| …with John Bowers

…with John Bowers

  • 12 Jun

  • paul

Paul and John’s Tragic Experiments

Under the conditions of pandemic lockdown, we have been experimenting with varied strategies for improvisation and documentation – strategies which do some kind of justice to the madness we are thrown into and do not take for granted the technologies that attempt (often superficially) to heal or mend our disjunctions. Rather we want to investigate a form of improvisation that is uneasy, materially fractured and subject to divergent interpretations. Whence our Tragic Experiments, each some form of improvised sonic encounter, each inelegant and incomplete.

Tragic Experiment 2

John’s Testimonial:


This is John Bowers’ account of the second of the Tragic Experiments where he and Paul Stapleton try to improvise their music using video conferencing technologies.

On 24th April 2020, they connected with Jitsi Meet. It was a warm day in both Newcastle and Belfast, so they put on beachwear. They each recorded their own local sound. Jitsi also captured the improvisation – live editing automatic cuts from one camera to another probably on the assumption that it was dealing with speech. Between the three of them – John, Paul and Jitsi – there were several recordings giving different versions of what happened.

John decided to combine all these to cause trouble for any coherent sense of ‘being there’, either recorded or reconstructed. All the recordings are chopped up and played back together but not in any fixed time order. Early, late and middle (where he sings) can appear at any time. The frames from Jitsi’s video are synchronised with the audio but only approximately as the recordings are of different lengths and, besides, different times can appear simultaneously, whereupon frames are shuffled. Up to 48 different fragments can be heard at one time. John used the Pure Data and Processing programming languages and improvised using the Sensel Morph multitouch controller to make this (remix) performance in one take with no further edits.

Paul’s Testimonial:
Not content with the first tragedy, John and Paul reconnected via Jitsi on the 24th April 2020. Network acoustics and domestic spaces were intertwined through a series of tubes, actuators, actants and transducers. This video documents Paul’s account of the incident.
Paul Stapleton’s version can be found at: https://vimeo.com/424983892 [password protected for the time being] [no, you can’t have the password, but more information on the public premiere of this video will be coming soon]

Previous Tragic Experiments…

Tragic Experiment 1

Paul’s Testimonial:
On the 26th March 2020 John Bowers and Paul Stapleton decided, while catching up on Skype, to also connect via Jitsi, Zoom and Messenger at the same time. This is Paul’s tale of what followed. The truth of the matter is less certain, but rest assured, this was not a one-off incident.


John’s Testimonial:
On the 26th March 2020, John Bowers in Newcastle and Paul Stapleton in Belfast contacted each other using as many online video conferencing methods as they could muster. Simultaneously. Inspired by the wails of feedback and digital splutter, the discrepancies and distortions, they turned on their synthesizers and each recorded what was going on. This is John Bowers’ testimony – made up of fragments from the video frames that were recorded, then mashed and mosaicked, together with a layering of varied audio accounts of the event.