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Automatronic: The fusion of electronics and organ

Automatronic is a group that began when Lauren Redhead, who had been having difficulty finding somewhere that would let her perform her unusual music using their organ, encountered Huw Morgan.

Together they shaped a group that is about composing pieces for organ and electronics, playing them in as many places as possible, and therefore encouraging people to write and perform their own music. They performed in chapel at the beginning of November.

In their words, it’s about exploring a new sound world with the organ.  Organ and electronics make an effective pairing, from the setting of the experience – in neither case do you see the performer – to the performance itself; this music can be prescriptive or allow complete improvisation.  The balance of organ and electronics can also be varied from piece to piece.   Lauren and Huw played a combination of pieces throughout the evening, from Huw’s Leaves (2014), which requires a musician to play exactly to the score, to Image, Music, Text (2011), by Adam Fergler which allowed Lauren to improvise totally around a text.

One piece, [Unnamed Maps Series](2009 – 2012) by Caroline Lucas, is based on handmade maps and electronic materials created by the composer.  Pieces like this represent extreme openness in composing, and a deviation from the traditional concept of a score.

Taking the fixed sound of an organ, Automatronic enhance it with electronics. The organ can produce a lot of different effects when you go outside of the ‘normal’ stops combinations.  They also find ways to extend the performance, for example by including voice at the same time.  Automatronic is a whole new way of understanding organ music.  To get a taste of what they do, watch the video below, which includes excerpts from Lauren Redhead’s leóþcwide (2016), Leave’s (2014), and Image, Music, Text (2011):

leóþcwide (2016) Lauren Redhead

Forþon ic geþencan ne mæg geond þas woruld for hwan modsefa min ne

gesweorce þonne ic eorla lif eal geondþence.

(indeed, I cannot think why my soul does not darken when I

contemplate the lives of people thoughout the world)

Image, Music, Text (2011) Adam Fergler        

This work – which takes its title from the Roland Barthes book of

the same name – is as much a product of the performer’s creative

and interpretative sensibilities as it is a product of my own

compositional whims, perhaps more so. The score consists of

several pages of written text (which, incidentally, make up the

performance instructions). Each page uses the same basic text

rendered differently to create a variety of catalysts for

interpretation. Some pages see text strategically deleted, as if

whittled like wood, to create shapes, patterns, and images. Others

alter the text on a more systematic basis. In all cases the matter

of what exactly to do with the score is left unexplained, and

purposefully so. The performer is invited to explore the

relationships they detect, both within the score and between the

score, performance, themselves, and any other ‘extra-textual’

realms they see fit. There is no specified instrumentation or

given performance length for Image, Music, Text.

Leaves (2014) Huw Morgan

A study of erosion and entropy, based on a palindromic set of

pitches. Individual pitches are passed from the organ to the

electronics track, undergoing a process of denaturing that

ultimately leads to extinction.

Also performed were the following:

[Unnamed Maps Series] (2009-2012) Caroline Lucas

Malin, Hebrides, Bailey…slow moving…easterly, northeasterly…

Wight, Plymouth…increasing, six at times…

Thames…declining…Sole…veering north…Forth, Tyne…Fair

Isle…losing its identity…


Melos II (extract) (2016) Huw Morgan

Melos – Melody, arc. Part of an on-going series of site-specific

installations, this iteration was created for an Automatronic

concert at Pembroke earlier in 2016.

Celestial Objects (2016) Michael Bonaventure

Divine harmony…sort of. Short piece, premiered on 21 September

this year in Hexham Abbey, Northumberland. (Michael Bonaventure)

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