7 Nocturnes East (2020)
7 Nocturnes East, is a series of ambient and found sound pieces. All inspired by and using location recordings of Guernsey places at night. Supported by the Guernsey Arts Commission, 7 Nocturnes East had an accompanying visual and video art exhibition featuring the work of seven artists.
Video, music and location recordings all from the 7 Nocturnes East exhibition. More on that below.
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Background to the project
What is now the 7 Nocturnes East project and album did not crystallise as a complete and fully formed idea. There was no single bolt of inspiration. It evolved over time, spiralled slightly out of control and has now taken on a life of its own.
Some background to how the ideas around the music and exhibition developed: I love walking around Guernsey late at night listening to music. Mostly there is no one around, you appear to have the island to yourself. I also love the sound of the environment blending with whatever I’m listening to.
The project started when I realised I’d never made any music inspired by Guernsey. Using just one synthesiser and imagining Bordeaux in the morning, I composed Bordeaux 7am. Buoyed by the online reaction to this ambient piece, I moved on to working on St Peter Port 1am. My first experience writing for traditional instruments it includes violins, violas, cellos, Rhodes piano and bass, along with found sound. It was then, and still is, easily my most ambitious work. I made a recording at St Peter Port harbour and enjoyed how the captured audio interacted serendipitously with the music. These two pieces then pointed towards a bigger project.
Central to 7 Nocturnes East became the concept of doing a single recording at each location as I did for St Peter Port 1am. Without long-winded site visits. Without experimenting with different microphones or equipment. Without test recordings. Without anything getting in the way of capturing a single, honest snapshot of the location at the chosen moment in time.
Two recurring conversations with other musicians and artists happened around this time:
Firstly – What happens if I capture ‘nothing’? As things turned out, recording ‘nothing’ didn’t prove to be an issue. If I’d happened to record on a perfectly still night, then that evening would have been reflected in the music anyway. The concept was to not over plan, overthink, over-engineer, or otherwise get in the way of genuine one-off location recordings.
Secondly – Other people seemed actually worried about capturing the noise of traffic and other supposedly ‘unwanted’ sounds. My view was that traffic, drunk people, wind and so on were the honest sounds of these places at night.
In the exhibition, the musical pieces are presented interspersed by the full isolated location recordings. The complete soundtrack for the exhibition runs on a loop of around two hours. If you choose to return to the gallery, you should experience the space differently each time.
7 Nocturnes East – The Exhibition
Supported by The Guernsey Art Commission and Arts Foundation Guernsey. 7 Nocturnes East had an accompanying visual and video art exhibition. Featuring the work of seven artists. At The Greenhouse, Guernsey Museum, Candie Gardens, Guernsey. It ran from 31st Jan to 22 March 2020.
The exhibition featured a sound installation of the 7 Nocturnes East music and found sound along with site specific works exhibited by Adam Stephens, Aeva Joy Love, Bozena Pollock, Bridget Spinney, MaryJane Orley, Monika Drabot and Zone Comics.
“Flexagon’s soothing brand of organic electronica proves utterly beguiling and rather touching” – Bob Fischer, Electronic Sound
The exhibition was reviewed by Tom Girard. The review sums everything up far better than I can.
“……both album and exhibition, whether seen or heard together or separately, are very impressive and mark something very different not just for what I’m used to experiencing, but I think for art in Guernsey as a whole, as it ties together, both directly and indirectly, several ‘scenes’ in one over arching project in a way I don’t recall seeing before, particularly in such an organic manner.”
– Tom Girard