Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Drone Ensemble mention in the Guardian review!

Tusk festival review – multisensory showcase of sonic adventures
Dave Simpson


In darkness illuminated by spooky projections, Cee Haines AKA Chaines fuses guitar, clarinet, keyboard, looped banks of her own singing and at one point screaming to produce a mesmeric collage of ecclesiastical beauty and creeping dread. When a young woman in the crowd performs bizarre, interpretative dance movements in slow motion, it’s difficult to work out whether she is part of the audience or the performance. Now in its third year at the Sage, after intimate beginnings in 2011 at the Star and Shadow cinema, Tusk is a three-day festival of the experimental, weird and wonderful that features artists who rarely play in the UK. Ramones, Blondie and the Fall producer Craig Leon spotlights his lesser-known yet enduring guise of electronic composer. With longtime synth partner Cassell Webb and a string quartet, a superb performance draws from 1981’s pioneering proto-techno work Nommos and his forthcoming Anthology of Interplanetary Folk Music vol 2: The Canon, blurring the divide between contemporary classical, synth punk and banging techno.

There is much to see and hear, from the visually stunning and hypnotic mechanical humming lyres of Newcastle’s Drone Ensemble (in the nearby Workplace gallery) to the furiously intense free jazz of Irreversible Entanglements and local artist Joseph Hillier’s thrillingly disorienting Blind Blind Blind Blind installation: sculptures bonded to four simultaneously playing vinyl copies of Talking Heads’ Blind interfere with each turntable’s stylus to create a constantly changing cacophony. The festival’s uncompromising spirit is such that comically chaotic Blackpool avant punks Ceramic Hobs – bearded men in dresses, a topless, beer-bellied singer and songs about mental health and curry sauce – are among the more conventional offerings.
“If it’s too much, earplugs are available,” says the woman welcoming anyone tiptoeing towards Otomo Yoshihide’s experiments in extreme noise, using an electric guitar and record decks. The Japanese avant garde master submits the latter to such sonic and physical assaults – pounding them with his fists – you suspect he will eventually be arrested for crimes against musical equipment. New Yorker Lea Bertucci’s experimental music is easier on the ear, but no less adventurous. She uses visuals, but her vast, spacious fusion of clarinet, sax, glitch and echo and is best experienced with eyes closed, when her pensive, beautiful noise hits like a multisensory massage.

Bertucci also helms Double Bass Crossfade, in which two upright bass players playing with bows fill the vast Sage concourse with improvised sub bass. Also from NYC, guitar/percussion duo 75 Dollar Bill channel Sun Ra, Middle Eastern and African music into mesmerically repetitive, urban desert rock. Sarah Davachi’s stellar Sunday set combines electronic hums and string players, who hold each solitary note for minutes at a time, building to a gradually evolving symphony of stillness.
Bradford’s Hameed Brothers Qawwal and Party pull one of the biggest crowds to the largest hall for a euphorically received set of Punjabi singing, dizzying tabla and percussion. A similar throng assembles for legendary minimalist composer Terry Riley, with his son Gyan. Playing piano and electric guitar, the father and son have an almost telepathic connection as they lock into the 83-year-old’s subtly jazz-influenced repetitive grooves before the younger man hurtles off into another dimension. Blasting from a symphony of Clangers-like noises to a sublime piece for melodica and guitar epitomises Tusk’s celebration of sound and possibilities.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Pinnel at TUSK

I was delighted to experience Pinnel playing at the Sage on Friday night! Newcastle-based multi-disciplinary artist Lindsay Duncanson’s work “concerns people and space and how our relationship to landscape is mediated through culture and history; how we negotiate the sublime, the unimaginable, the beauty and fear of modern life”. 

Lindsay formed the Noizechoir experimental vocal group with partner Marek Gabrysch and they have since performed across the UK and Europe, including at TUSK Festival. 

The Noize Choir is a performance ensemble that was formed in 2011 by Newcastle based artists Lindsay Duncanson and Marek Gabrysch. It involves a loose collective of noise enthusiasts with a common desire to use the human voice free of the traditional restraints of typical choral settings, language or musical notation. Their work is based on a shared fascination with science, culture and landscape. They indulge in phenomenological explorations of museum collections, or imaginings of our geological past. Replicating and experimenting with the sound of machines or the natural world, Noize Choir continually find ways to push and pull the idea of what a choir can be. Noize Choir have composed and performed in French churches and on Austrian radio, at the Baltic Centre for contemporary arts, The Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle Upon Tyne, and the Grade II listed Preston Bus station.


