After the sell-out success of the inaugural festival in 2016, DEEP MINIMALISM returns in November. The festival showcases the pioneers of electronic and experimental music alongside works by a vibrant new generation of younger composers, sound artists and performers working in Europe and the USA. Programmed by cellist Oliver Coates, the weekend focuses on contemplative music and deep listening, both of which have been proven to have an impact on listeners’ mental health and wellbeing.
Meditation and mindfulness are becoming increasingly popular, especially in our hyper-connected digital age where there is pressure to be ‘always on’. There are no shortage of apps promising to help combat anxiety, reduce stress and improve sleep. Not to mention thousands of playlists focusing on relaxation through deep and concentrated listening and ASMR – a pleasurable physiological sensation induced by listening to certain sounds – which has most recently taken the internet by storm.
So, what is deep listening? It is described as a way of hearing in which we are fully present with what is happening in that moment. People often think of listening as a passive activity but deep listening is actually an active process. For the practice to be effective, listeners are required to be open, attentive, calm and receptive.
At this year’s festival, audiences will experience communal breathing, extreme quietness, minimalist patterns and ambient soundscapes, taking listeners through states of calm and focus. Here is a little more on what to expect from the weekend’s concerts.
Flautist Kathryn Williams playfully responds to her personal experience of chronic respiratory conditions in a piece which encourages the audience to breathe with the performer. Faced by painful and frustrating symptoms, Williams was forced to take music one breath at a time; ‘The project has led me to constantly strive for increased lung capacity and breath control, undertaking static apnoea courses, attending asthma clinics, and committing to intense personal training.’
Pianist Eliza McCarthy takes us on an experimental journey into extreme quietness with Morton Feldman’s Triadic Memories for solo piano. Feldman’s compositions require a deep level of focus and concentration, The Guardian comments; ‘[they] don't impose themselves on you, and they refuse to shout about their meaning or importance – even their length. They also resist your attempts to predict what might happen next.’
Hanne Darboven’s Wunschkonzert – a meditative listening experience for the audience which is conversely a feat of extreme stamina for the performer – will be performed in this concert by Oliver Coates. He explains: ‘Over time the viewer/listener becomes aware of detail. The attack, decay, tempo fluctuations, dynamic and timbre all come into sharp focus.’
Musician Liz Harris (aka Grouper) presents the Portland-based NIVHEK. The project is an enigmatic audio experience featuring opaque assemblages of Mellotron, guitar, field recordings, tapes, and broken FX pedals, created during and after two contrasting residencies in the Azores, Portugal and Murmansk, Russia.
Berlin-based sound artist Malibu creates a gauzy ambient world of extraordinary emotional power using soft strains of her spoken voice and cut-up sound Foley which leaves listeners relaxed and soothed. Also featuring in her set is a laptop, electronics and 16 cellos from the London Contemporary Orchestra.
These are just a handful of the artists taking part in DEEP MINIMALISM 2.0; other artists on the bill include Jessica Aszodi, Laura Cannell, Emmanuel Holterbach and James McVinnie. Also expect to hear pieces by John Luther Adams, Tod Dockstader, Mary Jane Leach and Eliane Radigue.