central) twin/double rooms from £65 per night

Duke of Cumberland (very central) twin/double rooms from £70 per night

Pearl Fisher twin/double rooms from £90 per night

Whitstable Holiday Homes has self-catering accommodation, including cottages and fishermen's huts, from £200 for two nights 

Whitstable also has a Premier Travel Inn

For details of last year's festival please see here

Off The Page 2012 on Facebook

Also taking place nearby:

Late Night Live: Elemental
at Turner Contemporary, Margate
Friday 24 February 2012, 6pm - 10pm
Elemental is an interactive installation by Matt Wright, who is joined by Evan Parker, Splinter Cell, SPOCK, and Roger Redgate. Together they create an immersive installation in which the sound of the sea will flood into the gallery.
Free admission
Turner Contemporary website


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