Paul Purgas

Paul Purgas likes to make massive noises in obscure locations. Through his work he managed to create records in historic places, such as an anonymous Gothic architecture, much of which was pushed together in a way that didn’t make much sense. Within this house, you would clap your hands in one room, and the sound would ring into the other rooms of the house. By playing with the audio, he was able to find out what he needed to come into a record.

With this building, he improvised a three hour performance by using very basic sonic amps, classic base tones and sine waves. Through this, he would try and put the sound waves onto the building itself. Purgas would also use the technique of analogue distortion to carry this out. The distortion would be to put the sound through an aggravator, which adds to and distorts the wave. In this project and sound production, he picks out the ideas of distortion and gives it a physical space, and decided to put it in this house because of its history with these types of noises.

Prior to this, Purgas was making music in a traditional and conventional approach. The project in the Gothic house was the first step out of the traditional music studio.

From here, he got invited to the Tate and got given a small budget to record somewhere. Out of everywhere in the world, Purgas chose a nuclear power station in Snowdonia, which was designed by the architect Basil Spence. This space is constantly being dismantled and is a space that had completed its life cycle. Purgas took over this nuclear power station with massive PA systems to improvise sounds into a solid composition. Through his work in this building, he ended up creating a dark record that doesn’t particularly sell nuclear energy.

Though working in such unique buildings, Purgas was approached by the architecture foundation in order to create a project or installation as part of their exhibition. For this, Purgas found that he was very much inspired by the 70’s TV show with Nigel Neil, The Stone Tapes, in which researchers go into a Gothic mansion where they believe that the stones have captured the supernatural sounds of the house. These elements of sound, space and the sense of supernatural otherness inspired Purgas for this piece. It has the method to overwhelm the sense and has a powerful method of other perceptual possibility. These themes were always in the background of the architecture project. The main question here was; how do they define the building through these supernatural noises? This exhibition took place in London, near Baker Street, and created physical sound.

Purgas always tries to find the fundamental frequency and pure tone in physical spaces. This ensures that when these tones and frequencies are played, the sound itself is able to become physical. This also ensures that a maximum effect outcome is created through minimal parts.

After this work, Purgas carried on with architecture investigations and was asked for a commission with a radio broadcasting project in Germany. This made him rethink of active listening and the frame work of music, and how putting brackets around it is enough to make it a composition of work, or a performance. Within this work, they set up a radio receiver for the fluctuations of the atmosphere. This was partially inspired by the book ‘Earth Sound Earth Signal’, that which they talk about the Earths’ sounds and electromagnetism and art. [Purgas likes to pick up historical ideas, and taking the ideas, concepts and knowledge that we have now, and imagine how we can remix this knowledge.] Radio waves bounce off the ionosphere and picks up some of the noise of the ionosphere as it does so. For a trans-medial art performance, they did this in real time, outputting what was on their mixing desk, which bounced across the atmosphere and relayed back into the concert hall. What was sent up was clean, but what came back was almost pulsating, just like the atmosphere and the ionosphere does.

Purgas then moved on to the David Roberts Art Foundation in London, where which he got a commission. He found that especially here the landscape is different and that the public money is not available especially with private collectors and museums, that are cropping up more frequently. Purgas moved back into acoustic modelling, and using a frequency sweep in a room, giving them enough information about the room to work with it. From here, he looked into the qualities and latent sonic qualities of the space, in order to get the maximum output that he was able to in the space. For this piece, he also uniquely collaborated with vocalists and mimicking what they were doing electronically, but the putting it through as a voice. By using large and rigid objects within the space, he was able to create a base and foundation of the improvised performance. This performance ended up sound very new age.

Purgas is currently working on an entirely new project in which neural networks that allow AI systems to work, and manipulating the AI, or the neural networks to create music. There are multiple networks that are working at the same time, fighting and completing to arrive at decision and conclusions. One of the aspects that Purgas is interested in is how we can extrapolate this into a composition system. Through this, he is looking to work with a super computer in Cambridge to build the sound and sonic processing.

Another project that Purgas has looked into in the endless theatre which was adaptable for everything. This theatre was never actually built because no one realised the potential, however Purgas managed to get his hands on a 3D model of this. Transferring it into an acoustic model software and playing around with the position of PA systems and microphones, Purgas was able to make a piece of music from the brain of a building on a computerised system.

He is also working on research projects in Finland, with electronic instruments that no one knows how to play. He is going over to try and decode the instruments and create a composition. The original artist was interested in the biological part of the electronics. There is also a project in India that he is currently looking into, in which the first electronic music was set up along with a large archive of music and artists unbeknown to anyone.

Purgas also worked with other artists to curate programmes. He found it to be one of the most useful and enjoyable things that he has done outside of his normal ‘studio’ works and has helped him to build relationships and connect art back to the outside world.

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3 thoughts on “Paul Purgas

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