Article Magazine Art, Music, Design, Urbanism, Fashion Thu, 17 Jan 2013 11:00:29 +0000 en hourly 1 There is nothing more progressive than the destitute. Thu, 17 Jan 2013 11:00:29 +0000 ben Continue reading ]]>

The Tinsley Cooling Towers were obsolete by the time they were blown out of our Northern skyline. Towers existing to remind us of the industry that made Sheffield a thriving city, but also mirroring the very opposite- as relics of that same industry’s decline. For some, these towers were a great icon of the north, for others an eyesore but by all accounts when demolition day came, they were 100% redundant.

In 1921 Sheffield steel was booming after the bittersweet surge of production in the Great War as the Blackburn Meadows power station was built to service Sheffield’s furnaces. 16 years into the job, the square cooling towers were demolished in preference of the more advanced “hyperboloid” cooling towers in 1937 and ‘38. And thus Sheffield’s ‘salt and pepper pots’ seasoned the cityscape.

It would be another 30 years before these towers became a “cap-doth” to lorry drivers that they had entered the North, with the creation of the Tinsley Viaduct, where they would remain until 2008 – a year before I ventured to Sheffield.

I am an imposter. A past graduate from the University born and bred in that fabled, forgotten void between The North and The South – The Midlands. At no point did I drive past these towers, they should mean nothing to me, and yet I feel I have missed out on a vital feature of Sheffield’s culture. I have never seen this symbol of the steel that Sheffield’s identity was forged from nor can be reminded by its absence of the same city’s industrial decline.

Boldly standing and spewing out gases, these towers cooled millions upon millions of gallons of liquid as the power station grew to the capacity of producing 70 megawatts before it was scrapped. After that the structure stood in all its purest obsolescence for 28 years after the power station had closed – the same empty shell but with no employment – becoming the ghost of Sheffield past.

The Tinsley Towers served a great symbolic purpose but they were completely pointless for the last years of their dirty, concrete lives. They could have been a fantastic art installation, skate-park, gallery and all sorts of other uses, but they didn’t become any of these. After too-ing and fro-ing from councillors, E-ON energy suppliers and activists, the structures were pulled down and in their place an ecological Biomass power plant was built. After almost 30 years of unnecessary existence the space they stood on was transformed into a contemporary power producer reflecting contemporary concerns at the forefront of technology.

The towers succumbed to a fate that they had benefited from previously. The power plant that created them was required due to advances in steel production; their superior structural strength and efficient cooling shape meant that their predecessors were scrapped. The cooling towers were once at the forefront of their field and, as much a part of Sheffield’s landscape as they were, were entirely part of the cycle of progression. They were cutting edge when created and came down to create space for the next generation of power.

“Obsolescence” is entirely selfless and forward-facing – the fact that this word exists is to be celebrated – it indicates our development, the advances in technology and the honesty to acknowledge that something can no longer serve our interests. The Tinsley Cooling Towers could well have had another purpose, they could have been rescued from extinction, but demolishing them also saved them from a dirty, damned retirement home complete with indulgent nostalgia.

Just as “Meadowhell” shopping centre, which the towers once loomed over, repurposed the site of a once derelict steelworks during a period of focus on out-of-town shopping centres, the cooling towers have created space for the future, reflecting now and not then. After all, in 70 years time do we want future generations to keep our, by then, perfectly useless radio towers standing to remind us that in our crazy past we had to telephone to talk, or would we prefer they replaced them with those super-futuristic-teleportation-units that will definitely exist?

By Harry Jelley

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The Sound of British Complaint Tue, 15 Jan 2013 11:00:02 +0000 ben Continue reading ]]>

This year marks the centenary of Woody Guthrie’s birthday causing much reminiscence for the protest songs of the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s. Along with this nostalgic flashback, many have been quick to assume that the once noble flame of the popular “Protest Song” in Britain has been silently extinguished.

Where have all the protest singers of the past gone? And what has subsequently taken their place if any still exist? These singer-songwriters performed at a point in time where popular music was on a perhaps more local “community” scale, creating with their music a sound able to galvanise and reflect contemporary concerns. Yet in our more globalised climate to the 80’s scale, is possible to find within modern popular music any noise of protest?

