Rendering the invisible

BEAST and the performance practice of acousmatic music

Authored by: Jonty Harrison

The Routledge Research Companion to Electronic Music

Print publication date:  May  2018
Online publication date:  May  2018

Print ISBN: 9781472472915
eBook ISBN: 9781315612911
Adobe ISBN:


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Jonty Harrison founded the Birmingham ElectroAcoustic Sound Theatre (BEAST) in 1982, beginning a 32-year journey of experimentation and discovery in the performance practice of acousmatic music. Rather than composition and performance being separate elements, Harrison claims a symbiosis – or, at least, a fuzzy boundary – between the two, citing parallel developments in BEAST and his own music as evidence. Starting from the practice of sound diffusion – the active intervention in the performance of stereo works to interpret the studio Urtext within the new listening context of the concert hall – the chapter charts developments in the BEAST system and in Harrison’s own composition towards what might be termed ‘seriously multichannel’ concerns by the time of his retirement in 2014. Harrison advocates a pragmatic approach to both composition and performance, arguing for the primacy of the intrinsic, qualitative aspects of sound materials. Furthermore, far from diffusion being only about space (location, trajectory, provenance; over here or over there), he suggests that space and spatiality form part of a larger concern with sonic images, relating to our experience of sound in the real world – something his recent works have deliberately set out to explore.

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