Lawrence English is an Australian sound artist with a penchant for field recordings, audio sculpture, and other intellectual acoustic practices. English curates Room 40, as much an international collaborative body of work as it is a record label. Each of his performances offer a unique take on the room; playing its resonant frequencies, rumbling its tables, and forcing its occupants to get contemplative, or giggly, or leave. This recording serves as an account of his exploration of Nice ‘n’ Sleazy, an excerpt of a live show intent on provoking deep listening, a shared artistic experience, and - ultimately - enjoyment.
How did you come to be involved in sound art?
My interest in sound comes out of a very simple experience I had when I was a kid. When I was very young I used to go birdwatching with my dad. There was a particular kind of bird called a reed-warbler, it's a really small, brown marsh bird. It basically lives in very dense reeds. We'd go looking for this bird when I was a kid and my dad would say, "Listen, what you have to do is close your eyes and listen for where the bird is. Then once you get an idea of the space the bird is in, open your eyes and look for the bird." It almost always worked. You'd find this bird, whereas if you'd just looked in the reeds you'd see nothing. If you listened you got an idea of space and a sense of where it might be, then you understood it. So, while I wasn't thinking about it at the time, for me that's probably my first experience with this idea of space and sound, which are basically the fundamental building blocks of what I've been interested in since then. A large percentage of the concert tonight involved actually playing the room, physically manipulating objects and, unfortunately, making glass bottles fall off and smash on the ground. That was an unexpected side effect, but it's very much about this idea of how sound influences and can be shaped by the space in which it is found.
Which medium do you find the best for your art?
I think I enjoy them all differently. Everything is a quite discrete experience. What you do in the studio, for example, never translates necessarily into live practice. The same goes for the art installation. Working in installation is probably the most direct way to create an experience with people because in some ways you're actually setting the circumstances in which people will experience the work entirely. Whereas, if you record an album, the moment you finish that album you hand it over to someone and they either listen to it with their ipod earphones in, or they put it on a home stereo, or they put it through a big PA. Your control ends at the point that you issue it and give it to the world. In a gallery context, you're controlling that to some degree.18:00 - 18:15