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Oram Awards 2023

Oram Awards 2023

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The Oram Awards were established in 2017 – in partnership with The Radiophonic Institute, PRS Foundation, the Daphne Oram Trust & the British Council – with the aim of elevating the work and voices of women, trans, non-binary and gender diverse music creators. This year's awards took took place on 19 Nov 2023 at Kings Place, London. Audio.com was invited to the ceremony and interview the winners about their work in sound, music and associated technologies.

PodcastInterviewrEmPiT g0dDe$$AfromermNo HomeHelen Anahita WilsonHannan JonesNatalie RoeGeo AghineaMaya Al KhaldiDaphne Oram
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Hello and welcome to a special edition of the audio.com podcast. I'm Ilia Rogachevski. Today's episode features a report from the Oram Awards, which took place on Sunday 19th of November 2023 at the King's Place Concert Hall in London. The Oram Awards were established in 2017 in partnership with the Radiophonic Institute, PRS Foundation, the Daphne Oram Trust and the British Council, with the aim of elevating the work and voices of women, trans and non-binary and gender diverse music creators. There are several winners, six from the UK and two international artists, but only one category, innovation in sound, music and associated technologies. The winners of the 2023 edition are Maya Al Khaldi, Viktoria / rEmPiT g0dDe$$, Natalie Roe, Cecilia Morgan aka Afromerm, Helen Anahita Wilson, Hannan Jones, No Home and Geo Aghinea. The awards are named after the late British composer Daphne Oram, who was a pioneer in electronic music and an early practitioner of musique concrète. She founded the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in 1957 and later developed her own instrument the Oramics Machine, which converted shapes and waveforms drawn onto celluloid into sound. Her 1972 book, An Individual Note of Music, Sound and Electronics, explored themes relating to the physics of sound and is seen as a pivotal text in the field. It has since been reprinted by the Daphne Oram Trust and Anomie Publishing. I was invited to attend awards this year, which consisted of a synth workshop led by Distribution of Power, a panel discussion chaired by the writer, academic and Daphne Oram trustee, Frances Morgan, and the award ceremony itself. The evening closed with live performances by a few of this year's winners, Afromerm, No Home, Hannan Jones and Viktoria / rEmPiT g0dDe$$. After the ceremony, I got to interview some of the artists about their work. You will hear a couple of minutes of conversation, plus a little bit of their music too. I am bookending the podcast with tracks by the two international winners. Victoria Yam, aka rEmPiT g0dDe$$, who you can hear in the background right now, is a producer and DJ who is part of the Southeast Asian experimental electronic scene. She splits her time between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, and her work ventures into the darkest recesses of industrial club music. The podcast will play out with "Sami's Lullaby", by the Palestinian composer, Maya Al Khaldi. Maya's work explores voice and music of the past and present. She is inspired by Palestinian folklore and works with archival materials to imagine a sonic future. All songs from her debut album, Other World, include either lyrics, melodies or recordings from the audio archive of traditional Palestinian music from the Popular Arts Centre in Ramallah, Palestine. Cecilia Morgan: I'm Cil, and I'm Afromerm, that's the name that I won an Oram Award under, and I'm a composer and a sound artist who uses voice and electronics and lots of field recordings and elemental sounds from my practice to build soundscapes and sometimes soundtracks and live manipulations of natural sound. IR: Can you tell me about the Juniper instrument? It's something that you've built yourself and developed as part of your undergraduate. How does it work? CM: So Juniper is MIDI electronic music, and I'm definitely gravitate towards MIDI because I feel like it's a really accessible way to enter kind of the hardware space and have like really tactile relationships between what's happening in sound and what's happening in movement. And Juniper is that times 10 because she's movement reactive. I use some ultrasonic technology to map my movements to what's happening in my software on my computer. IR: As part of the Oram Award, you win a bursary, and I was reading that you were into develop the next stage Juniper 2.0. What exactly do you intend to change or improve? CM: So I've always, I mean, I envisioned when I first created her to use her in installations with dancers. And during lockdown, which was when I built it, it ended up kind of pivoting and becoming more of a solo instrument such was kind of the solitude that we were all experiencing in lockdown. I wasn't around any of my dancer friends, I didn't have kind of access to space to test out a more large scale instrument. I guess I want to make improvements to the hardware and just expand the possibilities of what she can do. So it's fairly open. But I guess I just want some space to deep dive and be