British protest music at its best is remembered as a time when Elvis Costello articulated the dark implications of Britain’s thriving ship building industry amid the Falklands war. When The Clash, the Sex Pistols, and numerous others unflinchingly depicted the desperation of dead-end, inner city life under Thatcherism. And in the ‘60s’ where voices of open-armed cries for peace, love and an end to all war flooded the music market. In contrast, we can often see the already saturated charts filled with so-called ‘landfill indie’ and mechanical club-pop, while politicised genres such as contemporary punk and heavy metal (to name but two) remain very much outside of the mainstream.

But is the protest song really dead? Or have our demands for it changed, wanting popular music to be something away from social issues and act as an escapist distraction rather than reminder of what’s wrong with the world? The nature of the contemporary musical mainstream has changed. Much of the music industry seems to largely engineer hollow, disposable, and fabricated pop music in which song-writing is made in order to create commercially viable, harmless, and often club-ready anthems. There is little place for anti-establishment verse or social commentary in modern chart music.

Another change is the battle lines between the major political parties. They are far less clear than in the ‘70s and ‘80s when previous generation of mainstream protest music was being written and disseminated, making modern song-writing less able to speak from distinct political perspectives.

Social class may also have something to do with any absence of protest music as record numbers of privately educated musicians seem to be ascending to mass popularity. Today’s chart is proliferated with Jessie Ware, Florence Welch, Jack Penate, and Pixie Geldof, all of whom attended South London’s prestigious Alleyn’s school, where a year’s education costs £14,601. Maybe musicians are less likely to speak out against the system if they have massively benefited from it?

Yet we can still read modern popular music as political. Take Psy’s internationally viral ‘Gangnam Style’ –referring to Korean Gangnam District of Seoul and from which has stemmed much political activism. For example, the North Korean government paroded the song mocking the South Korean ruling, along with Ai Wei Wei who can be seen dancing with a pair of handcuffs as a symbol of his arrest by Chinese authorities. ‘Gangnam Style’ now acts as a symbol for freedom of expression- a song further politicized in recognition by UN Secretary-General’s Ban Ki-Moon as a “force for world peace.”

Most important in the changing terrain of protest songs however, has been the influence of hip-hop. Hip-hop as social commentary has a long tradition, with key American artists like Public Enemy, KRS One, and Nas vocalising issues of race, police brutality, and social injustice in America, and more recently grime and UK hip-hop artists such as Ms. Dynamite, Braintax, and (early) Dizzee Rascal commenting on their socio-political surroundings in the UK. And even more recently, a perceived duty to politically inform the public has been sensed by rappers throughout Africa, from the Y’en a Marre movement in Senegal, to the Egyptian rap collective Revolution, to the hip-hop pressure group Plus Jamais Ca in Mali. And the unfolding of a new generation of ‘conscious’ rappers has also been taking place at the heart of British political activism.

Developing around central figures Lowkey and Logic, an underground of politicised, anti-capitalist rappers has begun to catalyse recent political frustration, reflecting the protest musicians of old. At protest marches against the rise in tuition fees, in aid of the Palestinian struggle for freedom, and against cuts to public spending, Lowkey has been a key speaker and performer. His is an educational brand of political commentary in the vein of America’s “Immortal Technique”, and who, along with other ‘conscious rappers’ such as Mix Righteous and English Frank, has formed a activist collective named ‘The Peoples’ Army’; holding free workshops and talks on matters ranging from social justice to imperialism.

The rise of rap as a format for protest music does not easily accommodate the expectations of older generations regarding the use for protest music – you cannot for example sing along to rap music, as it is an inherently skilled activity whose flow transforms with different lyricists. However, cross-over rapper Plan B is aiming to change this. His self-transformation and the release of his explosive single ‘iLL Manors’ this year mark the first mainstream/cross-over protest song in a generation – the single rose to # 6 in the charts – and it marks the beginning of a multi-media long-term project by Plan B to address issues of poverty, class, and media corruption from the platform of festival main-stages, FM radio, and mass popularity. Ex-Sheffield radical lyricist The Ruby Kid is one of many to acknowledge the significance this could have for mainstream protest music.

British protest music may not be what it was- but neither is the political scenery in which it sings from. There is ever increasing political consciousness, invention, and activism to rally behind in hip-hop, and every chance it will achieve mass appeal.

By Sam Parkin and Isla Badenoch

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‘The Obsolete’ Mon, 14 Jan 2013 11:35:04 +0000 ben Continue reading ]]> For the first in a new web-series, we have handed over editorial control over to our long time contributor Isla Badenoch.

