All Ears



The mechanisation of sound creation began as soon as technology allowed it. In the 19th 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.

Optikit  – Owl Project

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 was very fixed in its musical remit. The notes were set to a Western scale and the sequences on metal disks, which were hard to change. In response, we are developing an unfolding music box that can be reconfigured in a multitude of ways. Assembled from a bespoke kit of paper discs, synth modules, motors and fixings, the Optikit will generate endlessly changing beats and rhythms throughout Supersonic Festival.

Owl Project is a collaborative group of artists, Simon Blackmore, Antony Hall and Steve Symons. Drawing on influences such as 70’s synthesiser culture, DIY woodworking and current digital crafts, they work with wood and electronics to create music making machines, interfaces and objects.


New Automatic Party Organ
Sarah Angliss Colin Uttley + Eve Warren

This five-octave pipe organ has been designed as an automatic party instrument. People can call up tunes by placing RFID-tagged request cards on the lid. The pipes come from two scrapped Welsh chapel organs. They’ve been stripped, rewaxed and regilded, then arranged in an asymmetric sweep that’s reflected in the shape of the new windchest (the box of air under the pipes). The paintwork is inspired by an 18th century harpsichord cabinet but uses soundwaves as a decorative motif. The air inlet, for example, is cut in the shape of a wavefront.

Sarah Angliss is an award winning composer, roboticist and historian of sound whose music reflects her fascination with European folklore and long-forgotten machines. In performance, Sarah mixes theremin, saw and ancient instruments with live electronics, with an ensemble of musical automata of her own design and construction.



Amplification is a stereo acoustic amplification system, developed to encourage deep listening to environmental sounds within a space. Users of the system can augment their listening through two large ear trumpets. They will also be able to adjust the stereo field of what they can hear by swivelling each horn.


MortonUnderwood were struck by the developers’ efforts to amplify the sound output of the music machines on display in the museum collection. In a world where we can easily dial in more electronic amplification, many of the innovative approaches seen in the collection are now obsolete. Through Amplification, MortonUnderwood hope to highlight the beauty of passive, acoustic amplification systems.


MortonUnderwood is a musical instrument design and sound art duo made up of equal parts David Morton and Sam Underwood. to amplify the sound output Their work mainly explores acoustic systems and sub-bass.


Oak Apple Orchestra
Paul Gittins

A collection of instruments and objects played by clock motors. Oak apples, attached to the secondhand, hit the strings at two second intervals and then strike and fall back. Each instrument has several clock motors, positioned to select specific notes. This selection then repeats to create an endless rhythm. The structure of intervals between the notes is essentially random, producing an infinite number of variations, and the clock motors can be switched on and off using a bluetooth control, changing the shape of the rhythm. The instruments produce a continual stream of minimal music with a two second beat.

Paul Gittins works with a variety of media, producing interactive shadow shows with screens of paper pixels, in theatres and outdoor festivals. He is currently developing an orchestra of self playing instruments that will be attached to trees in woodland locations.


All Ears is a Millennium Point Trust commission, curated by Capsule and delivered in partnership with Birmingham Museums Trust. The exhibition is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.


Bees In A Tin



Fri 12 June 10.30 – 17:00 Millennium Point
Curzon Street, Birmingham, West Midlands B4 7XG

Tickets £6/10 and includes lunch
Booking info there are 20 free places available to Supersonic weekend ticket holders
code: superduper

Many & Varied in partnership with Supersonic are delighted to present Bees in a Tin 2015, as part of this year’s festival. Taking place during the daytime on Friday 12th June, Bees in a Tin is a gathering for people who make or are interested in unique interfaces for the world around them, featuring talks and workshops from key makers and thinkers from around the country.  If you’re interested in the spaces where the arts, science, technology, and games crash into one another: then this is for you.

Join us for an energetic day of talks, games, demos and workshops encompassing: microbiology, guided tours, research through design, impersonation of plain clothes police officers, sculptural musical controllers; …and custard. All rounded up with a keynote from the splendid Owl Project.


Key note by Owl Project

A collaborative group of artists consisting of Simon Blackmore, Antony Hall and Steve Symons. They work with wood and electronics to fuse sculpture and sound art, creating music making machines, interfaces and objects which intermix pre-steam and digital technologies. Drawing on influences such as 70’s synthesiser culture, DIY woodworking and current digital crafts, the resulting artwork is a quirky and intriguing critique of the allure and production of technology.