like, okay, how can I level this up? IR: You performed at the Oram Award ceremony along with a flute player [Lluis Domènech Plana] and somebody playing keyboards [@lorenzthemusicguy]. So you performed in a trio basically. And I want to find out how did you come together working with other people? And what is that you kind of look for in group performance? CM: I really enjoy collaboration. I feel like it really feeds me on stage. I feel like it's symbiotic, we feed each other and I feel like it facilitates another level of kind of spontaneity and improvisation because there are more energies on stage to bounce off of. So things happen when I'm in a duo or a trio that might not happen when I'm playing solo. And I really enjoy that level of uncertainty because I feel like in life, I'm not really good at uncertainty, but on stage, I really embrace it. No Home: Hi, my name is Charlotte. I make music as No Home. It's experimental rock and pop music. I work a lot with like guitar and my sampler on stage and drum machines and synths. I'm pretty like not secretive person, but I don't really overly promote my music. Just because I think if you'll hear it, you'll hear it like somehow some way. And that's how I feel like most of the people who have heard my music before have like come to it. They've like heard it through a friend of a friend, which was more natural than like the algorithm feeding you something. IR: So your albums have a conceptual dimension. Your second album Young Professional covers themes about ambition or lack thereof, that sort of duality. What made you want to explore these ideas of slackerism and late capitalism, things like that? NH: I think the first song was already like critique and capitalism. This one was more like questioning what is the point of working so hard? And maybe it's also a question of because I also did this interview with someone who has like a zine. Her name is Osoto. And we were talking about how gentrification and how like money and structures have made it much harder to be like an artist and to like have your own space. So I thought a bit more about that for the second album. And I was like, well, what if there was like a commune and I was like looking and reading up about communes and stuff. And like it also has like this environmental slant of like people who have understood or thought about this in a way and that said, oh, okay, I want to do this a different kind of way. Was it in critique of capitalism? Maybe it's just like a way out of that sort of particular system of people like creating their own systems of circularity. I give you something, you give me something back. Like we grow the food and we eat it and it's quote unquote harmonious. IR: I was reading about you in The Wire. There's a story in there where you talk about going to the opera, and not really knowing much about opera, and the experience not necessarily moving you very much either. But you kind of saw it as a challenge or a way of pushing yourself further and experimenting with your voice. Is this sort of research a common thread in your work? And how important is it to kind of push and challenge yourself in this way? NH: I'm a researcher by day job. That's my job. So I like I'm obsessed with finding new things. But for that specific occasion, I was like, I wanted to go a bit further with my voice. When I was a child, I had like a big voice. And then I just like muted myself because I don't know, I didn't want to be in competition with anyone. But I was just trying to get to the point where the album matched the live performance in terms of vocals. So that specific time, I was like, okay, you know, trying to do trying to work out different situations and pushing stuff to the extreme. IR: I remember reading somewhere else that you found a Tumblr post by Grimes. And you learn to record because of that. So how's your production style developed since then? NH: It hasn't really improved that much. Yeah, I just I saw that Tumblr post and I was like, Oh, okay. I always wanted to like make my own songs. But I never knew how to record them. And it just like that Tumblr post like was so felt so easy. I started off in a garage band. I have like Ableton or whatever. But it's all about keeping bit clean, simple. IR: What attracts you to the lo-fi DIY sound aesthetic? NH: I guess like the most interesting things in the world are like made by people who are just trying to make affordable equipment. I really like like Bastl Instruments and they just make like lo-fi equipment. I mean, am I trying to engineer an album like Caroline Polachek? Like if it sounds good, don't miss too much of the formula. I probably will one day get out of like that sort of like lo-fi-ness. But for now, I'm like, I'm just chilling with it. I really enjoy it. Helen Anahita Wilson: My name is Helen Anahita Wilson, and I am a composer, sound artist, improviser, and pianist. My practice centers on exploring how we can share stories about our bodies and share biomedical information through music and sound. IR: So you have an artwork called Linea Naturalis, which is based on bioelectricity of plants. Can you elaborate a little bit more about how that works and what the concept behind that piece is? HAW: Sure, so Linea Naturalis is derived from a series of bioelectrical recordings from medicinal plants. And each one of those plants that I recorded is oncologically linked. So every single plant has a connection to cancer treatment. And when I recorded these, I performed minor adaptations to plants. So I was interested in looking at wound healing in plants. And what drives the healing is bioelectricity. So by recording that, I could get a series of very interesting sets of biodata, which I then converted into MIDI and then composed with into a long-form composition. Having had cancer treatment myself, I was really interested in engaging with the natural roots, natural derivations of that treatment. When you're going through it, the severity and the nature of that cytotoxicity, which you are being exposed to, is very frightening. And when I learned about the natural derivations of those drugs, I felt kind of reassured to some degree and certainly less frightened by those toxic agents. So what I hope to do with the work is to provide something for people to listen to whilst they're also receiving chemotherapy. It's a 45-minute long piece, which is the average time it takes for the contents of a drip bag to transfer from that bag into the system. Down that, what's called a line, which is why it's called Linea Naturalis, the natural line, to connect people back to nature. Because when you're in a hospital and you're receiving cancer treatment, you're generally in a very plastic, metallic, sterile environment. That sterility isn't necessarily conducive to a positive patient experience. So I thought by creating an opportunity for people to listen to a piece of music to connect them back to nature, that might soothe the experience in some way, especially because that acoustic environment of the hospital is often very harsh. There's a lot of echo going around. There are tons of machines which are beeping and whirring. And you also hear a lot of sounds of other people suffering, which you can't help but react to, and it heightens the whole experience. So that was the motivation behind the piece, and it's allowed me to explore all sorts of fascinating elements of medicinal plants, particularly in relation to bioelectricity and how bioelectricity fuels wound healing. As I say, having had treatment myself, I've done a lot of wound healing, so it was nice to come full circle with that and explore that with the plants as well. Hannan Jones: My name is Hannan Jones. I am an artist, and I work with sound at the core of my practice. I work in a collaborative way that brings together improvisation, electronic music, and also live performance. IR: So you have an interesting backstory. You're of Welsh-Algerian descent. You grew up in Western Australia, and you're based in Glasgow right now. You're interested in themes around migration and language, and the piece that you performed at the Oram Awards ceremony, there was a lot of sampling involved, live sampling, looping. Can you elaborate on what it was that you were doing there? HJ: The piece at the Oram Awards is an ongoing piece which is called Retell Atlas, and it is a sample-based piece that also brings in synthesizer, sometimes drum machine. Each time it's different. The origination of the project came from me starting to collect archives, K7s, which are cassettes, records, to try to understand my own history of Algeria and of traditional music as well as Raï music as well. And in that, I began to consider migration and consider how we listen and how we might respond or how we might embody histories, our own histories, our origins, our bloodlines. So with that, I began to recompose intuitively by sampling specific kind of records that I felt resonated with. This has then been dubbed onto an infinity tape. So what I'm doing is I'm using the kind of like collection of the past to represent and to also like echo what's happening in the moment. So a lot of it kind of comes into theory of like ontology, but also it's quite experimental and improvised. IR: During your performance, you gave a little bit of a preamble before playing a couple of samples, and I quite liked that. It reminded me sort of indirectly of Soviet discotheques. A journalist called Artemiy Troitsky would put on a Rolling Stones record or something, give a little bit of context about that record. It was a sort of a lecture, come discotheque, come listening session. And I got that vibe from what you were doing as well. It was kind of refreshing take on the sound art sampling format that you might expect to see with somebody like Christian Marclay or Philip Jeck or someone like that. In the write-up about the piece, you mentioned being influenced by Nicholas Collins. Is that his record Devil's Music, where he's sort of using proto-techno sampling, FM/AM radio stations? HJ: Yeah, I'm interested in the Devil's Music. And I love Nicholas Collins' approach, which is about kind of being site-specific as well. And I think that's really important. I think that it allows some new conversations to kind of be present. And I suppose that relates in what you're talking about, this introduction, I want people to come into the fold. I want people to be able to understand the process, because a lot of what happens within sound performance and music