Cyclic Selects: Alexandra Spence


Alexandra Spence is an artist and musician from Sydney. She makes installations, compositions and performances based on common sounds and listening. With an interest in resonance, vibration and everyday sound, her aesthetic favours small sounds, object interventions, and unusual sound sources.

She has just released her debut album is She Heard The Fluttering (Room40) in which she ponders whether colour, images or sensations can become aural. It’s a fascinating experimental work, with strange tones, field recordings, and television/ radio recordings, with a strong focus on the human voice. It’s a fascinating challenging work that is both provocative and evocative. We took the opportunity to ask her a out the music that has influenced her.

This from Alexandra.

I’ve selected some of the artists and albums that have inspired me over the last year. Not necessarily that they were released in the last year but that they’ve meant something to me over this period. What I excites me within recorded music is experimentation, concept, and intricate production. But a consideration of the performative elements of a practice in music and sound is also very important to me. Compiling this list was hard, and this is by no means a comprehensive list. I started out trying to choose artists that could perhaps be directly traced as influences to my own practice (I suppose my aesthetic is a mix of lowercase and eclecticism…) but after much to-and-fro-ing about which albums to pick, I ended up going with a more stream-of-consciousness style – choosing the artists that first popped to mind as I was writing this, whilst trying to maintain a wide aesthetic pool of influence.

Laurence Crane – Chamber Works 1992-2009 (Another Timbre)
Last year, two new friends introduced me to the music of Laurence Crane. They had heard something in my music that made them think of Crane’s composition John White in Berlin. I was travelling at the time, so Youtube was my only access point. I listened to it on repeat for weeks. Only recently did I finally purchase the album it is on – Crane’s ‘Chamber Works 1992-2009’ from Another Timbre. I experience the sublime when I listen to John White in Berlin. I am currently listening to this album heavily on repeat.

Lucy Railton – Paradise 94 (Modern Love)
I was lucky to share a bill and be introduced to Lucy Railton at a gig in Berlin last year. She performed Music For Cello With One Or More Amplified Vases by Alvin Lucier. Somewhat self-explanatory – the reverberations of the cello activate the resonant frequency of the vessels and the room through the vessels. It was magic. I immediately found myself a copy of her recently released solo album. There is an complex mix of strength, violence and beauty on this album which really impresses upon me. In short, it’s killer.

Felicia Atkinson + Jefre Cantu-Ledesma – Limpid As The Solitudes ( Shelter Press)
Yes. Another of my most recent obsessions. I love the musique concrète cut-up/collage-style mix of tones, field recordings, and soft-spoken voice, and the asymmetric use of stereo image. I first listened to this album on my train commute home, the internal-headphone-album ambience mixing with the external-train-bustle ambience – interconnecting the album’s imaginary with my reality was perfect. Music that makes me feel both in and outside my body at once.

MP Hopkins – Aeroplanes & Puddles (Mappa)
Again, another favourite for it’s autofictious mixing of spoken text and everyday field recording. This album is heady in it’s lo-fi intimacy, glints, glimmers and whirrs interlaced with deep industrial (literally) drones. I saw MP perform in Sydney last year, his performance represented so much that I love – mixing the intimate with the absurd, as he extracted/inserted ritualistic elements out of/into everyday actions and sounds.

Julia Reidy – ‘of neither’ (excerpt) [SLP046] from Slip on Vimeo.

Julia Reidy – brace, brace (Slip)
Julia Reidy inspires me for the ways in which she is continuously pushing up against and beyond her boundaries. The moment I heard the auto-tune vocals appear into the mix – I was instantly in love. A bizarre and wondrous surprise. The mix of improvised and layered guitar with little glimmers of field recordings and unexpected vocals excites me to no end.

Rebecca Bruton 
A fair few of my recent influences, and dear friends, come from the big ‘C’ new music-composer realm. I did my MFA with two composers Ben Wylie and Rebecca Bruton, and they quickly became two of my closest confidantes and inspirations, drastically changing the way I thought and understood contemporary classical music. Rebecca Bruton is part conceptual composer / part experimental avant-country songwriter. Her instrumental compositions inspire me for their mix of intellectual poetics, alternative notation and stunning harmony. And her vocal music tears at my soul.

Tsunoda Tsunoda
Toshiya Tsunoda’s way of listening, and his thinking on the way we experience sound excites and inspires me. Whether it’s extracting the ‘inaudible’ frequencies (below 20Hz) from field recordings and presenting these as stand-alone tracks, making field recordings by placing his microphones inside bottles, or unexpectedly looping microscopic sections of a recording from 3 to 100 times within delicate spring time field recordings of wind in trees, birds… Our experience of sound is both external and internal, Tsunoda seems to be examining field recordings as both physical phenomena and personal experience, exploring, through field recording, how we can integrate and represent our dual understanding of space and place.

Track – I wanted to recommend a track from the album O Kokos Tis Anixis (edition.t), but I couldn’t find a link to this album online (buy it!), so here is a recent release on Erstwhile Records: a duo with Taku Unami

Tomoko Sauvage – Musique Hydromantique (Shelter Press)
This is spiritual music. Compositions made from live-recordings of water dripping, bubbling and moving within amplified porcelain bowls, recorded in acoustically ‘alive’ spaces. The results are stunning, moving and stilling. The performative elements of a music/sound practice are really important to me, and although I have not (yet) seen Sauvage perform live, I am deeply inspired by the idea of her water-bowl performances – and the fact that hers is a performance-practice, with her recorded music developing from her performance practice, and not the other way around.

RP Boo
I was introduced to the genre of footwork and the music of RP Boo when I was in the UK last year. It sounds so uncool to say now – but I remember skyping my partner at the time and telling him how excited I was by this new style of music I’d just been witness to. I saw/heard RP Boo perform at Cafe Oto in London, it’s a cozy venue and it was packed and sweaty, everyone smiling, RP Boo smiling and regularly leaving the decks to dance amongst the audience. The laden and complex use of sampling and the through-composed nature of the DJ sets… It was an incredible gig. The music I like can tend towards the more serious side of things – it was refreshing to see RP Boo have so much fun during performance.

Eartheater – IRISIRI (Pan)
I felt so empowered when I first heard this album. It’s unapologetic, presenting intimacy as a strength. And the production is so satisfying. Perhaps the direct influence to my own work is less clear here, but this album excites me with it’s genre-pushing of boundaries and femme-strength.

You can find Waking, She Heard The Fluttering here.


About Author

Bob is the features editor of Cyclic Defrost. He is also evil. You should not trust the opinions of evil people.