Super Critical Mass: Voices

A few hundred people in Manchester Cathedral.
Eyes closed; silent; sat quietly, standing still or walking slowly.

Super Critical Mass

20 or so of the assembled, dressed in black, each at a position midway between pillars, sung and intoned according to a simple set of rules which, when unfurled at the rate of the singer’s breath, ebbed, flowed, combined and separated to form something that was neither ordered nor chaotic.

There are audio recordings, but they do not do the experience justice…

Super Critical Mass: Voices was, for me, one of the highlights of the Future Everything festival.

[An] immersive and meditative performance-installation that articulates both instrument and architecture, within which audiences can freely move about or sit and absorb.

[…] a contemporary take on a number of traditions including the orchestra, homogenous ensembles, sound installation, community arts, and public art practice.

Torn between jumping up and whooping and sitting in meditative silence, our end-of-performance round of applause was somewhat shell-shocked and muted. A moving experience with added computation, aleatory processes and people being really brave to stand singing with an unseen crowd flowing around them.

Loved it.

Theremin Day

For the last month or so I’ve been helping Mr Underwood get the planning together for Theremin Day: an afternoon workshop building an optical theremin followed by an evening of film and performance, including a live set on theremin from Ms Hypnotique

Hard work, but what a great day!

The workshop had a great vibe, especially as the sounds of working optical theremin began to mingle with those of drilling and the occasional piano performance:


Pretty much everyone got their noise boxes finished and working, with some great playing styles starting to emerge:

noise boxes from nikkipugh on Vimeo.

After the workshop we did a quick changeover and re-arranged The Edge ready for the evening performances. There was much packing away of soldering tools; construction of staging; testing of audio and visual equipment. It all stopped when Susi started to play on her theremin. What an amazing sound: so different to anything else. Everyone was transfixed!


The evening event kicked off with a selection of short films exploring the historical, technical and fun sides of the theremin. This was then followed by a set from 8bit Pete and his Thingamagoops. This included a live mic off to the side of the stage where people could come up and contribute to the maelstrom of bleepy noises and flashy lights with the workshop-built theremin(s). [What is the plural?!]

Next up was Mr Underwood’s performance of Steve Reich’s Pendulum Music for optical theremin and torch. Brilliant. Pete Ashton has posted a nice video extract.

After that was the theremin set from Ms Hypnotique who performed a wide range of music for us. In her own words, the set list was described as: “Varese, Walter Carlos and forgotten scifi soundtracks”. She did an excellent job of interspersing the music with interesting explanations and anecdotes – entertaining and educational!

Here are my photos from the evening event followed by a couple of videos of Ms Hypnotique playing. The last video is how she ended the set. Perfect!

Ms Hypnotique performs from a visual score from nikkipugh on Vimeo.

Ms Hypnotique knows her audience from nikkipugh on Vimeo.

Thanks to everyone who supported and participated in the day.


In which three people go to the pool and the gym: one wearing microphones in their ears; the other two wearing headphones and listening to the sound being recorded from the first person’s point of view hearing.


(Best listened to with headphones.)

Tunnel Vision

Tunnel Vision (Luke Jerram and Dan Jones as part of Architecture Week) had it’s strong and weak points for me.

I like the fact that it happened at all enormously, but I felt that it was really two separate things. I’d have liked to have seen either no sculptural stuff or a whole lot more that spilled out and around the different niches in the walls.

Guess there’d have been a Health and Safety officer with something to say about that…

I felt the end section where we were walking down the darkened tunnel with the sound and light was the most powerful element. Givien the choice I wouldn’t have shared the experience with 30 other people at the same time, although it did make for an interesting snippet of video (here slowed down to half speed)

Copyright and permissions:

General blog contents released under a Creative Commons by-nc-sa license. Artworks and other projects copyright Nicola Pugh 2003-2024, all rights reserved.
If in doubt, ask.
The theme used on this WordPress-powered site started off life as Modern Clix, by Rodrigo Galindez.

RSS Feed.