The Feral Orchestra Sings…

So, I recently decided to put together a little project based around the idea of remixing a section of The Last Few Seconds Before Sleep (forthcoming on Broken20). After a few false starts, I decided to take the control out of my hands and invite performers to contribute to a series of feral responses to the chosen piece of music. The Following is a poorly formatted, via the wonders of wordpress, version of the project. What transpired for me was a larger piece based on a series of calls and responses. The performers responded to the music with their parts, they wrote down an experience, I started to form opinions/questions based on the way the day progressed etc. Still to be collated is the performers’ response to


sings the songs of…


Investigate the ability of the human voice to produce complimentary,  opposing, contradictory, unusual,and improvised enhancements to recorded harmonic music.


Look for a cross section of volunteers to participate. They will be  asked to take  around 15 minutes (depending on the the length of the prepared piece) to make non-vocal  sounds with their voice to accompany the recorded music. This may take  any form of their choosing; rhythmic embelishments, golosolallia, harmonies/disharmonies, humming, whistling, traditional non-lyrical singing.

These vocal componenets may make use of long sustained notes, short percussive elements, melodic passages, humming.

A good ratio of male/female voices should be secured although this will depend on availability and willingness of volunteers.

The prepared piece of music should be based around one fundamental drone but feature some subtle modulation, pulses or variations that may prove interesting ‘jumping off’ points for the performers. This piece of music will be circulated to all participants and they will be invited to listen and think about sound and what they might like to do in conjunction with the piece.


The performers wil be individually invited to a vocal recording session at a mututally agreed time and the artist will playback the track via headphones from the control room while each participant produces their part. Ideally two takes will be recorded for each person, the first may be used to set recording levels and warm up the vocalist, the second should be a straight run through.

On the performer losing their place/nerve/breath, they should be encouraged to continue from a point that feels appropiate to them.

The artist should then take all recorded tracks and perform a balancing mix fading between all takes. The mix should be carried out so that at some point, each performance is brought to a prominent position.

The original track may still feature in the final mix but the voices should be considered the most important element.

The final piece will be mixed down and published online as an mp3, all participants will be thanked and sent a link to the work which they can download and distribute as they see fit.

The participants will be considered founding memebers of The Feral Orchestra and invited to write down their feelings on the experience/motivation behind their contribution along with their thoughts on the final piece and will be encouraged to undertake their own similar projects. Technical advice and support will be  offered where required.



personal accounts from the members

ZI: A dense drone. Closing my eyes and trying to go into the sound. To unpick the density. The sound is thick, but with time there are ways in. Sounds I can find and reflect myself with my voice.

I find a home tone and work from there. I feel the rhythms and then an opening up of the frequency range. I wonder if that is the track or my hearing. I have the benefit of listening to the track twice and have the same sensation at what may be the same time in the track, but I still cannot conclude one way or the other.

SL: I felt very aware of my breathing. My chest felt hollow and the drone reminded me of circular breathing, a deep hum that echoed withinthe chamber that is the body. Following an unkown rythmn and trying to mimic it like an animal or something natural..

MG: It felt very scary at first but what surprised me was how quickly I got into the pace of the thing. I almost got into a trancelike state where I forgot where I was. I started to lose myself in the vocalisations I was doing and also enjoyed the music by itself. If I had to be honest, I would say that the sounds I was making were not always interpretations and may have just been absent minded humming. At times it seemed like the sounds I was speaking were very random although I suppose it could have been my subconscious reacting to the soundscape. All in, I enjoyed the experience, would definitely do it again and look forward to hearing the final result.

LM: There were visions in my mind of travelling down a tunnel and being taken to a strange and different world. There were no words in this world, only emotions expressed through vocal sounds. My sounds were a reaction to that journey and the release from the need to put my voice into recognisable words. I found it almost theraputic.

RA: Exhausted, after it. Realised my lungs have an incredibly low capacity. By second recording definitely loosened up, and lost most of the embarrassment on first recording. Was incredibly hypnotic in the womb-like studio booth, in the dark, with the mic mask hiding most of my face,and gave me freedom to do what i wished. It was very therapeutic, switched off brain and was just filled up with whoosh noises by the end, so quite disappointed when it cut off.

RN: I strode into the booth whilst the man named Dave chattered in my ear about various technical and conceptial elements – I took little notice.

I knew what I was there to do – deliver a carefree, defining performance although, the word performance suggests an air of falsity. I was there to make audible the human condition. Lights were dimmed and as I slipped the headphones on, little did those bits of plastic and metal know that between them lay a universe of though, feeling, memory and phrenic power, my brain.

