The Wire

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Off The Page 2014: Sarah Angliss: Visceral Music

November 2014

In a talk subtitled The Corporeal Origins of Electronic Sound, the theremin player and researcher digs into the electronic sound and music archives

Musicians have always been consummate cyborgs, enmeshing their bodies with machines and animal parts to augment their physical capabilities – and centuries before vocal plug-ins, musicians were seeking otherworldly voices by going under the surgeon’s knife. In music, any concerns about the dehumanising influence of technology have always been mixed with a degree of machine envy. When human sound first took flight from the body, with the advent of the telephone and phonograph, some listeners found the effect disturbing. Today, in the era of transmitted audio and disembodied music downloads, it’s the physical, sometimes fleshy precursors of our electronic sound technology which can seem uncanny.

In this exploration of the visceral roots of electronic sound and music, Sarah Angliss discussed some surprising precursors of today’s studio technology, fashioned from flesh, bone, tallow, feathers and living animals.

Sarah Angliss is a UK composer, roboticist and sound historian. Her work explores defunct machinery, archaic variety acts and European folklore.

The fourth edition of Off The Page, The Wire’s literary festival for sound and music, took place at Bristol’s Arnolfini, 26–28 September, and was coproduced by The Wire, Arnolfini and Qu Junktions. Audio recording by Gary Fawle at Events in Sound. Photography by Paul Samuel White.

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