This selection of articles introduces the theme of the ‘Obsolete’. A word accompanied by the images and objects of that which has been replaced, is no longer of use and has limited functionality in our everyday lives. When I approached the following writers with this disconcerting word- many similarities sprang about from their initial thoughts relating to a sense of loss, memory and nostalgia.

Each of the following articles muses upon a personal aspect pertaining to the word ‘Obsolete’. Be it a way of living for an elderly relative of mine, the loss of a prominent architectural feature from a city’s skyline, to the confused attempt of a technophobe at fixing a broken camera.

Within the advancement of the everyday, we encounter more and more cultural items and situations of the obsolete. We attach our memories to objects, places and things in order to make our stamp on the world, yet what happens when these stamps become faded or replaced by newer, shinier, more efficient stamps of modern approval?

These articles discuss whether we associate a negative “don’t make ‘em like they used to’ approach to this occurrence, or perhaps use a more positive frame of mind that maybe newer can be better- that we can discover, evolve and create even more incredible advances as humans- not just technologically but even psychologically.

What has become obsolete has become so for a reason, and that in itself is something fascinating and reflects the inconstant nature of memory, the past and the unpredictability of the future.

I hope you enjoy the following ruminations and that you too can use the obsolete to not dwell in what is lost and forgotten, but what can be remembered and learnt from by absent and irrelevant objects and circumstances.

By Isla Badenoch

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Artspaces in Trouble Fri, 04 Jan 2013 15:28:09 +0000 ben Continue reading ]]>

There’s a Sheffield Institution that needs a little bit of help. It’s understandable if the festive hangover has wiped out your good cheer, and possibly your wallet as well, but if you can, please support S1 Artspace. It is a creative hub within Sheffield and an incredibly important organisation to keep afloat. It’s also one of the latest victims of arts budget cuts that have been SO de rigueur over the last couple years. In order to stay open and keep bringing in international quality exhibitions and providing space for some the city’s most interesting artists, it needs a bit of help.

So if you can, head on over to their indiegogo page and make a little donation. They have some pretty sweet prints and coffee cups on offer, if you need that sort of thing as any more incentive. Support will help keep a great many young artists in their studios and will also let us stay in our lovely office which we like very much!

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New Year, New Blog Thu, 03 Jan 2013 15:08:51 +0000 ben Continue reading ]]> ;

Welcome to our new site. As you can see in the top bar we have reshuffled everything. There is the Magazine page, the Works page and the Shop. Streamlined, simple, all that good stuff. Importantly, it is an indicator of how we mean to go on. See, over the last year we have been in transition. If you’d only looked at our blog, you might have thought we were dead or something. Truth is we have just been super busy with totally cool stuff.

Although we never launched it with a big party or anything, we’ve been doing projects under the moniker Article Works for some time. Our work is as an Editorial Design agency producing print and web content and design. You can browse our Works page if you are interested.

This year we are seeking to merge the works and the magazine together. Article Magazine can no longer be the main focus of our studio. We need money to fund our love of original Bauhaus prints, betting on minor league Dutch football, designer men’s sunglasses, and three day trips to Berghain. Flogging a print magazine is universally recognised as a terrible way to do this. Instead, we will be producing the magazine “sporadically” from now on. In addition to this we are ramping our website content. Each month we are selecting an editor to curate the site, commissioning a series of pieces, in true Article fashion, exploring multiple facets of a theme. Our goal is to make the Article blog a destination for quality, rebellious and delightfully un-mainstream content addressing the worlds of Architecture, Art, Urbanism, Development and Culture (whatever that is).

We hope you will enjoy the year with us. And if you are one of those people who say stuff like ‘Look, I just love paper, man.’ Worry not. A print issue of Article is on the cards for March 2013. The theme: Information.

Peace out,

Ben and Alasdair

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DON – A Magazine in 24 Hours Tue, 26 Jun 2012 11:01:23 +0000 ben Continue reading ]]>

The Upper Don isn’t denoted on any official maps. Its borders are fuzzy. The distance it extends from the river bank, the valley named after the river Don, is undefined. Where it ends and begins is unclear. Yet, for those that know it, the Upper Don is its own distinct area with many layers of experience and history. A mix of industry and residential, it has been in constant flux for hundreds of years.

