Commissioning Fund – Hernoise – promoting women in Sound Art

When sorting through the 70 hopefuls seeking one of its five awards, Women in Music’s Commissioning Fund puts a high premium on its applicants’ talent for innovation. But even given the breadth of the recent applications, no one anticipated that it would be a sonic bed ­ a project put forward by Her Noise with composer Kaffe Matthews ­ that would capture the panel’s imagination quite so forcefully.

Kaffe Mathews

The bed will be what Matthews describes as her latest piece in a series of interactive musical furniture. Formerly a violinist, Matthews began making sound installations as she became more interested in all the possibilities that space ­ in its performative and social aspects ­ could offer. Sonic Bed, which joins the armchair Matthews installed on a Reading railway platform last year, is being made with assistance from the biophysics department at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital and is to be unveiled at FACT in Liverpool.

However, the bed is only one part of the £4,000 prize. Her Noise, an organisation set up in 2001 by Anne Hilde Neset and Lina D Russell to promote women’s contribution in the field of sound art, is the conduit that’s commissioning Matthews. Neset and Russell are both writers and curators whose work ­ at The Wire magazine, the ICA and elsewhere ­ made them realise that there was a serious discrepancy between the genders in experimental music.

“Although there now are many female role models and we both grew up listening to music by many amazing women, we were mostly dealing with men,” says Neset. “We started to question why.”

One answer they identified was a lack of structure. Her Noise has numerous strands, but two of the most important are its creation of an archive, and the development of an active commissioning arm whose work will be seen in various gallery- and web-based events in the future.

“When it came to selecting an artist for the Women in Music application, it was two things that made us want to work with Kaffe, ” says Russell. “We liked the way she was crossing between gallery work and music and we were intrigued by ways in which she was proposing to use technology and collaborate with brain researchers. It seemed like a project that needed to happen.”

Louise Gray
Further info: