Visionary art at the Sonica festival in Glasgow

Norwegian sound artist and composer Maja SK Ratje stages the UK premiere of vocal/visual performance Voice. Picture: Maarit Kytoharju
Norwegian sound artist and composer Maja SK Ratje stages the UK premiere of vocal/visual performance Voice. Picture: Maarit Kytoharju
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THE Sonica festival isn’t exactly a festival at all, says one of its three curators and artistic directors, Cathie Boyd. Created last year as a Glasgow-based, weekend-long celebration of world class sonic art in its many forms, the portable nature of each performance means they can be taken on tour or given individual performances in their own right.

“We programme emerging British talent alongside exceptional international artists,” she says, “whose work we rarely get to see..”

She points to last year’s Sonica-commissioned staging of “an opera in a desk”, entitled Remember Me by the composer Claudia Molitor, which has since appeared in Aarhus, Aberdeen, Den Bosch and Huddersfield, and the forthcoming December appearance of other Sonica events at the Spittalfields Festival in London.

“This international element is important,” says Boyd, “combined with our support to artists. That’s at the core of Sonica.”

Among the highlights this year should be the opening performance of Voice by Norwegian sound artist and composer Maja SK Ratje, alongside light designer HC Gilje, which combines a lone vocal performance with a visual design which mirrors Ratje’s voice: it will be a UK premiere in advance of the project’s transfer to New York.

The French artists Robin Meier and Ali Momeni will also bring Truce: Strategies for a Post-Apocalyptic Computation to Glasgow which echoes recent scientific research showing that mosquitos “sing” to one another to find a mate, while Holland’s Rob van Rijswijk and Jeroen Strijbos have created a permanent “sonic walk” of Glasgow, an iPhone app walking tour which uses GPS to create sounds depending on location

This year’s new commissions from Sonica – which is presented by the arts organisation Cryptic and co-curated by Patrick Dickie and Graham McKenzie – include the one-off, performance-based Suspense, a secret location event combining the talents of visual artists Jack Wrigley and Kite & Laslett, sound artist Giles Perring and Glasgow electronic group Golden Teacher; the David Lynch-referencing The Eye of the Duck by Raydale Dower; and Josh Armstrong’s “lunchtime adventure” Lunchbox.

“I’m very aware that many of the applications we receive for our Cryptic Nights strand come from visual artists from Glasgow School of Art who are also interested in sound,” says Boyd. “There’s an increase in applications from that area, and that’s a reflection of where the industry is going.

“One of the biggest compliments I received last year was when someone told me they didn’t know one artist appearing at the festival, but they still wanted to come and see what was happening.

“We have a growing number of festival directors attending from around the world, which is fantastic – you want these artists to be picked up and promoted elsewhere.

• Sonica is at various venues around Glasgow from tomorrow until 3 November.