THROUGH THE CRACKS: Sarah Monk

See THE SOUND OF SPACES at #CTF2017!

CTF: Why do you make experimental performance?

Experimental performance practice is a medium which allows me to be playful. It’s a medium which enables me to push pull and stretch my own imagination and abilities. It forces me out of my comfort zone and expands my way of thinking. It asks me to try and fail and try again. I have always struggled to fit my musical and artistic ideas inside a genre, or medium classification. Being experimental allows for me to explore my instrument, the flute, while also exploring the spaces in, around and between it. It also allows me to engage with an audience in different ways.

Presenting new work to an audience also comes with the thrill of the unknown and a sense of surrender to the possibilities of change. It’s a medium which allows me to collaborate with people and constantly grow as a person and as an artist.

CTF: Tell us more about Deep Listening and the way it informs your practice across flute and electronics?

Deep Listening was developed by Pauline Olivieros (b.1932-2016). Deep Listening is the act of listening with deep awareness to every sound encountered. It is through deep listening that we become more connected to our environment. Oliveros Stated “Sounds carry intelligence. Ideas, feelings and memories are triggered by sounds. If you are too narrow in your awareness of sounds, you are likely to be disconnected from your environment.” (From“Deep Listening: A Composer’s Sound Practice”, Pauline Oliveros, iUNIVERSE 2005) Olivieros developed exercises to become more attuned to listening. It was through these that her performance and composition practice was shaped. The concept of deep listening and these exercises have helped inform my own creativity on a personal and practical level.

As a creator deep listening is both an inspiration and a spiritual journey. It’s a practice which heightens my senses and ability to improvise. It is about every present moment. It’s also embedded into the work itself. Through the act of really listening, as a performer and creator, we are not imposing sounds into a space, we are allowing a space and its resonances to become a part of our work. “The sound of spaces” stems from this idea. It draws its inspiration from recordings taken at random times around Newcastle, in both large and confined spaces. Each space recording is developed into a piece which uses flute, electronics, voice and found objects. In using flute and electronics these textures and sounds become something different again as our individual perceptions encounter them. The instrument and body absorb and interpret what is heard. There is always an element of improvisation in each work which adapts to the space, time and audience encountered. The Blind-Folded audience is an opportunity for people to heighten that sense of deep listening, escape from the control of visual stimulus and enjoy the sounds they encounter.

CTF: A highlight of developing and/or performing this work so far?

When you really listen there is an amazing array of sounds and textures which are always changing, evolving flowing like an ongoing symphony. This work has brought about a kind of fascination in noise. The impermanent nature of noise makes every moment refreshing. As I improvise and listen to the recordings, there is a sense of capturing and interpreting a very unique moment. I get excited with the discovery of rhythmic variations, and moving pitches.  I have also had a great time collaborating with composers James Maher and Vicki Tran, who both have a wonderful sensitivity to sound and all its possibilities.

CTF: What are three words/phrases that describe your body of work?

Deep Listening, noise, spaces.

CTF: What can audiences expect?

Audiences can expect to sit blind-folded. There will be a guided deep listening exercise which will help an audience relax. They will hear every day recorded noise harmonising with flute voice, electronics and the sounds of the space and the people they sit next too.

CTF: Have you been to Crack Theatre Festival before? Is there a little pearl of a memory you can share with us that marks that experience as distinctly CTF?

I have been to Crack Theatre as an audience member for the last four years and last year I participated as a solo artist with “Brevity” and with ensemble Tone Camerata for our performance of “Switch 2”. A highlight for me was 2014 the year when Crack Theatre was in the old Newcastle Fish Market on Hunter street. I remember lots of cardboard boxes which transformed the big open space into a squatted den of creativity. I remember foil, Led lights, dancing, comedy…. The space was a real buzz of endless creative possibilities. I loved the atmosphere which was both unbound and very organised.Very much a CTF vibe! The concept was the end of the world. There were many gems that year.This was my introduction to Crack Theatre and I was instantly inspired. I also thoroughly enjoyed the workshop which transformed toy instruments into electronic instruments. I think that was 2015…