Sarah Mayhew Craddock looks forward to an aural extravaganza

Oxford’s annual festival of contemporary experimental music and sound art, Audiograft, is back — one of the most exciting events on its cultural calendar.

A mix of new, experimental music, sound art events and exhibitions, from Wednesday this year’s festival stands to open ears to extraordinary and surprising sounds and music.

From Argentinian musician Lucio Capece’s speakers mounted on pendulums and helium balloons, to the pioneering work of Andy Guhl who fuses sight and sound into a single experience, Audiograft 2015 promises to be sense-expanding.

Curated by Oxford Brookes’ Sonic Art Research Unit (SARU) and promoted with Oxford Contemporary Music (OCM), contributing artists have been picked from across the globe.

Among home-grown talent, Felicity Ford, Paul Newland, James Saunders and Jennifer Walshe have been commissioned to create works that explore the intersection of field recording and instrumental sound.

The culmination of their work, Cutting into the Continuum, features Australian-born Matthew Shlomowitz and Oxford Brookes Professor in Composition Paul Whitty. The performance at Holywell Music Room will take Antoine Beuger’s notion of music as ‘all that is (sounding)’ as its starting point.

The festival will once again include a new commission, Leviathan’s Electrolarynx, presented by Keir Williams and Joseph Fairweather Hole (Live Digital Design) at the Story Museum, Pembroke Street.

Fairweather Hole, born in Chipping Norton, describes the commission as an interactive multimedia sculptural installation that creates a unique whale song when activated by a gentle touch. Fairweather Hole continued: “We’ve made space itself a speaker, like venturing into the inside of a whale. We’ve made sound resonate through the physical elements of the installation, and we’re really looking forward to finding out what the public’s experience of this other-worldly, immersive experience will be.”

At the heart of the festival is a group show at Oxfordshire Visual Arts Development Agency (OVADA) that will mark a UK debut for Mario De Vega, Arno Fabre and Minoru Sato.

Mexican De Vega explores danger, failure and human vulnerability. He has previously worked with violent and volatile materials such as gunpowder, overheating microwaves and bullets to produce situations in which the audience encounters its fears.

Imbued with suspense and symbolism, French artist Fabre’s sound installation sits at the more mysterious end of the sonic spectrum. Fabre will exhibit an electro-mechanically rotated bell that, despite ringing frequently, does so with no prescribed pattern, neither marking time nor calling us for a specific purpose.

Japanese artist Minoru Sato explores physical phenomena as embodied through light, sound and heat. Turning the cavernous OVADA exhibition space, previously a warehouse, into an experimental laboratory he will use a small heater to present an exploration of the effect of heat on acoustics.

Another highlight is a performance by pioneers of post-minimalism, Icebreaker, a 12-piece founded by James Poke and John Godfrey in 1989.

Appealing to contemporary classical, rock and alternative music audiences alike, Icebreaker is considered one of the world’s truly cutting-edge contemporary music ensembles. Icebreaker, currently working with a new generation of composers in experimental, improvised and electronic music, will present its new project, Recycled, on Sunday, March 22, in the Assembly Room, Oxford Town Hall (doors 7pm, tickets £10/£8 concessions).

Audiograft 2015
* Central Oxford venues
* March 11 to 27
* Tickets: £10/£8 concessions + booking fee
* Visit for full listings and ticket link