Wednesday, 5 June 2013
Beynon Archival - Works From The Beynon School Of Audio Architecture
'The Beynon School was founded in 1941 by Victor Beynon as an institution extolling the virtues of alternative education. The children aged between 11 and 19 attended the school in the heart of the Devon countryside up until it's closure on the 29th April 1980.
The Beynon School of Audio Architecture was the department founded in 1959 to explore the relationship between new ever emerging audio possibilities (performative electronics, composition, structure, early sampling techniques) and the moving image. This experimentation peaked in the mid 1960s to the late 1970s. This is the time span that forms the bulk of the surviving archive. The word 'Architecture' was employed because of Victor's ideology that the children should 'build worlds in relation to visual stimulus that are both organic and solid but at once metaphorical and dream-like'. A scope that gave some focus while remaining wide enough to encourage experimentation. The school was also a focus for the surrounding community and the local inhabitants made use of the facilities of the school and the audio school proper. Some even adding to the archive.
After Victor's death in 1992, I, his grandson Gregory inherited the archive and set about exploring its contents. The great majority of the audio-visual archive was destroyed by flooding in 1986 when the archive was being held at the Royal William Yard, Plymouth. However most of the audio material was saved as it was stored above the line of the highest part of the flooding.
In September 1976 Victor wrote the Penguin published book 'The Beynon School of Audio Architecture' celebrating the school, it's ideology and it's endeavours. The book enjoyed a short but none-the-less popular publishing run.
During the 1980s after the schools closure the department and it's associated contents relocated to a location on Dartmoor National Park near to the village of Widecombe. Recording and experimentation continued for a short while until 1989 when the department sold it's assets and closed it's doors.
I sincerely hope you enjoy what you hear. These recordings reflect both the times and culture in which they were made while retaining the quality of externalising these young peoples internal worlds; for better or for worse.
It is with a degree of regret that some of the archive cannot be accurately dated due to the deterioration of some of the labelling attached to the recorded medium. Time will ravish us all eventually.
Some of what is presented will be the work of Beynon Archival (Mr. G. Beynon) and its associates.
Mr. G. Beynon. Lead Archivist.'
I've looked for Victor Beynon's book but to no avail. It must be incredibly rare. Perhaps it will turn up as a PDF one day. Meanwhile, these audio experiments from the 70s continue the tradition of UK DIY experimentation by such electronic music luminaries as Fred Judd and Daphne Oram, whom Beynon must have known.
Amazingly, most of this material predicts what's now known as Hauntology (musical). 'The Copse is Wrought Iron', from 1977, is a prime example of the kind of distressed broadcast from the past that the kids go crazy for, these days. Whilst most transmissions are of an abstract nature (typically considering the free-thinking creativity of the young), 'Bishop's Lament' differs in that it is a simple rendition of Neil Young's 'Only Love Can Break Your Heart', albeit recorded in what sounds like a steel factory, perhaps on a school trip. Since kids today also like nothing better than to prostrate themselves before the Satanic sound altar of artists like Demdike Stare, Regina Back's untitled piece fits the bill perfectly. It is, after all, nothing less than Dr Phibes re-imagined for an Italian horror flick that would do Gianni Mazza proud.
Unlike many music class recordings, these suggest the nightmares of post-pubescent insecurity rather than playful frolics through green fields. There's no pastoral whimsy here, but instead, the sometimes pain-racked portraits of youth in turmoil during the dying years of heavy industry, and union conflict. One can almost imagine these some of these sounds being dreamt up by candlelight during power strikes...flickering shadows feeding the imaginations of those involved.
As sonic archaeological finds go, this is real treasure.
Buy it (digital) here. Only £4