As an artist, she’s very interested in landscape and location and the human relationship to it. 

As Pinnel, Lindsay creates what she calls “vocal soundscapes” using live looping and her own voice, building compelling rhythms and rounds through little more than breath and punctuated utterances and creating an affect that’s as much machine-like as human.


Saturday, 13 October 2018

Thanks to all who came to the Drone Ensemble performance

Thanks to all who came experience Drone Ensemble launch TUSK 2018 with their Lyres of Lemniscate performance at Workplace Foundation last night. It was great to see so many people crammed into the gallery, seemingly 'enjoying' being in the 'Drone zone'!

The exhibition continues until 27th October, and there are instruments that we did not play yesterday that come alive in the exhibition, so go back to have another Drone Ensemble experience.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Bobby Baker talks about Great & Tiny War on BBC Newcastle Radio

Follow the link below to hear Bobby Baker talking about her Great & Tiny War on BBC Newcastle Radio on Monday morning.


It's in 2 parts - listen at 10.20 and 10.38.

Drone Ensemble Performance & Artist Talk at TUSK Festival - Lyres of Lemniscate - WORKPLACE Gallery

Drone Ensemble Events during TUSK 2018


Drone Ensemble are delighted to be kicking off TUSK 2018 with a live performance at WORKPLACE Gallery as part of their current Lyres of Lemniscate exhibition. 

4pm - Workplace Gallery – TUSK Festival + Fringe opening performance by DRONE ENSEMBLE

10.30am - Workplace Gallery: DRONE ENSEMBLE in conversation with John Bowers about their TUSK Festival Lyres of Lemniscate exhibition

Exhibition open: 29th September – 27 th October
Opening hours: Tuesday – Saturday 11am – 5pm
TUSK Festival weekend (12/13/14 th October) – 10am – 6pm
Workplace Gallery
The Old Post Office
19-21 West Street

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

The Joy of Text on BBC Radio 4

Artist and broadcaster Bob and Roberta Smith, famed for his hand-painted slogans, goes on a personal journey to explore how text and language are used in art. 

From monks in Cistercian Abbeys and medieval bureaucrats, to conceptual art subversives challenging who could be considered artists, Bob and Roberta Smith draws on a wide range of traditions. He also re-examines his own formative experiences with the interplay of words, colour and form to bring listeners into the present. 

Tom Phillips

Over the course of the programme, we're led on an emotional trip through a world of cut up Victorian novellas - and we encounter pop-art printing making nuns working at the coal face of the civil rights. Bob and Roberta Smith meets political cartoonists creating new languages, artists fusing text and images to give voices to the marginalised, and a group of women democratising art through text, images and a Risograph printing machine. 

Corita Kent

This programme reveals that - away from plays, novels or song lyrics - text and language have been adopted by artists in contrasting and ever-evolving ways, but these all reveal that text is an art form in itself. Featuring Steve Bell, Corita Kent, Janette Parris, Tom Phillips, Donna Steele and Sofia Niazi.


Monday, 8 October 2018

A Poetry Remedy

Last week I was fortunate enough to have my first 1:1 poetry consultation with Newcastle University Teaching Fellow Sue Spencer.

Following in the steps of local poets Julia Darling & Cynthia Fuller and ‘The Emergency Poet’, Teaching Fellow Sue Spencer believes that poetry can help in troubled times.

On National Poetry Day Sue was in the Walton Library offering students and staff a unique opportunity to interact with poetry via a 1:1 consultation. Sue listened to you and discussed whatever topic you wanted to talk about. Based on this conversation, she carefully selected a poem that might help clarify, illuminate, soothe and comfort you. 

I found this experience to be meaningful, helpful and stimulating. The poem that she chose for me resonates deeply with me and is highly appropriate given my situation and the conversation we shared. I hope for, and look forward to, more Poetry Remedies in the future.                                                 

Sue Spencer is a teaching fellow in Combined Honours and an alumna of the MA Creative Writing (Poetry). She has over 10 years of experience using poetry to facilitate wellbeing in education and health care. She has worked alongside The Emergency Poet and has developed a passion for creative approaches to reflective practice and personal development.

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Thanks to all who joined Drone Ensemble for the opening of Lyres of Lemniscate

After weeks of hard work and planning, and a very hectic final week installing the exhibition in the gallery, on Friday night Drone Ensemble presented our first exhibition, Lyres of Lemniscate, at Workplace Gallery. We would like to thank everyone who came to the exhibition, and hope you will be back for some of the other programmed activities throughout the exhibition.

The work is a slowly evolving sonic meditation of drone tonalities and hypnotic visual stimuli using hand-made instruments, objects and electronic circuits to produce an installation that plays with the interaction between electronic and acoustic sound production.

Initially the sound emanates from two 18-string lyres whose strings are activated by magnetic induction. The vibration of the strings is relayed by coil pickups into a computer and can be re-routed using a games console into vibrational speakers that play upon suspended bone china ceramic disks, bringing another acoustic sound into the space.

In conjunction with the sonic element, the gallery is presented as a space in flux; altering visually as the exhibition progresses and new elements are included. The ceramic materials are employed to alter state when exposed to sonic vibrations and differing frequencies; cracking and breaking to activate percussive sounds. Traces of the evolving nature of the work are evidenced further in film, presenting an examination of the delicate material from fluid to solid, brittle and sonorous.

We will next be performing on Friday 12th October at 4pm as the opener to TUSK Festival. 

The exhibition runs 28 September - 27 October 2018
The gallery is open Tuesday - Saturday, 11am-5pm

Friday, 28 September 2018

Drone Ensemble - Lyres of Lemniscate - WORKPLACE FOUNDATION, Gateshead - Friday 28th September 6-8pm

Drone Ensemble are delighted to invite you to the preview of


Friday 28th September - 6-8pm

Launch event: Friday 28th September 2018, 6pm – 8pm
Performance at 6.30pm

Workplace Foundation, Gateshead
The Old Post Office, 19-21 West Street
Gateshead, NE8 1AD, UK

Exhibition continues: 29th September – 27th October
Opening hours: Tuesday – Saturday 11am – 5pm
TUSK Festival weekend (12/13/14th October) - 10am – 6pm

Drone Ensemble are delighted to invite you to Lyres of Lemniscate a new commission by Drone Ensemble at Workplace Foundation, Gateshead as part of TUSK Festival 2018. The commission has been developed following an open call to individual artists or collectives from the North East of England working across media who are specifically interested in the intersection between contemporary visual art and experimental music.

The commission was initiated by Workplace Foundation and Tusk Festival supported by the Digital Cultures Research Group in CultureLab at Newcastle University. Drone Ensemble were selected by an interview panel that included representatives from Workplace Foundation, Tusk Music, the Digital Cultures Research Group and artist and musician Rachel Lancaster.
For more information please visit



Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Making ceramic discs for Lyres of Lemnicate

On Friday Bex and I made real progress making the ceramic discs. We loaded 6 shelves worth of discs into the kiln and left them to fire over the weekend. The discs are extremely fragile, and even transferring them from the work surface to the kiln shelf can break them. Inevitably, we lost a few during this process.

In the evening I got mastered the art of untangling guitar strings. I then looped them at the end and attached them to the lyres.

We then spent a long time attempting to get the e-bows in the correct position so that they would create the vibrations necessary for the Humbukkers to pick up the sound. Unfortunately by 10pm we had not succeeded, and we decided to call it a day, hoping that we would be fresher in the morning after some sleep.

Monday, 24 September 2018

Biscuit makes himself at home

This week Bobby returned to 133 Sidney Grove in Newcastle, along with her lovely dog, Biscuit.

Biscuit was given a very warm welcome, and he settled in very quickly. I like to think that the calmness of the household passed onto him. His favourite spot was right in the middle of the kitchen, so he was literally the centre of attention. He proved to be very popular with the visitors (and hosts!) 

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Working on the Lyres with Drone Ensemble

Last night Drone Ensemble had a studio visit from Paul from Workplace Gallery and Lee from TUSK. We showed them the lyres and talked through where we are at in terms of making the ceramic discs, the film and our plans for the curation of the exhibition.

Afterwards, we worked on getting the e-bow mechanism positioned correctly so that when it is in contact with the string, it is activated and makes a sound. 

Jamie showed us the system he is building that will enable manipulation of the signals going to each speaker. This introduces an aspect of interaction, and the audience will be able to use a joystick to control the vibrations of the different speakers.

We tested different ways in which the ceramic discs could be installed so that they vibrate over the speakers enough so as to make a sound and have the potential to fall off, but not too much so as to immediately fall off and smash. This is something that requires further thought and experimentation!

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Drone Ensemble - Lyres of Lemniscate at Workplace Foundation, Gateshead




Workplace Gallery
The Old Post Office
19-21 West Street
Gateshead, NE8 1AD

We are delighted to announce an exhibition of new commissioned work by Drone Ensemble at Workplace Foundation, Gateshead as part of TUSK 
Festival 2018. The exhibition was selected through an open call to individual artists or collectives from the North East of England working across media who are specifically interested in the intersection between contemporary visual art and experimental music.

For the exhibition, Drone Ensemble will create a slowly evolving sonic meditation of drone tonalities and hypnotic visual stimuli.

Mechanical means, such as motors, have been utilised to produce an evolving drone with complex textures and harmonies. These motorised instruments have the capacity to ‘play’ themselves, with little human intervention. In conjunction with the sonic element, the gallery is a space in flux; altering visually as the exhibition progresses. Ceramic materials are employed to alter state when exposed to sonic vibrations and differing frequencies; cracking and breaking to activate percussive sounds. Traces of the evolving nature of the work are evidenced in other elements of the exhibition, referencing the relevance of process and experimentation in creating an evolving work.

Within the exhibition, the ensemble will perform alongside their installation; building upon the underlying base drone that it already manufactures.

The opportunity to work with TUSK and Workplace on this joint commission has encouraged us to shift into new territory; placing further emphasis on the aesthetic of what we produce, as well as the sonic elements. Most Drone Ensemble members have fine art backgrounds so this exhibition has given us the opportunity to apply our knowledge, skills to explore the place where the visual and sonic may intersect. Drone Ensemble 2018

This commission to create new work was initiated by Workplace Foundation and Tusk Festival supported by the Digital Cultures Research Group in CultureLab at Newcastle University.

Drone Ensemble were selected by an interview panel that included representatives from Workplace Foundation, Tusk Music, the Digital Cultures Research Group and artist and musician Rachel Lancaster.

Artists Biography

Drone Ensemble is an experimental sound group that uses hand-built instruments in extended improvised performances which have enthuses on drone tonalities. The instruments draw influence from musical traditions from around the world but often end up being unique in their playability, construction and sound. Drone Ensemble has a fluid membership and although there is a group of core members we bring new members in without audition and promote an attitude of open membership and a belief that exciting and cutting edge sound art is not an exclusive activity but rather is better enjoyed through a sense of community

Project partners:

TUSK Festival presents its 8th edition of the annual event this October 12-14. Since 2011, TUSK has presented artists from almost 30 countries and a wide range of stylistic approaches to adventurous music and related art forms. Our uniquely diverse approach to festival programming has created countless first-time appearances by artists in the region/UK and we have a special interest in artists working at the fringes of typical genre definitions. TUSK is also highly regarded for its film programme, exhibitions and the insights it offers into the work of often previously unknown artists. Full details of this year’s programme are available at our website.
Culture Lab and the Digital Cultures Research Group
Culture Lab is a hub for research in digital creative practice and film practice at Newcastle University. Culture Lab lets members engage in experimental and cross-disciplinary projects in creative digital arts. Members work in technologically rich and custom designed environments. The Digital Cultures Studio is a centre for creative digital practice. The research group includes artists, designers, musicians, and performers. Researchers' work in the Digital Cultures Studio is experimental and engaged with contemporary technology.

Rachel Lancaster is an artist and musician who lives and works in Newcastle upon Tyne, and is represented by Workplace Gallery. Lancaster’s practice focuses on the crossover and intersections between the languages of painting, cinema and music. She has taken part in numerous exhibitions, projects and performances. Alongside her visual art practice Lancaster is a musician and has been a member of numerous musical projects including Silver Fox, (with releases on Upset The Rhythm, London), formerly a member of Gravenhurst (Warp records) live band and A M Grave (with Stephen Bishop/Opal Tapes) alongside more recently performing solo material under her own name. She has previously worked on audio/visual collaborations with various artists including a commission with musician Wolfgang Voigt, (founder of Kompakt Records, Cologne, Germany) creating large-scale HD visuals for his live performance at Tusk Festival 2016.

Friday, 14 September 2018

In Every Dream Home - David Foggo - System Gallery

It is not uncommon to find less than tasteful wall art in pubs, and that makes System Gallery an appropriate venue for David Foggo's current exhibition. 

In Every Dream Home is a text/image series that utilises a cross-section of wall art archetypes/stereotypes, encompassing, amongst others, representations of love, spirituality, nature, patriotism, gender, food, music and film, travel, animals, sport and childhood. 

David usefully provides a definition of Wall art in the gallery:

Wall art noun. Bland, decorative, reproduction canvases, normally acquired from household furnishing stores by individuals or organisations with no taste or imagination and then hung in their homes or place of business. Often used as a way of covering up the cracks...

But these are no ordinary examples of Wall art. Foggo has worked onto each of the canvases, subverting their decorative function by overlaying them with a variety of unsettling texts. The alterations are minimal so that the canvases maintain their commonplace identity.

"This process could be seen as an act of reclamation, where the ornamental is transported into the realm of fine art.

The self-authored texts; simultaneously pithy and poetic, and underpinned by the use of word play, incorporate skew-whiff philosophies, dystopian statements, aphorisms and repetitive narratives.

The canvases are all sourced from charity shops, where their once idealised purpose has been dismantled by being discarded and offered up for recycling." 

David Foggo 

The exhibition has been carefully curated so that the images relate to, or take some meaning from their positioning. 

For example, the 'Bound' canvas is constrained between two windows, barely having enough room to breathe.

An iconic image of Elvis has 'fountain' painted on, and is positioned slightly above and to the left of an image of the Angel of the North which bears the word 'molehill'. Could this be a playful take on the familiar saying "make a mountain out of a molehill"?

The exhibition is open until 15th September, so I encourage you to pop along tomorrow to ensure you see it. It certainly put a smile on my face! 

Thursday, 13 September 2018

What I'm reading

I am really looking forward to getting stuck in to the latest additional to my personal library; Diary Drawings, Mental Illness and Me by Bobby Baker.

In 1996 the artist Bobby Baker was diagnosed as having borderline personality disorder. Her subsequent struggle to overcome severe mental and later physical illness lasted for 11 years, and was unknown to anyone outside her close family, friends and colleagues. The book contains 158 drawings and watercolours that were selected by Bobby from the hundreds more that she created daily as a private way of coming to terms with her experience.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Northern Nori destalled

Since June my work I have been exhibiting at Great North Museum:Hancock as part of Which Way North which was an exhibition curated by Grainne Sweeney for the Great Exhibition of the North. My work, Northern Nori was commissioned especially for this exhibition.

Yesterday I returned to the Great North Museum:Hancock to de-install the work. It was a strange experience. Already lots of the works had been packed up, removed and were being returned to the various institutions that they were loaned from. 

Monday, 10 September 2018

Great & Tiny War featured on BBC Look North (North East & Cumbria)

Tonight (Monday 10th September) BBC Look North (North East & Cumbria) featured Bobby Baker's Great & Tiny War.

Sharuna Sagar visited the Great & Tiny War house today.

She was given a tour by one of my fellow hosts, Hannah.

Like everyone who does the tour, she ended in the kitchen where she was offered a cup of tea (other beverages available!) and a biscuit

If you missed the live version at 6:30pm, fear not as it is available on BBC iplayer


Saturday, 8 September 2018

Final day to see Northern Nori at Great North Museum: Hancock

Sunday 9th September is the final day of Which Way North at Great North Museum:Hancock, and therefore is your last opportunity to see Northern Nori.

It's been an amazing honour to exhibit alongside such well-respected artists, designers and innovators. I would like to thank Which Way North Curator, Grainne Sweeney for commissioning me. Thanks also to Paul Fox at the Great North Museum:Hancock, for all his assistance.

Friday, 7 September 2018

Press launch of Bobby Baker's Great & Tiny War

After years of planning and hard work, Bobby Baker's Great & Tiny War opened its doors to the press today. I was honoured to be giving the first few tours, and was delighted to hear visitors being so complementary and positive about the project. 

It's still not quite sunk in that this amazing project is taking place so close to where I live, 133 Sidney Grove. Talk about being on my doorstep!

To come and experience the work for yourself book online 
You've got until 9th November, but be warned - tickets are selling fast!

Great & Tiny War on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme

Get a flavour for 4,701 meals by listening to talking about her Great & Tiny War on here on iPlayer, 1hr42 in.