Supersonic Festival Commission

All Ears - An exhibition of new works responding to innovations in early music technology.

01 – 14 June 2015 | Open 10am – 5pm daily | Admission free

Millennium Point, Curzon Street, Birmingham, B4 7XE

Owl Project are combining ideas from the Symphonium music boxes in the Museum Collection with more experimental techniques of optical sound developed in Russia during the early 20th century such as the Variaphone and the ANS Synthesiser.

The Symphonium music box was very fixed in its musical remit. The notes were set to a western scale and the sequences on metal disks, hard to change. In response we are developing a music box that unfolds and can be reconfigured in a multitude of ways.

Assembled from a bespoke kit of paper discs, synth modules, motors and fixings, Owl Project’s Optikit will generate endlessly changing beats and rhythms throughout Supersonic Festival.

The mechanisation of sound creation began as soon as technology allowed it. In the nineteenth century, mechanical musical instruments such as barrel organs, symphonions, orchestrions, euterpeons and miniature music boxes proliferated. Equally marvelled at and loathed for their tinny, repetitive reproductions of classical pieces and show-tunes, these programmable machines can be seen as the ancestors of today’s electronic and digital instruments. Birmingham Museums’ collection of ornately decorated mechanical instruments, on display in the All Ears exhibition, reflects on the transition of music from real-time, human generated sound to the myriad ways in which technology shapes how we produce and consume music today.