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STEIM Events | STEIM Events Archive 2010

31 May - 3 June 2010 | Workshop | €150 + €20 for parts

Dirty Electronics workshop and performance with Chris Carter and John Richards

Dates: May 31 - June 3 from 10:00 - 17:00
Location: STEIM, Achtergracht 19, Amsterdam

Chris Carter from the legendary Throbbing Gristle is teaming-up with Dirty Electronics led by noise doctor John Richards to perform a piece for a specially designed DIY electronic instrument. The instrument will feature an original copper etching artwork designed by Carter that will become part of a dirty electronics instrument. Random sequences, distortion and noise coalesce in a unique hand-held instrument the size of a postcard. Social noise for all!

A 4-day workshop that presents a number of key ideas relating to dirty electronics through the practical construction of DIY electronic instruments and large group rehearsal and performance. The Dirty Carter Experimental Sound Generating Instrument, based on the Skull Etching, uses a dual 4-stage shift register. Each register is controlled independently. Two oscillators are used per register: one as a clock, the other as input data that is cascaded through the four stages. The outputs from the four stages are mixed together. A fast clock rate produces a crude form of wavetable synthesis, whilst a slow clock rate creates audible pulses and clicks. The clock speed and the data input’s frequency are controlled by touch electrodes. By tilting the instrument, sound from both the 4-stage shift registers can be mixed together. Glitchy noise, deep drones and percussive peeps! Participants will also be able to choose between building the petit coronation, a hybrid electro-acoustic mechanical device that generates pulses and rhythms; and inter-FACE, an all mouth and face controlled instrument. The final day of the workshop will involve playing a range of dirty electronic instruments in groups and with Chris Carter from Throbbing Gristle, and exploring the possibilities of collective group performance. All participants will be invited to take part in the Dirty Electronics with Chris Carter concert that will take place later in the week. No knowledge of electronics or previous experience at building electronic musical devices is needed.

Since 2005, John Richards has been exploring the idea of dirty electronics through performance, writings and workshops. Dirty electronics refers to an approach in electronic music that is directly opposed to those found in mass produced digital culture and includes some of the following characteristics: designer trash, ugly, cheap, heavy, hand-made, designed to be handled or to come in contact with the body, ready-mades, hacked, bent, fedback and kitsch.

The Dirty Electronics Ensemble is a large group that explore these ideas and whose members are often made-up of workshop participants. The workshop is central to the Ensemble in that all of the musicians have to build their own instrument for performance. In 2008, the group performed pieces specially written for the Ensemble by, amongst others, Japanese noise artists Merzbow, Howard Skempton (founder member of the Scratch Orchestra), Gabriel Prokofiev and Nicholas Bullen (ex-Napalm Death and Scorn). These pieces are being published in a special edition illustrated book in 2009. Workshops and performances with the Dirty Electronics Ensemble have taken place at the Bent Festival (Los Angeles), Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre (London), Zentrum fur Kunst und Medientechnologie (ZKM) (Germany), Supersonic Festival (Birmingham), Venn Festival (Bristol), Sonic Arts Network Expo (Plymouth), Phoenix Arts Centre (Leicester), Tokyo University of the Arts (Japan), University of the Arts (Berlin), Centre for Music Composition and Performance (CMCP) (Athens), Trinity College of Music (London), and IRCAM (Paris).


Chris Carter is best known for being a founder member Throbbing Gristle and one half of electronic duo Chris & Cosey (aka: Carter Tutti). He began his career in the late 1960s working for various TV stations (Thames, Granada and LWT) as a sound engineer on numerous TV shows and documentaries. He also got involved in designing and presenting light shows and visual effects for numerous festivals, events and performances, including bands as diverse as Yes and Hawkwind. This work led to commissions for BBC TV shows, Colour Me Pop and The Old Grey Whistle Test.

In the mid 1970s, and through his connection with John Lacey, Chris began an experimental music/sound collaboration with Cosey Fanni Tutti and Genesis P-Orridge, who at the time were also performing as COUM Transmissions with Peter Christopherson. The results of this musical collaboration was the creation of Throbbing Gristle, Industrial Records and the birth of the ‘Industrial Music’ phenomenon. Working as Chris & Cosey during the 1980s, Chris Carter recorded and collaborated on innumerable releases, most notably with Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart, Robert Wyatt, Coil, Boyd Rice, Lustmord, Monte Cazazza and many more. Chris & Cosey have also remixed tracks for Mortal Loom and Erasure, and work by John Cage. In 1994, Chris moved into journalism and regularly has technical articles and reviews published in UK magazine Sound On Sound.

More recent Throbbing Gristle work includes an audio/visual performance at Tate Modern turbine hall and their three-day ‘public recording session’ at the ICA London. Chris was also central to the technical realisation of the TG/Cerith Wyn Evans collaborative audio sculpture A=p=p=a=r=i=t=i=o=n. In 2009, Chris Carter worked extensively with Christiaan Virant (FM3) in designing and developing the Gristleism handheld loop playback unit for Industrial Records & TG.

John Richards

John Richards’ work explores performing with self-made instruments and the creation of interactive environments. He has worked with many leading improvisers and musicians in the field of live electronics, and is a founder member of electro-noise improvisers kREEPA, and the post-punk group Sand (Soul Jazz Records). Since 2005, he has directed the Dirty Electronics Ensemble, giving workshops and performances internationally that has included collaboration with Japanese noise artist Merzbow. He performs regularly with Nic Bullen as Black Galaxy and kREEPA, as well as releasing solo material on Bullen’s label monium. In 2007, he released a piece on Gabriel Prokofiev’s nonclassical label for piano and electronics performed by GéNIA with re-mixes by Vex’d and Max De Wardener amongst others. Recent work includes collaboration with Tim Wright as sevenlegspider developing systems for live performance, installations, and music for Japanese choreographer Saburo Teshigawara.

He has written numerous articles on hybridity, post-digital theory and dirty electronics: DIY and bricolage approaches to working with sound. John Richards completed a doctorate in electroacoustic composition at the University of York in 2002, and he is currently part of the Music, Technology and Innovation Research Centre at De Montfort University, Leicester.

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