We worked with some really great people on this project, and looking at the finished product a few weeks later, I think it is fair to say that they did an excellent job. Amongst the contents are photo essays on typography, advertising and parking spots, interviews with a publican and his patrons and with a women searching out her Jewish ancestry, as well as histories of buildings and accounts of walks through the area, all written on the day.

The project was in collaboration with plastiCities, which is part of The University Of Sheffield. Contributers included: Hannah Boast, Dan Byrne, Martin Elms, Rachel Genn, Kathryn Hall, India Hobson, Amanda Crawley Jackson, Darren Johnson, Jack Mann, Alys Mordecai, Jessica Rangel O’Brien, Jenny Parkinson, Gareth Parry, Katya Porohina and Ivan Rabodzeenko, Anastasia Porteous, Chris Savage, Thomas Shore, Rachel Smith, James Wraith, Emma Wray, Stefan Willhoit, Matt Voice.

We should also shout out SKINN and CADS who provided the space, tables and chairs.

Hopefully we will be getting a box to offer on our webstore. In the meantime, you should be able to find copies somewhere in Sheffield!

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Article Monoplex #5: Straight 8 Wed, 13 Jun 2012 10:32:42 +0000 ben Continue reading ]]> Rather, it seems that some, not all, old formats really are better. Take the sound of a record on a good turn-table and compare it to the same track playing as a compressed mp3 file. Sure, both have their time and place, but one certainly sounds a hell of a lot better.
We interviewed Ed Sayer, the founder of Straight 8, an annual film competition that has run since 1999 on a simple premise: shoot a film on a single roll of Super 8 – no editing – add to it a soundtrack and submit it to be processed. The first time it’s seen, by filmmaker as well as anticipant audiences, is at one of its world premiere festival screenings. Like the one Article are hosting in the Monoplex as part of this year’s Doc/Fest, which starts today.

Some might say that Super 8 film is a relatively obsolete format.
Some might say that but, whilst it’s still available, it’s a fantastic medium to try.

It is the cornerstone of Straight 8. What does this add? Does it make it better?
It’s been brilliant for straight 8 – it’s helped enforce the main straight 8 rules: only one take of each shot, editing in-camera, no post-production, separate soundtrack made without seeing your film first. Because we process the films, no-one can cheat. Not that they would!

Part of the appeal of Straight 8 is the restriction of the format, and the added restrictions barring filmmakers from editing the work. Do you think it is fair to say that artists love constraints? 
Filmmakers, artists, PEOPLE…  we all love and need constraints. Believe me.

How has the project managed to last so long?
Great question! It’s a most horrible way to try and make a film – I made a very ambitious one this year for the first time in a while. But you learn so much doing it that way and it makes for a much more dramatic shoot day.. I guess that’s why people keep giving it a go.

With the increase in availability to technology do you think independent film making has changed? If so, has it been reflected in the types of entries to Straight 8?
Evolution is everywhere.  Filmmaking is getting better too.  As more of the tools are in more peoples’ reach more often and as the language evolves like any other, it’s all getting better, more efficient.  Basic rules don’t change – a story, great planning, and the ability to shape-shift as your plan gets fucked up the xxx. But the regular practice and general volume of filmmaking has a collective effect i guess. Shame we can’t ask Darwin.

What can people new to Straight 8 expect?
A challenge to be taken seriously and lightly in equal measure! Something definitely not to be missed in the myriad great film challenges out there.

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Article Monoplex #4: the Punk Syndrome Fri, 08 Jun 2012 10:01:44 +0000 ben Continue reading ]]>

Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät are, by their own admission, ‘one of the best bands in Finland’. They make music with all the fundamentals of punk at its core: frank, gut-charged lyrics, highly notched amps, rough around the edges performances. Like any punks worthy of such self-definition, Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät have fun rebelling against the mainstream and sticking two fingers to the system. Only, in their case, ‘the system’ they’ve found themselves in encompasses social exclusion, institutionalised housing, and compulsory visits to the pedicurist (grounds for complaint for some members more than others). Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät’s members have mental difficulties ranging from speech defects to down syndrome; they are four men who have never had the chance to brush with mainstream acceptance.

