Watch ‘Metastability’ Ben Carey’s remarkable live performance on the 1975 Serge Paperface


Ben Carey METASTABILITY (live at The Substation) from Hospital Hill on Vimeo.

In July Sydney based artist Ben Carey was invited by Robin Fox and MESS to present an octophonic surround sound performance on the 1975 Serge Paperface from their collection. The film, shot and edited by Matthew McGuigan (Hospital Hill), is a 4K/binaural mix of Carey’s remarkable 30-minute performance. It’s a clip of what will be his forthcoming album Metastability, a live octophonic surround sound rendering of his performance due on Hospital Hill later in 2022..

The performance from the Substation in Melbourne saw Carey diffuse materials from the Serge, some performed live, others re-imagined from recordings made prior during two residencies at MESS in 2019 & 2021. This audio for the film was down-mixed from the 8 channels used on the night to binaural, for headphone listening.

This is what Carey has to say about it:

“The Serge Paperface is a beautiful, complex instrument. I see it as an electronic ecosystem, one that makes you work hard for every sound, but always in collaboration with the machine. What fascinates me most about working on the Serge is this sense of human/non-human collaboration. As a patch begins to grow in complexity, I’m acutely aware that my compositional decisions are not solely my own. They’ve become part of a vast human-machine network, the history of which sits in front of me as an imposing tangle of patch cables. In my Metastability project, I’ve been interested in exploring this relationship, resulting in sounds and processes that push and pull on each other, moving in and out of equilibrium.”

This Paperface system was originally commissioned for the La Trobe University Music Department in the mid-1970s by Warren Burt, & was one of three instruments designed by Serge Tcherepnin that made their way to Australia during this period. At the core of Tcherepnin’s design philosophy is the concept of ‘patch programming’, where low-level functions of the instrument are made available to the musician. This design approach pushes the musician to define & re-define the scope of the instrument’s architecture as part of the compositional process.

You can find more information about Ben Carey here.


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