Barbican Future Band

17-19 February 2019

Barbican Future Band is a long running (10+ years) three-day workshop for children ages eight to fourteen to explore and develop experimental orchestral performance-making. As this year's Future Band theme is Year of The Instrument, I was invited to be the guest artist and work with the children to create some new instruments for the final performance. Through rapid-prototying exercises the participants developed a range of new instruments including The Geo Board, The Soothing Blanket, Pianaphone, and two sonic art installations Sunny Side Up and The Feelophone. I was blown away by the original ideas and beautiful sounds for each instrument created by the participants by sampling their orchestral instruments.

The Geo Board

The Geo Board is a multi-player instrument inspired by the geometric shapes the triangle, square and circle. Its twelve wooden blocks each feature a small, medium or large shape, painted in conductive paint so as to trigger its associated sounds. The sounds were inspired by the Future Band improvising sounds on various instruments (large = double bass, medium = violin, small = voice) that sound like each of the shapes (triangle, circle and square). The Geo-Board is fun to play on its own or combined with other orchestral instruments. 

Soothing Blanket

The Soothing Blanket is a patchwork quilt sewn by the workshop participants using felt and fabric offcuts, conductive materia and regular and conductive thread. The blanket can be performed by touching the conductive material and thread hidden within each patch plus the outside perimeter. The image sewn onto each patch triggers a sound that corresponds to its theme. Sounds included footsteps, a poem, a melody inspired by the moon, the Future Band rehearsing for the final concert and a lullaby composed and performed by the Future Band inspired by the soothing nature of the blanket and the meditative nature of 'sewing sound'.

The Pianophone

The Pianophone is a new capacitive touch instrument with chromatic notes in the layout of piano keys however each note is a different combination of trumpet, cello, clarinet and violin, resulting in an exciting new addition to the Future Band orchestra. The pianaphone is made from cardboard boxes covered in conductive materials (aluminium foil, conductive paint, conductive tape). The middle C of the Pianophone is red to help piano players become easily oriented with the instruments.

Sunny Side Up

Sunny Side Up is an interactive sonic art installation. Shaped like a bird's nest, Sunny Side Up invites the audience to explore the leaves, rocks, twigs as well as paper mache eggs, spiders and slugs and discover the sounds triggered when each is touched. The sounds are recordings of members of the future band playing their instruments to sound like birds, as well as audio recordings of real birdsong.