Lawrence English is composer, media artist, and curator based in Australia. Working across an eclectic array of aesthetic investigations, English’s work prompts questions of field, perception, and memory. He investigates the politics of perception, through live performance and installation, to create works that ponder subtle transformations of space and ask audiences to become aware of that which exists at the edge of perception.
Over the past 10 years, he has been one of the leading international voices in field recording. Working extensively across the world, from Antarctica to the Outback and the Amazon to Japan, his recordings display a personal approach informed equally by technique, theoretical investigations, and aesthetic interests.
It is these unique approaches to field recording that form the basis of this masterclass. The "Radical Listener" sees Lawrence English guide participants through the specific techniques of field recording and listening he employs in his work.
The Radical Listener has been presented at numerous festivals and universities including Unsound (Poland), Resonant Forms (Los Angeles), Substrata (Seattle), Brown University (Rhode Island) and as a lecture at the University of Porto (Portugal), Harvard (Boston) and many other locations.
It will arrive at Semibreve festival for this edition, taking place from 27-29 in Braga, Portugal, with more information available here. Meanwhile, a Q&A with Luis Fernandes, Semibreve Artist Director, is available below, with a Christina Vantzou x Ensemble Harawi performance video streaming above.
In an overly saturated festival marketplace, what do you think it is that makes Semibreve unique?
I believe a conjunction of factors make Semibreve a pleasant and special experience. Apart from the quality of the lineup, which is our main concern, the festival has a reduced amount of shows with no overlap, which allows people to properly “digest” each show. We also care about the way we present each content to the audience, from the venues, which are truly unique, and the choice of artists for each venue to the tech specifications thought to improve the experience as much as possible. Then, of course, the context is a small city with a strong historic heritage where you don't feel the tension of a big city.
What’s the story behind the festival — why did it start all those years ago?
Semibreve started as an idea of a group of four friends, myself included. Three of us were (and still are) musicians who were really into exploratory electronic music. Due to the fact that Braga was going to be European Youth Capital in 2012, the municipality wanted to support the creation of a new event and I guess we were at the right place at the right time. There was no festival such as Semibreve in Portugal back then so we wanted to fill the gap and the idea proves successful.
The lineup for this years edition is brilliant again — how do you choose the lineup each year? What are you looking for in the artists you select?
Thanks! We try to choose the artists according to our own aesthetic sensibility but we do have some principles. We do not repeat acts, we have never done it so far and that would only happen on very specific contexts. We also choose the artists according to a specific momentum, be it artistic, social or career-related. Last, but not least, choosing acts whose performances might be enhanced by the venue where the show takes place is also a big concern. Last year we did a Christina Vantzou show with a local string ensemble on a mind blowing chapel. It just felt the perfect context for that music. This year Steve Hauschildt will perform in the same chapel, with a very distinct approach but also very promising. We also try to choose solid AV shows to our main room since it has the perfect standards for seated AV shows.
Looking back, what are the standout moments of Semibreve over the course of the past six years? Is there one particular moment you're most proud of?
The first edition was particularly special because, suddenly, we were doing a festival and hosting some of our favorite musicians and hanging out with them. And, best of all, it was a success. We are also very happy to see the festival spreading its influence on several levels, year after year. We are very proud of it.
How do you find a balance between intimacy and enormity?
Mainly with the right dose of contents and amount/size of venues. I believe we have reached a limit in terms of comfort and size. Semibreve is special, in part, because it's a comfortable experience. This year festival passes sold out in July so we could try to find bigger venues to accommodate more people, but we truly believe that is not the path to take.
What sort of crowd are you looking to attract?
People looking for interesting and defiant electronic music performances and digital art pieces. We don’t aim only towards experts or connoisseurs especially because we feel we have a role in the education for the arts in our local community. But we do want people to be curious, open minded and critical.
What plans do you have for future expansion — if any?
We don’t want to make the festival bigger than it is, especially in what concerns to the quantity and capacity of the shows. That would ruin the overall experience to our audience, which is a strength of the festival. What we do want is to improve its impact on the city and its community. Public art pieces, reinforced installations program and increase on the number of commissioned works are some of our goals for the future editions of Semibreve.
The 7th edition will take place between 27 and of 29 October in Braga, Portugal.
Please note, also: Adam Basanta & Gil Delindro are the winners of the Edigma Semibreve Award 2017 with the piece Permafrost.