Kari Aalto is in his mid thirties. He’s into Harley Davidsons, music and women, and recently got engaged to his partner Sirkka, who likes Judo. He loves the bustling bars and record stores of Helsinki’s Kallio district, but is stuck living in group housing in the respectable and quiet (read: dull) area of Töölö. Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät, translating for us as Pertti Kurikka’s Name Day, are so called to honour their formation in 2009 on the Finnish celebration day of Pertti, the forename shared by the band’s frontman and guitarist. Pertti is sensitive to the world in a way that at times brings him to tears. He has a huge record collection and, since childhood, has been fascinated by the seams on people’s clothing. Sometimes Kari has to ask Pertti to write less complex riffs so that he can play them without having to apologise for his mistakes. As well as Kari and Pertti, there’s bassist Sami Helle, who is a member of the Centre Party of Finland and enters amateur strongman contests, and on drums is the good-humoured but quietly stubborn Toni Välitalo, who lives with his parents in the nearby town of Espoo.

Their brand of punk is unique to their situation and its specific frustrations. Kari’s oppressors are a disparate bunch of MPs, ‘rulers who deceive’, friends, and pedicurists. Compulsory pedicures are no trifling nuisance; disrupting his freedom to spend the day on his own terms, he channels his anger through the band: ‘Motherf!!!ing pedicurists, they are all totally f!!!ed. They just treat your feet, they don’t understand. Why in hell do pedicurists exist?’ The seeds of Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät’s discontent scatter across a wider field of social disregard – one that affords Pertti so little dignity that he isn’t informed about his mother’s death – and poke out into lyrics based on Pertti’s diary entries and Kari’s off the cuff dictation. Nonetheless, they don’t let their anger rule them; the band also create songs about the unending joy of cups of coffee and reclaim terminologies of disorder by proudly asserting their ‘punk syndrome’.

Just as their music is direct and uncompromising, so the bandmates are in their relationships with one another and with their manager, Kalle Pajamaa. Kari and Sami spend so much time together that band rehearsals often end in yelled profanities and slammed doors. Toni talks about toilet trips and Pertti about how babies are made with none of the self-awareness or inhibitions of typical adulthood. The film’s directors Jukka Kärkkäinen and JP Passi don’t interfere by stringing together a commentary; they simply present a group of men who at times express emotions familiar to us all, though in manners entirely their own, and at others show us insight into feelings we’re almost entirely unaccustomed to seeing.

The Punk Syndrome will be screened at 8pm in the Article Monoplex. More info here.
Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät will play a live set afterwards. You don’t want to miss this!!

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Bill Drummond interview Wed, 06 Jun 2012 16:12:03 +0000 kat Continue reading ]]> During his time as Sensoria Festival’s Composer in Residence in Sheffield last year, artist, musician and writer Bill Drummond built an affinity for the ragworts he found poking their yellow heads between the cracks in the city’s pavement. Like these flowering weeds, he went feral across the city’s wasteland and places of industry. Mapping the chirps of sparrows on an A-Z street atlas and immersing himself in the sounds of steelwork at Forgemasters, he composed a set of scores representing the potential for music in these sites.

In recent years Bill Drummond has been preoccupied with the way we experience, listen to, and consume music in the 21st century. Though there’s something to be said for the transportive power of certain recorded music and the ongoing developments in the craft of creating an artwork in the format of a music album, it’s true that with masses at our fingertips we at times flit about in our consumption of music. Reading one of Bill Drummond’s Scores works, then, by refreshing our relationship to music, making us more aware of our hearing and encouraging us to process the sounds of the spaces around us anew.

The Sheffield Scores are to be performed by The17 – an ever expanding and contracting ensemble consisting of whoever is chosen or chooses to read them. They were recently showcased in the ‘Ragworts’ exhibition, which opened at Site Gallery in the city on the eve of this year’s Sensoria.

We interviewed Bill, in accordance to this set of rules he’s imposed on himself.

1: During your time as Composer in Residence in Sheffield in April 2011 you composed scores specific to certain sites, times, and people. They may be performed actually, by individuals/groups in the situations you specify, or entirely conceptually. You may not even know if some are ever performed at all. Score #390: Seventeen Deep Breaths plays out joyfully in my imagination each time I read it (despite not having sought permission from a man called Honeyman). Can such imagined performance be as fulfilling as people being brought together and conducted in a physically audible event?

