The Pod Delusion is a fine, weekly podcast about science, skepticism and other interesting things. And this week, I’ve contributed a short piece on the phonograph – a taster of my talk at the Fortean Times Unconvention. You can hear it on the Pod Delusion site from Friday morning (11 November 2011).
The 7 minute piece starts with some curious words used by Florence Nightingale as she laid down her voice on a wax cylinder for the first time in 1890.
Exciting news! After several years playing exclusively live, Spacedog are releasing our first album. It’s called Juice for the Baby and it’ll be available as a download and on CD from mid-December 2011.
Do come to our gigs at the Marlborough Theatre, Brighton, on Friday 9 December, and the Horse Hospital, London, on Wednesday 14 December, and help us celebrate the launch.
On 12 November, I’m delighted to be joining experts on the sasquatch, hermeticism and Gef the Talking Mongoose at the The Fortean Times Unconvention. Jon Ronson will be talking about The Psychopath Test, Jan Bondeson will be discussing some canine intellectuals and Gail-Nina Anderson will be presenting her popular history of the Egyptian mummy.
I’ll explore some of the stranger obsessions of the early adopters of sound recording as I immortalise a voice from the audience by recording it on wax, using an original Edison Standard Phonograph. I’ll also discuss a little-known sound recording method, one which was used to bring popular music into the home, 150 years before the phonograph. And I’ll reveal some outlandish experiments with radio, from the early 1920s, as I play some live aether music on the theremin, accompanied by fellow Spacedog Stephen Hiscock and Hugo, my ventriloquial sidekick.
This must be how it feels to see a unicorn.
Six months ago, I came face to face with a machine I’d read about often but never expected to see. A one-off invention, this oddity had been a dreamlike presence in my life, hovering into my consciousness at unexpected moments, something I imagined but couldn’t fully sketch in my mind. I’d dreamed of it since I was ten, a time when I was obsessing over a cassette tape my dad had given me. On it were some electronic sounds he’d recorded from the radio – sound pieces composed by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.
I’m taking my theremin, phonograph and robot pal Hugo to Manchester in March for QED, a two day festival of skepticism and popular science. There are some fine speakers on the bill, Maryam Namazie, Steve Jones, Ophelia Benson, David Aaronovitch and Robin Ince among them.
I’ll be exploring some of the stranger obsessions of early adopters of sound recording as I immortalise a voice on wax, using an original Edison phonograph. And I’ll be delving into the archives to reveal a bizarre, long-forgotten recording method that was used to bring music into the home 150 years before the phonograph.
QED Con is a celebration of rational thinking that’s also a fundraiser for Sense about Science and a charity very close to my heart: The National Autistic Society.
This week, the BBC World Service programme Click (aka Digital Planet and Go Digital) is celebrating its tenth anniversary and producer Colin Grant invited Spacedog to play a few tunes on the live birthday show. You can hear what happened in this podcast and see some great photos by Paul Clarke. A possible case of ventriloquism on the radio: Hugo also appeared in one of our pieces, channelling the voice of our good friend Professor Elemental.
It was fascinating and just a little terrifying to take part in a live recording, knowing it was being beamed to 25 million listeners worldwide.
On 3 September, Brighton is hosting its first Maker Faire – a festival of inventions and the hackers, makers and artists who create them. And I’m hosting what I hope will be the perfect after-show party. Do come!
Spacedog are packing our bags for the Green Man Festival this weekend (19 – 21 August in the Brecon Beacons). And we’ll be adding a new number to our set: a torch song for flawed genius Tommy Cooper. Here’s a sneak preview of the lyrics before the song has its first public outing on the Solar Stage of Einstein’s Garden, Friday 19 April:
Just before I released the Spacedog song For Laika on iTunes and Amazon, the writer James Burt showed me this wonderful set of comic strips, depicting alternative, happy endings for the dog. They’ve been drawn by Nick Abadzis, creator of the graphic novel, Laika, which tells the story of the dog and her fate.
Phantom Circuit had already sent me the first strip, where you see Laika eject from Sputnik II and parachute into the hands of her trainer. Other endings involving alien intelligences and canine superpowers. The happy endings were sponsored by Big Planet Comics in Washington DC who are celebrating their 25th birthday – you can also see them all on the Bleeding Cool website.
Three photos of Spacedog’s afternoon at BAFTA, where my performance on theremin was enhanced by a gorgeous psychedelic lightshow, created by artist Julian Hand. The lighting effects were all created live, in 1960s fashion, using physical odds and ends. The speckles you can see in this black-and-white photo were created by passing light through a colander. Out of shot is Stephen on bells and Jenny and Hugo the robotic vent doll on vocals.
Our performance was for the London Short Film Festival, curated by Rushes and Soho Shorts. We were there to accompany a session by Arthertz and Ridley Scott Associates, who were showing their new short film, Sonus.
WIRED: The Future of Music is an evening of music, sonic inventions and talks, exploring where the music industry may be heading. Following my feature in this month’s Wired magazine, Spacedog will be playing a short set at this event at the Hospital Club, London, 20 July. I’ll report back with news of other performers on the bill – it sounds like an interesting night!
This weekend, I played with a gaggle of fellow saw players and other artists from Foz Foster’s Sawchestra. Foz hired a barge along the Regent’s Canal, London, and we climbed aboard, performing to anyone who wanted to go adrift with us for 15 minutes. I had a lovely day extemporising with the other musicians, dodging the rainstorms and meeting this marvellous, inflatable arthropod.
This event was for Shoreditch Festival, a day celebrating East London’s waterways across towpaths, green spaces, basins, bridges and other unusual spaces along the Regent’s Canal. Our event was sponsored by the Barbican, London. I performed on saw, waterphone and some of Foz’ toy instruments. I also brought along a hydrophone so we could add some live sounds from below the waterline.