Sonic innovators From Scratch return from a 15-year hiatus

by David Larsen / 27 April, 2018
from scratch

Home-made instrument group From Scratch is back from a hiatus with a new exhibition and performances. 

Phil Dadson, who seems to invent new instruments any time he has a few spare minutes, is in the middle of inventing a new instrument when I reach him on the phone. Unlike the zitherum, the nundrum, the gong tree and the sprong, today’s creation does not yet have a name. “It’s a little bit like a foghorn. Well, a fog-whistle. Pitched whistles which operate off foot-pumps. It lends itself to hocketed interplay between two or more players.”

Hocketed interplay is when each player drops a note into the other players’ pauses, so that an articulated line of continuous music bounces back and forth across a room, as if expert sportspeople were tossing several balls around.

Finding new ways for musicians to toss tunes around has been a large part of Dadson’s creative life, in particular the musicians in New Zealand’s internationally acclaimed home-made instrument group From Scratch, which he founded in 1974 and which is returning from a 15-year hiatus for a combined major exhibition and performance series, as part of the Auckland Arts Festival.

Dadson isn’t sure he’ll actually build working models of his foot-pump hocketing fog-whistle, which so far exists only as a prototype. “But then, of course, if you put it in your article I’m going to have to.” If he does, it will join the zitherum and the nundrum and the gong tree and the sprong, and quite a few others, on interactive display at Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Gallery in Titirangi. (The sprong, if you’re wondering, consists of a number of spiral gong-form springs, all differently pitched, and fitted to a single resonant shell. And “interactive” means, as you might hope, that while the exhibition runs, the public will get to play some of the instruments — the strangest ones and the ones least likely to break. Children welcome, though supervision is requested.)

The exhibition is a long-time dream project of Te Uru’s director, Andrew Clifford, who worked on the From Scratch archive at Auckland University while doing his master’s degree in visual arts and theory at the Elam School of Fine Arts. Dadson: “Jonathan [Bielski], the arts festival director, went out to check the festival’s contribution to Te Uru’s exhibition of Brian Brake photos last year and kind of fell in love with the space, and asked Andrew what he might like to feature this year ... and Andrew suggested a From Scratch survey show of some sort. Jonathan threw in the idea of doing a performance series in the gallery as well, and everything’s taken off.”

As well as instruments, the exhibition will feature several 1200mm-square photos (some of which were used as the group’s album covers back in the 70s and 80s); the iconic geometric ground plans that the group chalked out before performances, as a visual reference for the instruments and the musical structure; a representative survey of photos tracking the history of From Scratch; large-scale drawings; performance posters; and text notes telling the story of the group.

The six concerts performed as part of the arts festival were broken down into two groups of three, each of which featured a different selection of invited collaborators, as well as the seven core members of From Scratch’s current incarnation. The 90-minute performance incorporated new material, classic From Scratch numbers and collaborator contributions into an intricate sonic tapestry, with players and audience progressively moving through several different gallery rooms.

From Scratch: 546 Moons Exhibition, March 3-May 27, Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Gallery.

Latest

Ditch the intergenerational housing blame game, and focus on some home truths
99836 2018-12-10 00:00:00Z Social issues

Ditch the intergenerational housing blame game, an…

by Virginia Larson

What we don’t need is sloppy statistics kindling an intergenerational stoush that does no one any good.

Read more
Sally Lewis: The modern-day monk teaching meditation to prisoners
100143 2018-12-10 00:00:00Z Profiles

Sally Lewis: The modern-day monk teaching meditati…

by Clare de Lore

Could an ancient form of meditation change the lives of prisoners for better? Sally Lewis says it can.

Read more
What's inside North & South's January 2019 issue?
99815 2018-12-10 00:00:00Z Life in NZ

What's inside North & South's January 2019 issue?

by North & South

We look at the riskiest places in NZ to live, what it'll take to fix the Family Court and review 2018's weirdest and wackiest things.

Read more
The Brexit deal is the perfect Prisoner's Dilemma
100059 2018-12-09 00:00:00Z World

The Brexit deal is the perfect Prisoner's Dilemma

by Andrew Anthony

In the Prisoner's Dilemma, going after what you want – freedom – might get you the very worst outcome. It's Brexit, in other words.

Read more
How Britain's MI6 gave the world modern spycraft
100061 2018-12-09 00:00:00Z Television

How Britain's MI6 gave the world modern spycraft

by Fiona Rae

Espionage nerd David Jason takes us inside the world of secret agents, including the inaugural MI6 boss’ car.

Read more
Louis Theroux grapples with his own failure in new Jimmy Savile doco
100072 2018-12-09 00:00:00Z Television

Louis Theroux grapples with his own failure in new…

by Diana Wichtel

A chastened Louis Theroux tries to shed light on a celebrity sex fiend's brazen cunning in a new documentary.

Read more
The extraordinary story of how New Zealand entered the space race
100028 2018-12-09 00:00:00Z Business

The extraordinary story of how New Zealand entered…

by Sally Blundell

Half a century after the first manned spacecraft orbited the moon, the space race is back on and New Zealand is in the game. But are we ready?

Read more
Quiet, please! The commodification of silence
97964 2018-12-09 00:00:00Z Travel

Quiet, please! The commodification of silence

by Margo White

The commodification of quiet – how silence became a top trend in wellness tourism.

Read more