La fressa d'en Glen

Glen’s Rumblings from Barcelona

An unusual Mixtur

Josep, Orm and Glen talk during rehearsal, prior to Barcelona Laptop Orchestra’s performance at Festival Mixtur 2013.

Last Friday (April 26), the Barcelona Laptop Orchestra performed at the Mixtur Festival, an event featuring musical and sonic art, research and experimentation. The venue was beautiful – inside the renewed industrial space of Fabra i Coats. The space was previously a textile factory, created following the 1903 fusion of Catalan textile producer Fabra y Portabella with the ancient J & P Coats company, with roots in Paisley, Scotland. The old FiC factory has been closed for decades, but recently took on new life as a “creative factory”, and now is home to artists, studios and creative events. It is well known to me as home of l’Ull Cec (for courses and workshops, SuperCollider meetings, music events), as well as where the Insectotròpics theatre group is currently rehearsing for their next piece.

For Mixtur, we only performed performed one piece: Quo-tr, a piece specially created for us by German composer Orm Finnendahl, with support from the Goethe Institut. Four performers and speakers were located around the audience, and we played different “instruments” consisting of – almost anything. I played Tibetan bowls and bells, a comb, a lens blower, a pair of metal Korean chopsticks, a “bird chirper”, some marbles, … you get the idea. Trying to make unusual and distinct sounds to play with Orm’s piece, which relies on live sound mixed with sound recorded and played back by his elaborate software. Besides my contributions, John played a “prepared” electric ukulele, Álvaro played bottles, whistles, a balloon and other squeaky/scratchy things, while Victor used sampled source sounds, triggered by an iPad and keyboard.

Putting the final touches on our setup for the Mixtur performance at Fabra i Coats.

Mixtur attendees were the right crowd for this kind of music, and it was rewarding to perform here – plenty of people in the audience, a curious and enthusiastic response (several people commented that we should have played longer). The venue itself was another major attraction. We had a beautiful, big space to perform, and it was moodily lit with teardrop-shaped lamps. For Orm, it is important that people see the relation between what we were doing and the sound being produced. His piece is not about random things happening; there is an order, and although there is an element of improvisation, we had to learn to play the scores we were using, to anticipate and respond. Also, I think the fact that attendees were free to roam around (if they didn’t want to lounge on a big pile of comfy cushions), helped the experience.

Here’s a raw video of the event (missing video of some parts, replaced by soothing darkness).