To celebrate the selection of this year’s New Voices cohort, we caught up with all the selected artists and composers for a quick chat.
Here, we speak to New Voices 2021 composer Gwen Siôn. Gwen is an experimental composer, pianist and multidisciplinary artist. Her work is primarily sound-based although she often incorporates elements of sculpture, moving image, photography and text to create multi-sensory installations.
Can you tell us about your musical influences?
My sound works often combine elements of ambient and electroacoustic music, minimalism, musique concrète and experimental electronic music. I am passionate about forming a practice working at the intersection of art, music, science and ecology so I am really interested in creative crossover and experimental artists who work across disciplines. I love all kinds of music and have a pretty eclectic taste that spans different periods and genres but in terms of my influences more specifically in relation to experimental composition and sound art, I am really interested in the work of Halim El-Dabh, Pauline Oliveros, Alvin Lucier, Brian Eno, Katrina Palmer, Maryanne Amarcher, Ain Bailey, Mileece, Aphex Twin, David Toop and Benedict Drew.
What are you working on at the moment?
My practice is informed by contemporary art, music and environmental practices, as well as craft and engineering processes and I often create my own sculptural sound devices from recycled materials. Since the pandemic began, I have been working on designing and building both acoustic and electronic music devices and experimental instruments, and recently developed a device which I call The Shadowboard.
The Shadowboard is an interactive sculptural sound installation exploring liminality, synaesthesia, participation and connectivity. It is an original hand-built electronic instrument which consists of 12 oscillators, each tuned to a 12-note colour-harmonics scale which I created based on my own synaesthetic experience. The Shadowboard encourages a playful interaction with colour and sound and is a fully functioning musical instrument which can be played entirely without touch, allowing for a Covid-safe participatory experience and a moment of collective engagement after a prolonged period of isolation. By means of an original circuit design connecting oscillators and light-dependent resistors, musical notes are triggered and played by the participating audience casting shadows over the installation.
What are you looking forward to most about New Voices?
The opportunity to further develop my practice and to create a new body of work is really exciting to me. I am looking forward to being able to dedicate time to research, experimentation, testing out ideas and the periods of self-reflection that New Voices offers. This opportunity will really allow the potential for deeply considered, ambitious work and high-quality production. I am hoping to develop a project that will include three strands: the sonic, the material and the performative, so as well as compositional work I am aiming to create a new series of original hand-built experimental instruments and sculptural sound devices which will feature as part of the music I create.
I also want to work towards creating a comprehensive live set using my own instruments and hardware as a kind of immersive performance-based installation which I am really excited about. This would allow me to explore how my work can exist in different settings such as music and sound events as well as galleries. Being able to dedicate time to experimentation as well as production so that I can explore and develop my practice in a live context is something I find really appealing. The financial support including the production grant will also be extremely valuable to me as someone on a low income who struggles with accessibility to professional spaces such as recording studios as a result of financial barriers, so this opportunity will really help me gain formal experience as well as build my confidence in working in a professional music studio environment, rather than the DIY way of working and ‘home studio’ set-up I am used to. This will help enhance my creative process and elevate the quality of the music and sounds I am making on a technical level.
I am also looking forward to meeting other artists through New Voices and the mentorship that’s offered as part of the programme. As someone who enjoys collaborative thinking and bouncing ideas off others, being able to talk through my ideas and uncertainties and gaining professional support and mentorship through this opportunity is really important. Having to shield throughout the pandemic due to being on the highest risk register for Covid has meant that I’ve not had the opportunity to engage with other creatives, the lack of social interaction and being unable to access technical support in relation to my practice has been challenging. I really feel like I would gain so much from being able to discuss my ideas with someone at this time because it’s something that I’ve missed so much during the pandemic, so I am really looking forward to that aspect of the programme.
Sound and Music gratefully acknowledges support from PRS Foundation as a Talent Development Partner: