Lights Out Listening Group

23 Mar

Hanging out in a dark room listening to experimental radio and audio may not sound like a good time. But I beg to differ.

Last night I had my first taste of the Lights Our Listening Group, a monthly event for audio aficionados at the Old Hairdressers in Glasgow. It took place in a sort of industrial looking room above a bar called the Old Hairdressers on Renfield Lane, with simple chairs and benches laid out, and a few tables with candles, and a program of what you will be hearing that night – perhaps around ten different pieces, split into two acts.  People enjoy a drink or two before the show, and then the lights go out, and you blow out your candles.

My ears had very little idea what to expect.

The pieces ranged from creative stories to experimental electric audio produced by short circuiting an old yamaha keyboard. (The later managed to create some truly bizarre liquid sounds.) Some of the pieces had a narrative, some where more impressionistic, and some where purely atmospheric – and there was no discernable order to the program, other than perhaps a spacing of the different styles. One of the pieces was also interactive, with the audience were asked to whisper messages to their neighbours.

I found it deeply immersive and stimulating, in a way that is very hard for other mediums or events to match. Why? Because listening to something in the dark, with other people who are all focusing intently on something, seemed to create a feeling of ritual. The dark allows your imagination to activate, but the presence of other people in the room is equally important. Compared with most modern cinemas, it was also small and intimate, but with space between people, and acoustically it was a much barer room, all wood and concrete. And, in a strange way, it was three dimensional in a way that 3d films fail to be. The sound is able to envelop you in the dark.

Most of the pieces being played were made by Scottish based sound artists or radio makers, and most of them were also there on the night, and part of the audience. That’s something that is important to the organisers, who want LOLG to develop as a community of sound artists and creative people, rather than just a showcase of what is going on out there in the field.  And what’s great is that, as well as being a free event, anyone can submit their audio – whether they be new to the medium, or highly experienced.

For more information about the Lights Out Listening Group, check out their blog and their Facebook page. The next event will be in May.

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