I think I wanted my cake and to eat it. For me, if these scores have any real strength it is to be had by coming across them accidentally where they are hung or fly posted in their various locations around Sheffield. I like the idea of people coming across them and not really knowing what they are or what they fit into and I definitely did not want to have an author/composer name attached to them, in case the person who does the coming across them knows something about me and automatically reads them in the context of my history. And these people that come across them would actually perform the score.
But I guess that is partially fantasy. If the above was really true, would I have spent the time I did in working on the wording, would I have put them up on The17 website, would I be just about to have them hanging in a exhibition in the Site Gallery, Sheffield? Thus I must have wanted the applause of a wider audience. But that is not quite what your question is about. You are asking me about them being performed conceptually. And the honest answer to that is I never imagined that to be the case. When I finally got around to reading all the scores in Yoko Ono’s book Grapefruit a few years back, I read all her scores in the book as conceptual. That is what they are supposed to be, that was their strength. But for me, I have always wanted the scores that I have written for The17 to be something that can be engaged with in a practical sense. I want what I write to be clear instructions as to how to make the performance actually happen, even if it can only be performed by a select group of people. And some of the scores that I did in Sheffield, by their very nature could only ever be performed by a very few select people.
As for Score 390: SEVENTEEN DEEP BREATHS, I wrote that wanting Graham Honeyman, the boss of Forgemasters, to perform it. While working there I learnt from him that he was a jazz fan and played the saxophone. I do not know if he ever will perform it, but I was very grateful to him for giving me the access to Forgemasters to evolve these scores and to allow them to be then hung permanently in various locations in the works.

2: In the accompanying book to your upcoming exhibition Ragworts you say you prefer degeneration to regeneration and that you find beauty in redundancy. What is the appeal of these to you and in what ways can they actually facilitate creative progression?

I am aware that in making a statement like this, there is probably an element of pose. None of us want to live in a building with a hole in the roof. But the part that is not pose may be born from the following facts. I spent my teenage years living a town called Corby, Northamptonshire. As well as it being a steel town and known as little Scotland, it was also a new town. Of the population of 55,000 the vast majority of us were living in post war council housing. All the roads were neatly planned. It was the 60s and Corby was a boomtown. Everything was new and sparking. The vast majority of the population had come from the crumbling Victorian tenements of Glasgow and other West of Scotland towns. Corby was so much better than what most of us had left behind.
Then in 1972, at the age of 19, I moved to Liverpool to go to the art school there. I was embarking on a fine art course. I was in love with painting. I wanted to dedicate the rest of my life to painting. But nothing I could do on my canvas in the art school could compete with what was already out there in Liverpool itself. I was totally seduced by the city. And at that time the city was a complete wasteland. It was terraces of 19th century housing, much of it being ripped down. And then there were the docks, all just falling to bits. A few years earlier there may have been ships arriving laden with the treasures of our then Empire. But by the 1970s next to nothing. Instead of putting in the hours infront of my easel struggling with the paint, I would spend hours and days and weeks, just wandering around this city that was degenerating. It was this degeneration that fired me to do whatever I did there back in the 70s and early 80s.
As much as I know cities need to be regenerated, to create work and wealth for the majority of the population, I find it very hard to feel enthusiastic about much of what does go up. Especially when it is buildings that you know have already been given a limited shelf life of no more than 25 years.

3: Ten years ago a well-known musician predicted that by 2012 music would have ‘become like running water or electricity’. Thankfully we do not receive flat rate utility bills for our consumption of music, but could we be seen as wasting it in a similar way as we do water or electricity and, if so, should any conservation measures be taken?

Both question 3 and 4 deal with topics that I have explored extensively over that past few years. I will attempt to bring something to my answers that I have not already said before. The flat rate utility bill is basically how we already do pay for so much of the recorded music we consume be it via Spotify or YouTube and I am sure it is only a matter of time before Amazon will be making the same sort of offers as they do with Love Film.
As for a hosepipe ban on recorded music. I would be all for it. In a way the No Music Day that I instigated on each 21 November between 2005 – 2009 was a sort of hosepipe ban. These days I have a complete hosepipe ban on recorded music in my home.

4: It was around 150 years ago that humans developed technology to record music. Can you dream up a utopian vision of the state of music and how we may consume and interact with it in another 150 years time? (Please be as conjectural or as sci-fi as you wish…).

