A Midsummer Night's Drone (2011)

A Midsummer Night's Drone A Midsummer Night's Drone A Midsummer Night's Drone

A Midsummer Night's Drone by J. M. Bowers

A Midsummer Night's Drone was created as a contribution to a ritual under the same title which Ryan Jordan and I curated over Midsummer Night, June 20-21, 2011, and which involved playing drones from sundown until sunrise. A small number of us gathered at a World War 2 observation tower on the east coast of England, played live, and mixed in pieces which had been submitted to the event in response to a public call. My contribution was made by multi-tracking and layering improvised drones on my modular synthesiser, Sycorax. The drones were tuned to suboctave divisions of the time period of the earth's orbit around the sun (a year) and its rotation on its own axis (a day), the coincidence of which two rhythms seemed apposite for droning Midsummer Night away.

Ryan and I took numerous recordings of the event which we will make available as an online archive presently.

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The Ritual

The event was coordinated via a Facebook group. The following is text taken from that.

John Bowers and Ryan Jordan will be practising a midsummer night's ritual.

Our intention is to drone from sunset to sunrise somewhere on the coast of Suffolk, the county which contains the easternmost areas of England. This way we can help usher in midsummer's day a little ahead, and so helping out, the Druids at Stonehenge a couple of degrees to the West. We will take several of our own noisemakers and quietly drone on the beach.

You are invited to take part. You can join us by the sea. You can set a drone going in your own home to synchronise with us or following your local sunset and sunrise. You can submit materials to us (loops, whole tracks) which we will play on your behalf. You can submit some code (although we are only running on batteries so keep this in mind). You can think of us warmly. Whatever you like.

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Tuning Instructions

If you prepare drones to play with us, you are free to use whatever tuning you like. But if you like a little maths/theory/occultism you might try notes which are suboctaves of the earth's orbit around the sun or of the earth on its own axis.

The earth orbits the sun in about 365.25 days. Down 31 octaves this is 69.05Hz, a slightly flat C sharp. This midsummer the earth will rotate on its own axis in 24 hrs 13 secs. Down 21 octaves this is 24.27Hz, a slightly flat G.

If you want the music of the spheres, you could do worse than play C sharp and G which make a nice discord when played together. If you want a third note to represent the interaction of the earth's rotation and orbit which together make up 'midsummer night', you could play the product of the two (1651.53Hz) or a suboctave of it, a slightly flat G sharp.

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The following artists contributed: John Bowers, Terry Burrows, Buttercup Insurgent, Mike Challis, Barry Cullen, Hot Hail, Pamela Harling-Challis, Ryan Jordan, Phil Julian, Ewa Justka, Simon Kunath, Toger Mills, Noise Research and Bioni Samp.

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Event Report

After the event, I posted to the Facebook group a brief account of what occurred.

We assembled at Bawdsey Battery, a WW2 emplacement, at 20.30 and after a brief discussion decided to shelter and start operations in the Observation Tower. We were droning by sunset, about 21.18. We had DIY synths, light reactive noisemakers, an accordion, mouth organ, acoustic guitar, an aeolian electric guitar, violin, multiband radios, we hummed and mixed/processed contributions people had sent. The night was mild, cloudy with only a little rain. We kept the drone, greeting the sun rising through the clouds at about 04.34 with a collective om. 15 or so people were on site at various times, 6 of us set off in the morning down the coast walking via ferry to Felixstowe and then train to Ipswich, going our separate ways at about 13.00. Extensive recordings were made, photos and videos taken. Ryan and I will archive these online as soon as we can. In sum, we feel it was a great event. We plan to do something similar again. Thanks very much for your interest, support and contributions.