Of Air & Ear
Paul Hamlyn Hall
Royal Opera House
Time Out Magazine London
Experimental sound-art collaborations are all in a day’s work for innovative conceptual artist Scanner, says David Phelan
Ifyou want to push boundaries, then ask Scanner. Since this ROH project is aimed at winning new and diverse audiences, it’s understandable that the ROH should turn to an artist who has a wide range of collaborations to his name.
Bryan Ferry, Radiohead and DJ Spooky have all been former collaborators, so their fans will be interested, but Scanner has also worked in conjunction with the Royal Ballet and Michael Nyman, proving the infinite adaptability of his appeal.
You only have to take a look at his past work to see why: on one occasion, he performed with 100 violinists and Laurie Anderson. His ‘Sound Surface’ was Tate Modern’s first sound-art commission, in 2004; he has even worked on designing the sound for a new car horn to be used in America, and his BBC radio production adaptability of of Jean Cocteau’s ‘The Human Voice’ was award-winning. Small wonder, then, that his renown is international with work presented in Australia, the USA and Asia, as well as across many parts of Europe. To try to categorise Scanner’s work is tricky, because it frequently crosses over from music concerts to installations – his recordings include the albums, ‘Mass Observation’, adaptability of ‘Delivery’, and his 1998 album, ‘The Garden is Full of Metal (Homage to Derek Jarman’), mixed recordings of interviews by Jarman with electronic sounds and melodies. He admits to being a conceptual artist, a writer and a musician. He also answers to the name Scannerfunk, although he was born with the name Robin Rimbaud. He took his stage name from the police scanner he used in his early recordings, picking up radio signals in the airwaves and using them as an instrument in his compositions. He became known as a ‘telephone terrorist’ after using electronic communications as the raw material for aural collages of electronic music. The avant-garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen described him as ‘very experimental … he has a good sense of atmosphere’. Scanner describes Stockhausen as an influence, along with Cabaret Voltaire. So what might be expected from this latest venture? Scanner has developed the work in conjunction with the visual artist, Sophie Clements, who creates works that experiment with sound and music. There will also be some live performances with the percussionist Pete Lockett. Further details are being kept under wraps, but with Scanner’s pedigree it promises to be nothing less than fascinating.