The man Dave gave a thumbs up gesture and the sound began. All humans are part animal, part divine and I began to channel both – two streams became a river coming out of my mouth. The brain became superfluous. I was utilising a higher power. My ear became linked to my vocal chords which bent and twisted my exhalations of air particles into wonderous shapes which danced around the drone in my ear. Linear time ceased to exist – I was the fifth element. All of a sudden there was silence. I jerked back into the realm of the living. The man Dave pulled open the door of the booth. He thanked me for my time. I returned to my desk.

EM: Scared and dark. I sound like a baby. It all sounds comforting first. That ambience without a story. But it was out to get me and I think I’ll try to harmonize with its nature or maybe fight back with my own sounds. It’s threatening. I begin to tell its story in something I don’t understand, a myth or something that’s lingering just too far away to hear. I’m all far too aware of the darkness behind me and my voice isn’t a comfort but I float back and forward to the dark throaty roaring. It’s a forest and there is smoke, the trees vibrate and rain falls in reverse. My eyes hurt and I feel really angry at the person behind the glass now I can’t hear properly.

RC: Immersed in this space. Lights dimmed. Can he see in? Selfishly self conscious, Unsure. Running at a constant motion. Keep on going. Remember that time, when I did that run. I kept thinking of Dave being at the end. It feels like that. I’m sure he can see in. Running. Running. That constant feeling of anti-climax confined in my heart. If I just keep moving. Submersed. Am I in his head space listening to this sound he’s made? Outwardly reaching, just keep moving. Am I? What if I just physically run? I’m out of breath, feels like it’s all just trapped in my head. Is this his soundtrack? I should just go to Moray. Is that far enough away? Openspaces however confined. Open up my lungs, open up my mind. If you just keep moving. If we could all only interact without words. If the feelings would only subside and not errupt. Do they? You’re talking shit Clark. Heart attack. Out of breath. If you just go, would you need to look back? Just keep moving, running, calm your breathing. Stop. Dave, just keep going.



a series of more or less unconnected
commentary/summary from the ‘director’

Where does this start/end? A series of cyclic calls and responses, a knot, a loop. Is this the sound of my head or theirs? Or both? Or something else entirely?

The experience of non-structured (in)direction was intersting. A self levelled (and entirely valid) criticism is my reluctance to involve others in my work.  Rely on no-one and you have only yourself to push when things need to happen, to blame when things go wrong. The passive director, giving the performer space to expand. I relinquish control with one hand, but grip the reigns tightly with the other.

The performers would be far more self aware and less forthcoming if assembled en-mass. The recording would be less defined, less contained. There is an obvious dichotomy/irony in the idea of control over a feral assembly. Perhaps this is what led Drummond to the 17?

Black out the lights and the internal mechanism kicks into life, focussed stimulli. Archetypes arise. The same motif/performance/style coming out/trigger elements set up reaction. Uninfluenced by each  other, communications black-out, there are clear triggers that certain types of people will pick up to work with. A burried rhythm, a counter melody, harmony. What type of person am I? Are you?

The body as an instrument, the soul as conductor, ebb and flow, search for an entry point, unlocking, unearthing. The performer finds their own position within the music, it’s not music anymore, it is the entire solar system with them, at it’s heart, a sun. Influence and ego are put aside, the darkened vocal booth as confessional, the microphone as mystic intermediary. The unseen producer unaware, unlistening at present, visually riding the trim to avoid any excessive clipping.

Freedom, no expectation, no judgement. I cannot hear you or see you. Bang on the glass in case of emergency, your cries will go unnoticed with the current setup. Run through the full stops. Two takes to loosen up, I’ve started so I’ll finish.

Duration of breath becomes a measure, space and silence are not a negative, breath, react, look within, become. The live evolution of a passing thought, captured. Nine thoughtforms (or is it ten or a hundred? who is counting anymore?) intertwine to create something beautiful, and frightening, and primal, a portrait of humanity, all our dark and powerful little corners and centres, the hole in things, the spaces between.

Where does this start/end? A series of cyclic calls and responses, a knot, a loop. Is this the sound of my head or theirs? Or both? Or something else entirely?

The Feral Orchestra – The Last Few Seconds Before Sleep (7:51 – 12:52) by Erstlaub

I’ve posted the the file to my Soundcloud account. Huge thanks to RC, ZI, RA, SL, EM, RN, LM and MG

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