is there's kind of a barrier. It's a performance, whereas I see my kind of work as a sharing and as an opportunity to be vulnerable and as an ongoing learning situation in which, as I'm going through the motions, I want to also feel very much that so is the audience. And I think that those two things, what we're kind of speaking about, are aligned. And that's what happens with an improvisation. It's about capturing an energy, but it's also about being very live and being very present. And that's all I hope to do. I'm not so much focused on if it is a technically good performance. I'm kind of more interested in what comes out in these different ways. And this piece, I've performed multiple times. And each time, the climate around us is very different. The situations in the world are different. So I suppose that kind of speaks back to some of these interpretations and feelings in which we're also carrying with us to perform in the world. And so I see sound as like a conversation. Natalie Roe: Hi, I'm Natalie Roe. I'm originally from Solihull and now based in Cardiff. I'm a composer, an electronic artist. I really love to work with live electronics: performing with them, lots of modular synths, coding sometimes, turntables. Whatever I can get my hands on, I like to basically just mess around and make some sound with. IR: What makes you decide which materials, which instruments to use? What are your intentions when you pick something up? NR: I really like working with hardware. Pretty much anything I can get my hands on. I went through a phase of trying tape, then going to turntables, just trying to vary the practice as much as possible. The way I work with it is, I basically get it and try to make some sound out of it. I really try to experiment. I use it in its conventional way, but also look at how I can use it in an unconventional way: slightly more innovative, exciting, new. IR: I saw a video online where you're working with turntables as well. It might not be intentional, but I like that echo of Daphne Oram's use of turntables very early on in the development of electronic music and I wonder to what extent you are influenced by Daphne Oram and her work, and what it means to you to win this award this year? NR: So with the turntable piece that you must have seen, I was snapping vinyls and stacking them up on top of each other. That kind of different way of mixing records together but also getting that really nice crunchy sound when the needle is going over multiple records. So absolutely, the techniques and her work influence me, but one of the biggest influences is Daphne being a woman in an industry or a sector which is predominantly male based. Electronic music is for everyone and anyone but having such a strong female character is a huge influence. And it just continues to give me so much confidence to carry on being creative, even if it may mean that I am slightly outnumbered in the room. However, tonight, absolutely so nice to be surrounded by these winners and really get to know some artists who are female or female-identifying. It's really, really great! Geo Aghinea: I'm Geo Aghinea. I'm a music producer and vocalist. And what I think I want to incorporate in my music is pretty much... I know a lot of music is just only one emotion. And with my music, what I want is to kind of like have a mix of emotions or like a stage of feelings that I incorporate into the production. I'm releasing my first debut EP, I'll hand you a hand, and it's all coming together. IR: The Oram Awards, there's six winners plus two from the international category, so eight in total, and everybody is very different in terms of how they sound. And your work is much more in the sort of avant-pop space. Is this something that you've always been interested in, or is that something new for you? GA: So yeah, I think, because I also come from a background, so for example, I studied songwriting at university, so I come from that background, but I've always loved to experiment with sound. I think that also comes from the fact that I don't play any instruments, but I'm very good with software, so I love crafting my own sound, and that's also a big part of my practice. I would also say what I like to do is kind of blend different genres, so I agree, it could be pop in terms of structure, but I would say some songs are probably like, some are more soul, some are indeed more pop, some are probably a little bit more experimental or cinematic, so just kind of blend all this together while still keeping a grounded sonic identity. IR: And what do you think, winning the Oram Awards, how is that going to impact your creativity and your professional development? GA: Well, obviously it's going to impact positively my creative practices, because not only do I get to meet such talented artists, we're going to have a mentorship scheme program in which we're going to be assigned a mentor, and I'm going to get to learn from that, and also from these talented artists that I'm surrounded with. As a starting artist, it's kind of hard to get credibility, so I think this is one of my biggest achievements up to date, and it really means a lot, and I hope it's going to open new doors for me.

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