Bill Aitchison – The Tour of All Tours

For the last two and a half years Bill has been taking guided tours of every sort around the world and recycling them by giving his own tours of tours. These are a parasitic sort of guided tour that critically, and with a distinctive dry humour, explore the political, social and cultural subtexts of tourism.

Aste Amundsen/Apocalypse Gameshow – Computer Aided Theatre

In this playtest you are invited to take part in experiments, either as a protagonist progressing through a responsive storyline or as an audience watching and influencing the process. Exploring the ways of: processing audience information/actions during live events, writing meaningfully responsive storyworlds and cuing actors with audience data during interactive exchanges.


George Buckenham – Making videogames with squishy bits

George will be discusiing design principles learnt from making videogames that involve custom physical hardware. Games like: Punch The Custard, a game about punching a bowl of custard, Fabulous Beasts, a game about competing for resources where you make moves by stacking blocks in a tower.


Robert Curgenven – “A Young Lover’s Guide to Perceptual Pataphysics” or “How Bass Changed My Life”

Heavily phasing live sound from custom dubplates, acetates, test pressings and low-frequency oscillators are used to directly power live video projection that works on principles of colour shadows discovered by Edwin Land – the inventor of Polaroid photography and sunglasses. As much a physical exploration of architecture as it is of the audience’s bodies, both through sound and the perceptual psychology of colour and light. Comes with a warning for those susceptible to flickering lights.


Simon Farid – How To Impersonate a Plain Clothes Police Officer

We are going to commit a crime. Impersonating a police officer is against the law, even though we know they impersonate us (the public) all the time. In this workshop we’ll look to rebalance this by impersonating a plain-clothes police officer, something that cannot really be identified. Collectively examining, mimicking and enacting covert police practices will help us to better counter surveillance on ourselves and to look at notional public space in a new way.


Farmer Glitch : Farm-Yard Debris, Carboot Treasures – Petrol Can Synths…

A ‘show and tell’/performance session, showcasing a variety of hand-built/salvaged musical-instruments and sound-making devices. This will include: chip-based synthesisers housed in Kodak Brownie cameras, synths made from old paraffin/oil cans along with a rusty-broken bucket – now re-envisioned as the Atari-Punk-Bucket.


Dr Simon Park – Exploring The Invisible

In the familiar settings of our urban environments, microorganisms have established thriving and complex ecologies that are almost always overlooked. This will be a unique microbiologically informed walk and mobile workshop, which will explore the importance of this the urban microbiology, using examples found in the environment local to the Bees In A Tin event.


Swoomptheeng – Raving with Ritualised Punk Technology

A live Swoomptheeng performance showcasing their over-sized, semi-organic and brightly-coloured sculpted MIDI instruments which illustrate their influences from 80′s TV, 90′s rave and contemporary art; to folk-art, hacking and hobbyist cultures. Followed by a presentation of how the instruments work and the innovative techniques used to interface with music software such as Traktor via MIDI joysticks, Arduino and other electrical components.

Rebecca Taylor – The Rooftop Project: The Story So Far…

The Rooftop Project is an experimental project through which highly rewarding and transformational learning experiences are emerging. Opening with a lively presentation of the story so far, this session will then invite you to discuss ‘our’ awareness of doing projects such as these and pose questions such as – are we doing it for good or glory?

Duncan Speakman – The social composition of A Folded Path

A Folded Path is a pedestrian speaker symphony; a soundtrack for a city carried through the streets by a participating audience.

Comprising location sensitive portable loudspeakers – each playing a different element of the music.The GPS position of the speaker causes different sections to be played and the movement of the people within the group changes the acoustic relationship of the composition: the audience become the orchestra.

Clare Reddington

Clare, Creative Director of Watershed will be chairing a Q&A panel at Bees in a Tin.




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Descent – MortonUnderwood
at Warwick Arts Centre / Millennium Point

The first commission to come out of the Capsule Lab series in collaboration with Warwick Arts Centre Descent, meaning a flock of woodpeckers, a new sound based installation created by artist duo MortonUnderwood. A series of electronic woodpeckers will be positioned within the public realm. You spot a colourful button. You press it and a note resonates across the space. You press it again and realise that a bird is perched overhead, which percusses the surface of a post as you press the button. You spot other buttons, each triggering a bird that percusses a surface. You get it; someone has exposed the musical potential of this space. You play.

The work will be shown as part of Sonic Gorilla at Warwick Arts Centre and then at Millennium Point from 30 May – 14 June