Above: Testing instruments made by bubbles of children and adults in Open Studio, by adding them to my sonic structures. Theatre of Sound, Rita Evans, Commissioned by Towner Eastbourne. Photo © Benedict Johnson

In October 2020, as artist-in-residence at Towner Eastbourne, I created a series of family workshops and open studio sessions of sound-making and listening, called Theatre of Sound. The project brought people together to create and share a creative experience in a time of physical distance, where I used my own sonic structures to connect audiences and performers alike.

In this blog I reflected on hosting a series of family workshops at Towner Eastbourne in October 2020, as artist-in-residence, during the pandemic. Here’s a link. 

Installation view. Theatre of Sound, Rita Evans, Commissioned by Towner Eastbourne.

In my work, I imagine new kinds of instruments and tools that I then make and attempt to play both solo and with others. The resulting ‘Instrument-Sculptures’ are playable objects that are continually evolving. They are collectively explored in improvisational workshops with participants, and I adapt them in response. They bring people together in live encounters with materials, including sound and space, to make moments of making, listening and being together. My film, Coil of Days is currently in Towner’s International Biennial. In the film, a collective of performers play my amplified sculptures and instruments.

Live testing in Open Studio of Tubular instruments using sound synthesis and microphones. From tubular instruments made by bubbles of children and adults in Open Studio. Theatre of Sound, Rita Evans, Commissioned by Towner Eastbourne. Photo © Benedict Johnson
Membrane making. Theatre of Sound, Rita Evans, Commissioned by Towner Eastbourne. Photo © Benedict Johnson
Testing Tubular instruments made by bubbles of children and adults in Open Studio. Theatre of Sound, Rita Evans, Commissioned by Towner Eastbourne. Photo © Benedict Johnson

This October, I was commissioned by Towner Eastbourne to devise a series of workshops in the gallery. Bubbles of children and their adults made and played their own objects to create sounds using loose exploratory prompts. These were categorised in three stages, ‘Tubular’, ‘Chambers’ and ‘Membranes’, which grew in complexity each time we delivered a new kit of corresponding materials. I started with a really physical warm-up called Human Guitars – which involved the groups connecting to each other using elastics, and then playing them as they moved together to alter the pitch. This set the tone for involving the whole body (and bubble) in the process.

Testing instruments made by bubbles of children and adults in Open Studio, by adding them to my sonic structures. Theatre of Sound, Rita Evans, Commissioned by Towner Eastbourne. Photo © Benedict Johnson

I experimented with the instruments the families made, amplifying them by attaching them to some of my own sonic structures. This made larger collaborative structures that really pushed their sounds into an orchestra of new relational instruments. Theatre of Sound for me, blurred the boundaries of a families’ workshop – as a sonic sculpture, performance, installation and anthropological investigation, removing hierarchies between artist and participants.

Floor plan design for cycles of activity in bubbles, choreographed for Theatre of Sound, Rita Evans, Commissioned by Towner Eastbourne.
Sketch of how the tentacles of my ‘Mechanism’ sonic structure were used to connect and amplify to objects made by others., during Open Studio of Theatre of Sound.
Membrane making and playing using paper. Theatre of Sound, Rita Evans, Commissioned by Towner Eastbourne. Photo © Benedict Johnson
Testing instruments made by bubbles of children and adults in Open Studio, by adding them to my sonic structures. Theatre of Sound, Rita Evans, Commissioned by Towner Eastbourne. Photo © Benedict Johnson
Cycle 3: Membrane Prompts. Theatre of Sound, Rita Evans, Commissioned by Towner Eastbourne.
Collective playing of made objects with webcam live score. Theatre of Sound, Rita Evans, Commissioned by Towner Eastbourne. Photo © Benedict Johnson
Cycle 1: Tubular Prompts. Theatre of Sound, Rita Evans, Commissioned by Towner Eastbourne.
Theatre of Sound, Rita Evans, Commissioned by Towner Eastbourne. Photo © Benedict Johnson
Cycle 2: Chambers Prompts. Theatre of Sound, Rita Evans, Commissioned by Towner Eastbourne.
Chambers making. Theatre of Sound, Rita Evans, Commissioned by Towner Eastbourne. Photo © Benedict Johnson
Live testing in Open Studio of Tubular instruments using sound synthesis and microphones. From tubular instruments made by bubbles of children and adults in Open Studio. Theatre of Sound, Rita Evans, Commissioned by Towner Eastbourne. Photo © Benedict Johnson
Testing rock instruments made by bubbles of children and adults in Open Studio, by adding them to my sonic structures. Theatre of Sound, Rita Evans, Commissioned by Towner Eastbourne. Photo © Benedict Johnson
Sonic Structure, during Open Studio, its tentacles used to test instruments made by bubbles of children and adults during the workshop. Theatre of Sound, Rita Evans, Commissioned by Towner Eastbourne.
Live testing in Open Studio of Tubular instruments using sound synthesis and microphones. From tubular instruments made by bubbles of children and adults in Open Studio. Theatre of Sound, Rita Evans, Commissioned by Towner Eastbourne. Photo © Benedict Johnson
Testing Tubular instruments made by bubbles of children and adults in Open Studio. Theatre of Sound, Rita Evans, Commissioned by Towner Eastbourne. Photo © Benedict Johnson
Sketch of how my sonic structure ‘brass bubble’ was used to connect and amplify to objects made by others, during Open Studio of Theatre of Sound.
Testing Membrane instruments made by bubbles of children and adults in Open Studio. Theatre of Sound, Rita Evans, Commissioned by Towner Eastbourne. Photo © Benedict Johnson
Installation view of open studio where I tested instruments made by bubbles of children and adults in Open Studio. I added them to my amplified line, incorporating them as larger sonic structures. Theatre of Sound, Rita Evans, Commissioned by Towner Eastbourne. Photo © Benedict Johnson
Testing my sonic structures for addition of objects. Theatre of Sound, Rita Evans, Commissioned by Towner Eastbourne. Photo © Benedict Johnson
Sketch of how I played brass bubble, one of my sonic sculptures, using latex and body during the Open Studio for Theatre of Sound.
Tubular instruments and percussion made by bubbles of children and adults. Theatre of Sound, Rita Evans, Commissioned by Towner Eastbourne.
Poster for Theatre of Sound, Rita Evans, Commissioned by Towner Eastbourne.