I have made the claim that recorded music was an art form of the 20th century. Although the technology to record music is 150 years old, the first commercially released recorded music came out in 1901. Caruso was the first super star of this new art form. Throughout the 20th century all previous forms of music wanted to become recorded music. The music industry grew and grew to exploit this. In the second half of the 20th century recorded music was the only art form that could rival its close cousin the Movies. But in the closing decade of the century with Napster, followed by iTunes our relationship with recorded music shifted hugely. The life of an art form follows a predictable arc. That said some almost die overnight like the silent movies did in 1927, with the release of The Jazz Singer, the first talkie. Other art forms spend centuries slowly dying. Recorded music will not die out over night but its central importance to our culture is already beginning to diminish.
As for music in 150 years time, people will still want to dance, fall in love, protest, laugh out loud and make their innermost feelings public and music will be a big part of all that. And sadly people will still want icons, it is a human weakness. If you had asked me five years ago I would have said musicians, as icons were definitely a product of the 20th century. I was on record with saying that there would be no more global stars of the cultural importance of Elvis, The Beatles, Michel Jackson or Madonna but then along came Lady Gaga and I fell for her along with several million others. She demonstrated that there was a lot more gold to be mined from that particular seam.
Lady Gaga aside, I predict the strait jacket that recorded music held us in for much of the previous century will never be able to hold us down as mere consumers again. Now that we are being freed from it, we will want music that is about time, place and occasion. This will undoubtedly make use of whatever technology we have at the time, but it will also very much include the vast majority of us recapturing our ability to open our own mouths and make music with what comes out of them together. We will never let that sense of freedom that can be achieved with singing together ever be stolen from us again.

Kathryn Hall


This interview is published in Article’s Broken issue. To read the whole magazine, you can order it here or find a copy in one of our stockists.

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Article Monoplex #3: Grandma Lo-fi: The Basement Tapes of Sigrídur Níelsdóttir Wed, 06 Jun 2012 10:10:14 +0000 ben Continue reading ]]>  

In the context of grandmas, the notion of a back catalogue is likely to evoke images of brochures filled with dropshoulder patterns and adverts for Knitmasters, piled chronologically to the ceiling in a room subsiding under fifty years worth of surplus wool. More so, at least, than a discography of over 600 songs and 59 music albums. But that’s exactly what this grandma, Sigríður Níelsdóttir, had to her name. Packed with tea bags and bird feed her shopping trolley wasn’t (not entirely anyway); a bescarved Sigríður wheeled her home-produced CDs – complete with self-made artwork – across Reyjavík, to top up stock at the 12 Tónar record store.

In 2000 this ‘Grandma Lo-Fi’ took up a less than conventional hobby at the age of seventy, that saw her kitchen become a storehouse of musical implements and her basement flat a recording studio. Fascinated by sound, Sigríður built a collection of cassette recordings that included a group of seven dogs barking in unison, that she’d met whilst living in Brazil; the ‘coo’ of a sick pigeon who she once fostered; and the noises of her pet guinea pigs and her cat Trítill. She delighted in her homemade sound ‘tricks’, which included a hand whisk becoming a helicopter; an egg slicer a harp; tin foil a crackling fire; and a bottle filled with buttons for a percussion section.

Removing the doily covering the ‘Entertainer’, her pet-named Casio keyboard, Sigríður set rhythms for her noises to play out alongside, recording them together with lyrics – at times meaningful, at others gibberish – to create tracks for albums with such fanciful themes as ‘cowboy life’.

Befitting Sigríður’s methodology and her merriment, directors Ingibjörg Birgisdóttir, Orri Jónsson, Kristin Björk Kristjánsdóttir piece together her story in DIY fashion using Super 8 and 16mm film. Scenes are interspersed with stop-motion animations and paeans from a younger generation of Icelandic musicians of bands like múm, Seabear and Sigur Rós, set against backdrops of Sigríður’s colourful collages. Too shy to ever play her music in public, these musicians have since brought her songs to the stage through The Sigríður Níelsdóttir Experience.

The world out there is full of music, and in the final years of her life this grandma took joy in finding ways of capturing, recreating, and perfecting it.

Download one of Sigríður’s hits, Naggrisirnir

Grandma Lo-fi: The Basement Tapes of Sigrídur Níelsdóttir will be screened at 5pm in the Article Monoplex. More info here.

Illustrations by Lisa O’Hara

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